Remembering dad’s lessons proved to be a struggle

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2001

My father was a man of whom it could be said – and frequently was – that if you asked him what time it was he’d tell you how the clock was made.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

My father was a man of whom it could be said – and frequently was – that if you asked him what time it was he’d tell you how the clock was made. Much is said about &uot;the Celtic love of learning.&uot; A beautiful and inspiring expression. If you want to hear more about this, the other side as it were, ask any kid being brought up in the Celtic tradition about the Celtic love of teaching.

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My father’s early attempts toward educating me had an element of pleasure. Before I was five years old I had been taken to a brick yard to see bricks being made (having wondered aloud where bricks came from) and been taken to view the water reservoir (having wondered aloud how water got into faucets.)

I also had been taken to view something to do with lime, though that is dim in my memory, because I’d expressed curiosity about chalk. I think I only got to look at pictures of sponges in the encyclopedia because I can’t think of any place in Nebraska where sponges might have been fished for.

The only problem with having my father teach me these bits and pieces was that he expected me to remember what he taught me.

I learned to swim about the time I started school. My father had a big open tourist car, a Dodge, named Eloise after the taxicab in &uot;Seventh Heaven.&uot; He used to load up the entire neighborhood, adults and kids, and cross the Missouri river to swim at a sand pit in Iowa.

By the time I was 13, I was a pretty fair swimmer, but I harbored a discontent because I was not allowed to swim in the river. My father and his brothers had all swum in the river. There were young people not much older than I who swam in the river.

Then to my surprise, early one Sunday morning before anyone was up, my father invited me to go swimming -just me. There were no dressing rooms where we swam, so we wore a beach robe or raincoat over our suits and simply left them in the car.

This time, though, we didn’t cross the river. We stopped at the edge.

&uot;We’re going for a river swim this morning,&uot; dad said. &uot;And it’s strictly our secret. I don’t want any of your friends begging me to swim here. And I don’t want your mother to know I let you swim here. But I know you’re going to try it one of these days and I’d rather you do it when I’m with you.&uot;

I was thrilled beyond measure. We waded in, both able to stand. My father explained that he’d stand still while I swam off with the current.

&uot;When I whistle you come back,&uot; he said.

Before we even got out of the car he had explained to me that while swimming with the current would be easy, swimming against it would be impossible.

&uot;You have to come back making little angles.&uot; he said. &uot;Going across the current.&uot;

That’s the point at which I made my great mistake. I was so excited about finally getting to swim in the river that I didn’t pay much attention to what I was supposed to do to get back to the starting point.

In time he whistled and I turned around – and to my horror felt myself being swept backwards.

&uot;I can’t get back,&uot; I screamed.

&uot;I told you how to get back,&uot; he said with what seemed to me abnormal indifference.

Fortunately, before I’d been carried more than another three feet it came back to me. I began to angle in and in due time reached my starting point.

Despite the fact that I’d broken a cardinal rule, not listening to what was being taught, I was furious.

&uot;What if I hadn’t remembered what you told me?&uot; I snarled.

My father gave me an amused look. &uot;You’d have liked St. Joe. It’s a nice town.&uot;

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.