Rod and I were trying to
make a decision for which direction we should go and what we should do
next to help Rhonda.
"We’ve exhausted all our
volunteers and finances. I’m sure living in this little, what one lady
with a doctorate called "quaint," house gives us little reputation for
being successful. We’ve lost all my shabby furniture we had in the
bankruptcy, even my sewing machine." I was more concerned over that than
"Yes, but look how well
Rhonda is doing. She’s healthy, sleeping all night without waking in
pain and she can read. Maybe not by the standards of the world around us
are we accomplished in anything but in our own mind we know what has
Rodney’s confidence in me
as usual gave me the strength to move ahead. He had to do this so many
times through the years and he was good at helping me this way.
Sometimes I wondered about how he adopted my values so easily. His
parents stepped in a different
circle than mine. They
were all tied up in the ways of this oil town where we lived, not that
this was wrong, but just different. I had been taught not to put
materialism over more important things such as marriage, family and
faith. I once asked him about how he was able to stay out of the world’s
mode of thinking to go along with me.
His answer was that while
in the service he had stood and watched farmhouses and farms of 200
years cultivation pushed over with dozers while the owners stood, wrung
their hands and wept.
"Nothing is of permanence
at all, anyway." He told me.
"I’ve been told there is
a new, young teacher with a class for children who are disadvantaged in
one way or another. They meet in the old Washington school building. I’m
going to take Rhonda up there tomorrow." As easy as a person dips an oar
in the water to change directions of a canoe so we did with our lives.
This old building we now
approached with some reservation was all the young teacher had been able
to retrieve for her students no one else believed could learn. It was
obvious there were needed repairs and for part of her time the teacher
had to take her class up a flight of stairs.
This woman was of a
refreshingly healthy appearance. She had a complexion to speak of clean
living and fresh outdoor exercise. Her rosy cheeks, down to earth
apparel of clean cotton fabric, and unhurried personality was striking
to say the least. Here was a person who was dedicated to what she was
doing. One couldn’t help but believe she was totally capable of
achieving anything she set her mind to do.
I brought Rhonda’s books
so I could show this teacher how my girl had learned to read. The books
were battered and worn from Rhonda trying to turn pages with her
"Nose is nose, and toes
are toes but nose is not toes," Rhonda read.
For the teacher, it
couldn’t be known what had gone into getting Rhonda to this point but
somehow the young woman was touched by the efforts of this little girl
who read so carefully the book by its worn pages showed how hard she had
worked at it. Rhonda’s little hands were just beginning to become
somewhat twisted but already she had learned to make her right hand work
for her to some extent.
The light chair I used
for her was more like an upright wheelbarrow which leaned backward as I
pushed her. The two large wheels on the back was what carried the chair.
The front of it was simply a bar on the ground. Rhonda and her chair was
a thing of interest to the other children and they gathered around her
when their teacher told them to come introduce themselves.
Rhonda had been accepted
into the little class of sweet, gentle children whose only problem was
visited on them by some strange happenstance due to no choice of their
own. They met in this shabby old school no one else wanted but it did
have a large gymnasium where on rainy days they could go for their
recess breaks. Life was as good as it could get for these less than
perfect children and Marsha Palmetary, their teacher, saw to it that
each one was treated with respect and honor according to their
disability. It was a happy time for them.
A field trip for picking
pecans Marsha carefully planned with milk cartons for buckets, an
outdoor lunch, and anything else needed for this excursion.
Mrs. Flood, Mrs. Flood
Look! Look! Is this a pecan? One of the children ran up and held a rock
up for me to see?
"Hmmm. Well now let me
see. Let’s search over here and see what we can find. Okay, look here’s
a nice big one." The child took his treasure and ran for the bucket and
we were upon what seemed to him to be a great quest. Each nut was a
treasure and his sparkling eyes told how well pleased he was with
himself and his stash of found nuts. Marsha’s field trip was a great
success and we were moving forward with her.
Life was good. This small
class became a beacon for anyone who wished to observe and along with
many others was the beginnings of what would become Special Education
all over the nation. Times were changing and we were like a small brick
in a wall of compassion and understanding for children who were loved by
their parents, daily. These began to find a way to become productive
citizens often time setting an example for those who are more physically
able than they are.
Many times I’ve seen a
mother pushing a wheelchair with her child in it. She will have her head
up while looking straight ahead as if she sees something in the distance
of a goal she walks toward. There is no grief and hang down expression
with her. It is my hope that this was the appearance I had as Rhonda and
I sailed along on waters of lapping calm or rough, dark turmoil.