Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cliff's GED

I shared this picture on Facebook for "throw-back Thursday".  Cliff was building a pen for my hogs (notice the hedge post on the ground beside him, and other posts in the background).  This must have been one of those times when we were losing weight, because those overalls look really baggy on him.  

For my Facebook-challenged readers, every week a lot of us hunt up an old picture to share for TBT.  It's fun for me to search the archives of my computer and find something that might be of interest to others, especially relatives and real-life friends.  

The framed certificate holds a place of honor in Cliff's shop, in a case that holds his model tractors and other memorabilia.  (Notice that I had the forethought to cover up his social security number with a piece of paper.)  

In the late 80's and early 90's, Cliff sort of floated from one job to another after losing his excellent, good-paying job at R.B. Rice when they moved their facilities to Tennessee.  He worked some construction, which you probably know is feast-or-famine.  Hard winters and rainy weather mean low (or no) paychecks.  

Our next-door neighbor had a great job in Riverside, north of Kansas City.  He had a friend working there who had a little "pull", and asked her to recommend Cliff.  The only glitch was that the place required a high school diploma or GED.  Cliff had neither.  

I happened to see a notice in the local shopper about GED classes in nearby Lexington, pointed it out to Cliff, and we signed him up.  At the first session he had to take a test to find out where he needed help the most, and just how much help he would need.  The teacher looked at Cliff's results and said, "You won't be with us long."  

Cliff's biggest problem was math.  He could barely do simple addition and subtraction.  Early in our marriage I tried to explain "carrying" or "borrowing" numbers to him, but I might as well have been speaking a foreign language.  The problem wasn't with him, it was with my lack of teaching skills.  After a few attempts, we both gave up in frustration.  

When he was growing up, his family was always on the move.  Cliff said they moved every time the rent came due, which of course is an exaggeration, but not by much.  The constant relocating and changing schools affected the education of all the kids.  

So with the assurance of the instructor that it wouldn't take long to get him ready for his test, Cliff went to school two or three evenings a week.  He loved it, and was excited to finally understand multiplying and dividing and, amazingly, fractions!  He hated to see the classes end, he loved them that much.  I reminded him of this a few minutes ago and he said, "I'd take the classes again right now if I could!"  

His math skills are now better than mine ever were (Fractions?  Really?)  He got that job he was after, the same one he retired from not so long ago.  But I always felt like the greatest benefit of his getting the GED was the effect it had on his self confidence.  He found out he was smarter than he had ever imagined.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One step closer to the grave

Hardly a morning goes by that I don't stop and realize that each day is, indeed, one step closer to the grave.  I try to remember, first thing out of bed, to thank God for another day, because I don't have that many days left, although sometimes it takes two cups of coffee before I get around to thanking Him.    

I will be seventy in July.  Wow, that sounds so old!  It seems even older when someone in his early-to-mid-seventies dies.  A local man died yesterday, one who was a member of the church I attend.  He was seventy-five.  Maybe because he has children the age of mine, or maybe because I saw him and his wife at church on Sundays, but today I am truly reminded of my own mortality.  

When Cliff and I make plans to do things, we often talk about the possibility that we might not be around to fulfill those plans.  These days when I'm re-subscribing to one of Cliff's antique tractor magazines, I seldom do it for more than two years ahead.  It's a roll of the dice whether we'll be around.  

Some family members don't like to hear me and my husband talking like this.  Well, they can stick their heads in the sand if they want to, but I like facing reality.  Cliff and I have no problem at all with these discussions.  

Yesterday we were discussing a topic that concerned what might happen to this property in ten years, and I said, "Cliff, do you realize how slim the chances are that we will both still be alive in ten years?"  

"You're right," he said.  "We're on our way out."  

And you, dear readers, may not know it, but so are you.  You just don't realize it until the end looms ahead and friends and relatives are dying around you with increasing frequency.  When that happens, there is no way of denying it.