By Diana C. Derringer
“You’re never too old to learn.”
“Get all the knowledge you can.”
“Make the most of your opportunities.”
The driving quest to learn and improve continues on as my dad enters his 80s. Yet this, along with his love for the fine art of communication, proved his undoing several years ago.
With a limited formal childhood education, Dad sought every possible learning experience in adulthood. Tight finances in the early years prevented many luxuries, yet he managed to take several college and community education classes after obtaining his GED.
In Dad’s work on our family farm and as an insurance agent, a good memory provided an extra edge. One of his favorite classes that he took promised memory improvement. How he loved to show off for the rest of the family and anyone else he could corner. Tossing out a challenge to remember long lists of information, he became quite adept in this new skill. Classes stretched over several weeks during the worst of winter weather. Snow blew, ice stung, and the wind howled, but they failed to slow him down.
Dad’s work usually required a trip on Fridays to the regional office near my maternal grandmother’s house. My mom, sister, and I occasionally visited with her until Dad’s return. Of course he had to demonstrate his exceptional abilities to Granny as well. After a brief visit on a bitterly cold day, he left us as usual but failed to return at the expected time.
We began wringing our hands, with eyes peeled to the window. Finally Dad eased into the driveway. His stroll through the yard took forever. When he entered the living room, Mom’s questions flew: “Where have you been? Are you alright? We were worried to death!”
Always quick in conversation, he appeared particularly reluctant to answer. Sheepishly he looked at his feet, mumbled a bit, and then summoned the courage to admit, “I forgot to pick you up.” He had traveled several miles beyond Granny’s house before he remembered we were there.
But his humiliation was far from complete.
Following a fair amount of good-natured ribbing, Granny said, “Well, take off your coat and sit a spell.” His hesitation puzzled everyone. Another round of delaying tactics preceded his acknowledgment: “I forgot to wear my belt.”
However, Dad’s embarrassment did not diminish his enthusiasm for the class. Within a couple of days, he returned to sharing any newfound skills with everyone far and wide.
In spite of suffering torment if he stumbles in his drive for knowledge, Dad refuses to let that slow him down. He still surrounds himself with books, magazines, and every newfangled gadget he can get his hands on, if it will expand his mind and spiritual understanding. The stack of books beside his recliner may be an accident waiting to happen, but perish the thought of moving a single item. Until he reads it, don’t move it. If he really likes it, let it remain.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).
Lessons we’ve learned from Dad’s example include:
• Don’t allow life’s circumstances to defeat you.
• Work, study, and play hard.
• Make the most of every moment.
• Acknowledge and learn from mistakes.
• Above all, embrace relationships with God and family.
We enjoy giving Dad a hard time. Nevertheless, we’re thankful he passed on his passion for learning and love for God to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Through his words and deeds, we’ve learned lessons we won’t forget.
Diana Derringer inherited her father’s love for learning (dianaderringer.com).