The other day I was thinking about our front porch in Montague, Michigan. Growing up it was used as a gathering place where people were welcomed, listened to, encouraged to share, and I believe, felt loved. I never really understood the significance of all of this until mom and dad were gone, and I could no longer sit on that front porch.
My dad was a very kind and understanding man. I don’t ever remember him getting real angry. When there was something that bothered me, he would say, “Remember Adele, things will turn out in the wash. Worry never solves a problem.” For ninety-seven years he lived by those self-made rules.
There was one special occasion where my father helped me make a very important decision in my life.
I was going to college and a class I had enrolled in was very difficult for me. I decided to drop out. However, the timing wasn’t exactly right and I received an F. It would be a permanent mark on my academic record. I was naturally discouraged and went out on the front porch where all problems seemed to be solved. I sat there thinking about what I was going to do. Dad saw me and quietly came out on the porch and pulled up a lawn chair next to me.
He asked me what I was thinking and what I was feeling. I explained to him that I would forever have an ‘F’ on my college record and I was humiliated.
He asked me a question, “What do you plan to do about this, Adele?”
Through my tears I said, “Dad, I’m quitting college.”
He didn’t say a word while I vented more of my feelings. I waited for him to react to my decision.
“Well,” he said, “if that is what you feel you must do I think you should quit too.”
Then he continued, “Adele, if you quit, you will never become the teacher you have always wanted to be. I can get you a job where I work. It will be a steady job and you can work there for as long as you’d like. Is this what you really want? Think about it.”
We sat together for a little while without speaking, and then he got up and went into the house.
His words, “You will never become the teacher you had always wanted to be,” were powerful. I began to realize that failing in one subject should not cause me to give up a dream that I had since I was in third grade.
My father used reverse psychology to help me make a decision I will never regret. He saw me graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in education, and later a Master’s Degree in counseling. I became the teacher/counselor I had always wanted to be and taught school for many years before retiring.
I can still see my mother and father on that front porch, waving to neighbors passing by. It was always an invitation to anyone who wanted to stop by, visit, and perhaps hear words of wisdom from two very wise people.
Adele (Kinney) Roberts
Author: The Adventures of Sammy the Skunk