As I am accustomed to doing, I cruised through my blogging community this morning, stopping in at the sites which were posted since my last excursion, yesterday afternoon. Lo and behold, I got blind-sided at Sarah’s “My Life in Contradictions.” Seriously, I was already a little off-balance from Lynda’s sad news that her Uncle Pat passed, and then from Masked Mom’s moving tribute to her mother, and Sarah hits me up with the concept of courage/bravery.
As an ex-military man (snicker), I am compelled to address this theme, as it applies to my own life. Growing up, I was a prodigious reader, happily devouring fiction and non-fiction alike. I read every biography I could lay my hands on, so I had a vary clear idea of what constitutes bravery. I read about Audie Murphy, Davy Crockett, Jackie Robinson, and I watched my father trudge off to a job that he hated, every day.
What do any of these heroes have to do with me? Not much, they all agreed. Well, I did work sixteen years for the school district, without ever once, picking up the phone and calling in to say that I could not make it, because I was unwell. That would be my father’s influence. There was the time the mammoth oak (“mammoth” meant I could not move it by myself) dropped across snow-laden Bell Springs Road; there was the time we were coming down in the snow, with ALL of the food for the thirty people participating in the judging of the science fair, and we BOTTOMED out on the built up snow, our compound-low, four wheel drive Trooper, useless. We couldn’t go forward, and we couldn’t go backward; Then there was the big-rig across Highway 101. End of discussion.
But what constitutes courage and bravery in my life? What have I done that would qualify as genuinely displaying those traits that distinguish one as having risen above the norm? I have never been on the scene of a burning vehicle, with someone trapped inside; I clerked in the 199th Personnel Service Company in South Korea, firing an M-16 one time during the sixteen months I was overseas, on the firing range. The purpose was just to remind us we were still Uncle Sugar’s little muppets, and should not lose that keen military discipline, we all acquired while in boot camp.
I simply cannot classify as brave or courageous, doing what you are ordered to do. Now fleeing to Canada when I got my draft notice, to me, would have constituted true bravery. My older brother Noel was classified a Conscientious Objector; I was petrified to be put into a position where I would have to shoot at someone. But I was more afraid to take the courage of my convictions to the next level, and exit the building. I presented myself at the entry station in LA, and shipped out the same day to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in January, for basic training. Nothing particularly brave or courageous, in doing what you are told, in a timely fashion. Double time, in fact.
How about the birth of my children? I was the consummate coach and supporter. At this moment, every female reader of this piece is recovering from a good belly laugh at the notion that a MAN would be the one displaying bravery or courage in the ABC (Alternative Birthing Center). Maybe there was a little more for the home birth of ten pound, eleven ounce Lito, but we didn’t know the little tyke would be so humongous! The other thing to note about the birth of a child, is that nothing I do or say can stop the process, so like the military gig, I am merely playing in time to the conductor’s wand.
I am afraid that when it comes to demonstrating courage under fire, bravery in the trenches, it would come in the form of those seventh graders I was prattling on about, in Wellspring. Standing up in front of those thirty-one students, and presenting my first literature lesson, the words coming out of my mouth, while my brain was raging, “Run, get out of here, they’re all laughing at you, your ZIPPER is GAPING.” My mind was whirling, exactly the way it would at the outset of a panic attack, and every pore of my existence was screeching out to me, “All of the work, all of those graduate units to achieve this Credential, it’s ALL at stake. But, no pressure, Dude.”
That is the best I can do. The reason why this was so much harder than the military, or the childbirth, is because I could have walked (dashed) away, but chose to remain. My whole purpose in teaching was to replace an occupation that was wearing my body down, and replace it with one where the brain was doing the heavy lifting. No more boat anchors for me.
So I liken Sarah’s dash for freedom in her earlier life, to be that exact dash for freedom, that I was incapable of pulling off, when I was drafted. Does that make Sarah braver than I? Probably, but that isn’t my point. Everyone approaches those crossroads in life and everyone has to consider all factors and act accordingly. Unlike the parent manuals, which are a dime a dozen, there is no manual for life. You just have to keep juggling options, until the ringmaster notices you, and lets you out of the center ring, and off in another direction. You just hope and pray, to whatever force it is in the universe that governs your spiritual side, that the path does not lie in the direction of the lions’ cage.