Thursday, March 31, 2005

Chapter 1, P.K.: continued

....He also disapproved of his sons partaking of the fruit of the vine or hops. My two oldest brothers, Jack and Jim, went away to join the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. It was called that, for those who don’t recall: a conflict, not a war. They probably didn’t drink much before they left. But the service being the service, they sure learned how after leaving home. My brother Dick was the same, except he started before leaving home for college. It caused Dad some small difficulty, I’m sure, to know this, and to hear about it from the locals. I don’t know this, but I can guess, as I was there at the time. So, his way of handling it was to extract a promise from me to abstain from demon rum until after I graduated. I did. Unfortunately I became somewhat of a prig about it, and that led to further complications as a result of my becoming the angelic side of the PK. You know, I have always wanted to use the word prig in a sentence!

Once I started Kindergarten, the P.K. aspect of my life took on new dimensions. Dad had large expectations for all of us, but larger still for me. He wanted me to be a doctor. I don’t know if he felt that way the day I was born, and I don’t know when it actually started, but he expected a lot from me, and I often disappointed him. Oh, not because I didn’t get good grades or good comments from teachers on report cards, but because I didn’t go quite as well as I could do. I once told my third grade teacher that I did not need to memorize fractions or the multiplication tables, thank you very much, because I would never be using them. Of course, this got back to Dad (she had her job to consider, after all, and she was a good teacher) and he very patiently explained to me that this was, well, lazy. He knew, he said, that I could do the work, and would not allow any of that. I forget what the stick was that caused me to reconsider (not a real one), but I did learn the required tables and how to work with fractions.

One bright fall day, I don’t recall what grade I was in at the time, we were given pencils and answer sheets and booklets for a test. It was different than most of the exams we had taken at the time, and I recall Dad explaining that today was an important test day for everyone in my grade, all over the state. I still can’t recall if it was the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) or the Stanford-Binet, but it was probably the latter. I promptly forgot about the test after I took it, but Dad sure didn’t. Some years later, after an argument about what I should do with my schooling (I hated homework, especially math!) Dad took me to school with him. It was high summer and a bright, sunny day. He led me to the book storage room on the second floor, and unlocked the door. Inside were stacks of text books, piles of boxes, file cabinets, mysterious audio-visual equipment and an old mimeo machine smelling of duplicator fluid. Dust motes, disturbed by the opening door, flew about the room on the rays of the sun streaming past the half open window shade. Remember those rules I mentioned that Dad liked? Well, one good one was to have all of the shades in all rooms of the school at half mast. They looked much better that way, he felt, and they did! Whenever I go past a school now and see the shades every which way, I want to go in and change them.

He went to a file drawer and opened it, pulling out a folder. He said something like “you must promise me you will never tell anyone I showed you this!” and I did so promise. As a result, I have mentioned what follows to very few people, with good reason. He showed me a score sheet, only mine, no one else’s, and explained to me what it meant. “You have a high degree of intelligence,” he said, “and you owe it to yourself to take advantage of it.” I knew nothing, at the time, of I.Q. tests and how they were scored, but he explained it well. I did, in fact, register in the upper brackets of “normal” intelligence set by the standards of the test at that time, except, unfortunately, in math which was just above average. “You could be anything you want to be,” he told me, and explained at length about Valedictorians and scholarships and such. It was then that I understood what he expected of me.

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