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Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Just a Thought" column in La Prensa of San Antonio, 1-20

Just a Thought:  Memoirs of a “dumb kid” part 3
By Steve Walker

For the past two weeks I have been sharing my life growing up as a “dumb kid.” I related how my father called me names as well as others chiming in and re-enforcing the thought that I was not the smartest brick on the block.

By now you might be thinking that my father had a valid point and maybe I didn’t have much going for me as the “dumb kid.”

Obviously at that time the future certainly didn’t look too rosy or promising for me. Fortunately it got better years later, but not until after it took a nose dive in high school. Remember it always gets worse before it gets better or so they say. By the time I was 18 my family of five younger brothers (Roger, Jeff, Mark. Kelly & Sam) and parents had lived in 7 states and 13 cities. Although we moved a lot, we were not in the witness protection program although some days it crossed my mind.

Fast forward to high school my freshman year in Springfield, Massachusetts. After I graduated from 8th grade at St. Gregory’s in 1960, we moved to Springfield for two years where I attended a catholic high school. Sister Mary Theresa was my Freshman English teacher. Each year, Sister Theresa ceremoniously chose a struggling student to mentor as it was her “mission from God” to do so. Of course, you guessed it, she chose me. What a revelation and surprise.

Was it providence or just plain luck or was it the intervention of St. Jude the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases!!! Either way she kept me after school for six weeks to tutor me in grammar to ensure I passed Freshman English. I am happy to report that I passed with a C-. For me that was like making it to the Promised Land.

I remember her challenge nearly 52 years ago. “I am going to teach you English and you are going to like it.” My response was, “Sister you may teach me English but I am not going to like it.”

Sounds like a “dumb kid” answer now considering as a retired teacher who taught English/Reading for many years and who majored in English along with Speech/Drama, perhaps as Shakespeare wrote, “You doth protest too much.” In college I even performed in two Shakespearean plays, Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew. Who knew?
Living in Springfield only two years we moved fifty miles up the road to Pittsfield, Massachusetts for my junior year of high school. Now that was a year that I won’t forget. I was failing most of my classes for a better part of the year when the counselor called my father and me into his office for a parent conference. I think that one went really well, considering.

He said to my father and I quote, “Mr. Walker your son Steve is not smart enough to graduate high school.” Forget the fact that I was in the room when he said it and I experienced total shock and disbelief upon learning for the “first time” that I was not very intelligent.

My father quickly retorted in his forthright manner, “He may be a “dumb kid” but he will graduate high school. I will kick his behind all the way across the stage.” Up to this point in my life, it was probably the nicest thing he ever said about me that I would actually earn a diploma and walk the stage with a boot up my behind!!

Next week the final chapter of “dumb kid.” Will it ever end?

As always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran, former Journalist and Justice of the Peace. His former La Prensa column, “Ask the Judge,” ran for two years.

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