Here’s a history lesson for you. Whether you love or hate what I write, when I get political I always think it is a good idea to know where a person comes from. This week I’m simply writing about how I became the person I am.
Most of us had pretty easy growing up, and even if your parents didn’t, I’d be willing to bet they tried to convince you of it, at least to some degree. My dad’s a traveling salesman, so when he was around, he’d try to spend some time with us before he would have to drive off again to Chicago or Detroit – really foreign places to a kid who wasn’t even allowed to cross the street, a dead end street, without going to the grassy end to avoid cars.
My mom is a nurse, but that’s not the job she started with when I was a kid. I remember the big black binder sitting atop the microwave, way too high for my reach that was dragged out every morning and night as she helped the school district search for substitute teachers. Besides that, she was in school from almost as far back as I can remember all the way until earlier this year, when she graduated again with a higher degree.
Maybe some of you know the entire back-story to your parents, but besides the disjointed stories of growing up in the country running trap lines with his brothers and moving to the ‘burbs when he was about 12, I certainly don’t know all there is to know about my dad. My mom grew up in downtown Cleveland, directly next to Saint Malachi’s, for those of you that remember seeing those really skinny houses behind the parking lot when you went there for Christmas Mass.
That’s what leads to my family as I know it, anyway. Talk about opposites attracting. A middle-of-nowhere, Ohio, country boy and a girl from the inner city met up somewhere along the line more than 35 years ago and got married to become my parents.
Growing up in true suburbia, Rocky River, I got to know the ins and outs of local politics as my dad ran for city council for what seemed like every two years, and even ran a successful grass-roots effort to stop a jail from being put in a matter of blocks away from our home. I remember riding along behind him in my Power Wheels as he passed out pamphlets door to door and met with what he hoped would become his constituents. Now, my dad never made it to the City Council as an official member, but the people that lived around us are definitely still his constituents, and he is most certainly at the meetings often enough to represent them, or just to listen in and make sure they are being represented.
Now that Power Wheels had belonged to my older sisters, five years older than me and twins, and it had been run over by my father backing up in the driveway at some point in the past. It still somehow made it around all those blocks as he campaigned. When my sisters were out of our grade school, and my dad would pick me up about a half hour earlier than we could go get them, we used to go to Martin’s Corner. I can still tell you that the price of our two sugar cookies with M&Ms baked in was 99 cents, but 60 cents each if you bought them separate.
Whenever we would get those cookies, we would sit in his car in the parking lot of Martin’s Corner or drive up to Magnificat, both my mom and my sisters’ alma mater now, and listen to the end of Rush Limbaugh every day until 3 rolled around, and he would sign off the airwaves. From 3 p.m. until 3:06 p.m. was Paul Harvey, an absolute god of the radio airwaves. I learned innumerable stories about famous individuals, from Abraham Lincoln to Marilyn Monroe to old pop icons which I had never heard of before.
What it really all comes down to is that while my mother was at school and my dad was out of town a lot of the time, the times we did and still do share together are some of the best I can ever imagine experiencing. My dad came up to school this weekend to trade out one little broken piece of my car and taught me a lot about my car by doing so.
When you head home for Fall Break, give your parents a hug, remind them that no matter how far we all travel away from home to school and whatever careers we enter afterwards, we’re still always their kids, and tell them that you love them.
That is a bit more sentimental than controversial, sure – but now, like Paul Harvey used to say, “You know… the rest of the story.”