I was watching a documentary on the Israeli raid on Entebbe and they were interviewing the operators on the raid. One of them said that when he returned he saw his father. His father had lost his entire family in the Holocaust and had been in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp himself. He told his father that, “…we are now able to rescue Jews around the world and this is something that Jews had been unable to do when my father and his family needed rescuing.” He concluded by saying, “My father said, ‘you’ve done well.’ He was proud.”
Here’s a guy who had taken part in one of the most successful rescue operations in the history of the world and what he was most happy about was that his father was proud of him. I connected with the man because of that. As men, we look for the recognition of our fathers and want to make them proud. It made me recall my last conversation with my father.
The last conversation I had with my father went something like this on the phone about a week before he passed away. I don’t remember the entire specific conversation, but I recall two snippets of the talk and it went something like this:
“Dad, you do what you need to do.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, if the pain is too much and you need to go, I understand.”
“Eric, I don’t even know what that means.”
“Then don’t worry about it.”
“Dad, I love you. I always have and I always will.”
(I hear him kind of laugh)
“Eric, I’ve know that my entire life. I love you too.”
I spoke with him often once I got to his house before he passed away. But he was unable to respond except in half-smiles and eyes of recognition. In retrospect, I think dad knew what I meant, but I don’t think he knew how to quit or give up.
One of the reasons I include this on my blog is because I don’t want to forget this conversation. I have a horrible memory. I want to be able to tell my kids this information when I’m old, just as my father told me his last talks with his father.
I am the crazy teacher with some rebel teacher mixed in. I have a smidgen of forgetful teacher. and some tech addict thrown in. Occasionally, I’ll splash some O Captain! My Captain! into the mix when my students make wrong decisions. If you’re a teacher you get it. If you’re not…well, you won’t get it. I joke around a lot and have to be mindful not to say something inappropriate (not dirty, just wrong place, wrong time sort of stuff) during serious moments (staff meetings are a nightmare for me). I cut up a lot, but it is a facade. In reality, I take just about everything deadly serious. Do not mistake my jocularity for lack of passion or knowledge.
I served in the U.S. Army (1985 to 2006), retiring as a SFC. I worked as an intelligence analyst. I served 12 years with special operations and the rest with strategic intelligence. I am a Southwest Asia service veteran. I am also a certified German & Arabic linguist. Upon retirement, I received my BA in history/education in 2010. I received certification to teach history, government, and geography. I am also highly qualified to teach economics.
After I graduated, I started working at the alternative program for a county school district. I teach U.S. history and geography, world history and geography, government / economics, and contemporary issues (for the first time next year). It is a very challenging position. But it is certainly not the one I thought I would have when I graduated. But it is the one I was meant to have.
I do not know what the future holds. I do not know if I will be at the same school after next year. But I love it. I hope to start my graduate degree in the next couple of years. I just have not decided what I want to study. I want to study something that will genuinely give me the most return on investment (ROI). Not just something to get me a pay raise.
I have been married to my lovely wife, Suprina, since 1994. I have four children, Daniel (1997), Aimee (1998), Zachary (2000), and David (2004).Politically, I am a conservative libertarian. And let me tell you, it can be pretty frustrating and intimidating being a conservative libertarian in a field full of progressives and liberals. Religiously, I am a Christian.
Ask me if you want to know something else.
I’ve been journaling off-and-on since I was about 11 years old, so that would be about 35 years. Many of my journals have been lost or destroyed. But in all that time, I don’t believe I’ve ever written a journal entry anywhere about my reflections on the previous year.
This past year brought many changes, as years are apt to do.
In 2011 we discovered that my dad has stage 4 lung cancer (notice I stated “has” implying that he still has it and is still alive). There was a strong belief that he would not see 2013. 2012 was full of very emotional moments with recollections, apologies, long unspoken things revealed, and advice given. The thought of his passing has given me reason to think of my own mortality, my own accomplishments, and more importantly, my own failures. Thinking of my dad passing away reminds me that I’ve been blessed in that I’ve not experienced much death of close loved ones in the recent pass.
I also started my third year of teaching. The third year of teaching is a milestone for many teachers. If I’m not mistaken the third year is when many teachers decide to quit and move on to something else. And indeed, I’ve considered it. I’ve thought of finding a job working with the military. I’ve spent five or six years away from it and was glad I did. I did not miss it, but as time goes on, I realize that I do miss the camaraderie of the military and serving them in some small way. Working in an alternative school is not easy. It’s emotionally difficult and it’s academically difficult. But the blessings are enormous. You see kids who have been told they’re bad their whole life to see that they can make choices and decide for themselves what to do and what they will become.
There are many other small things that happened in 2013 that have had an effect on who I am today and what I am becoming. These daily events and thoughts are too numerous to mention and would take a book to fill and I’ve already spent too long reminiscing on 2013.
The last thing I want to mention though is my daily Thought for the Day. I had done a daily thought for the day since I started teaching. At first I found a new thought almost every day and then reused them the next semester. As time went on my collection grew. But I started seeing that some of the quotes weren’t accurate or were misquoted. I tried to verify the quote to the best of my ability. Finally, this past summer I decided to be done with it and find 365 (+1 for leap day) quotes that were fully verified and cited. This would eliminate my need to find a new one every day or change the dates. This way I can use the same group year in and year out. This took me about three to four weeks. During that time I realized that it might be nice to post them on the internet and so I started to include more information – Facebook pages, keywords, notes, etc. Then I realized that if I did it for one year, I may want to do this every year. So my effort to be proactive for my classroom actually increased my overall workload. But at least I’d contribute to the effort of getting rid of false internet quote memes, which annoy me to no end, and maybe help other teachers and simply help educate the general populace at large. Isn’t that a teacher’s job after all? What I did not expect and should of, is that these quotes effected me most of all. In researching them and reading line after line, paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter of text in an effort to find applicable quotes I started changing. In the almost six months I’ve been posting quotes I’ve discovered that I’m the one most changed. I’ve realized that one can be miserable or happy, that the choice is yours and the amount of effort is about the same.
Winston Churchill was absolutely correct when he said, “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations…The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.” (Churchill, Winston. My Early Life, 1874-1904. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.). Which is why this was my first quote that I posted on July 18th, 2012.
Finally, when 2012 started I looked upon it with great trepidation. The entire year I felt as if I had my heels dug into the dirt but was being pushed toward a cliff and there was no way to stop it. Now 2012 is in the past and while things weren’t perfect the world didn’t end and my dad didn’t pass away. 2013 is here and while my dad’s prognosis hasn’t really improved, my outlook on the future has improved. I have a wonderful job with great rewards. I have four fabulous kids who are unique and have blessed me and changed me through the years. And finally, I have a wonderful wife who has stuck with me through thick and thin for almost 19 years. God has richly blessed me and has shown me these blessings over the last six months. I am grateful to Him for those blessings. This next year I hope to see many positive changes to show Him that gratitude and to show those around me the love I have for them.
May your year be blessed, rich, and rewarding. May you recognize that you are the author of how you react to your surroundings and to those things that happen to you. They do not define who you are. Your reactions to them define who you are.
Happy New Year everyone.