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Growing Up Ignorant

As I visited my 92 year old mother at the Alzheimer’s facility the other day, and listened as she told me over and over how nice I looked, I indulged myself in a time warp of the way it was light years ago.  Her reassuring words of the present, dentureless, house-coated, form were not that much different from her motherly modus operandi when I was a precocious (or is it capricious?—I always get the two mixed up) child and impossible teenager.  She and my father nearly obsessed on their goal that the kids (my three sisters and I) would know nothing of the trials and tribulations of the family, the church or their personal welfare.  It was tough growing up ignorant.

I grew up ignorant of my weaknesses.  I was told so often that I could do anything I set my mind to do that I very rarely considered the possibility of failure.  It was a crushing blow when I discovered that not everyone liked me and that some bad kids in the neighborhood actually wanted to hurt me.  My mother soon set me straight.  Those kids just needed the Lord and some tender, loving care.  In the meantime, I was not to listen to them.

I grew up ignorant of conflicts in the church congregation my father pastored.  When he emerged from his office after a marathon session with some cantankerous saints (I’m not sure some members meet the “saint” definition) with a smile on his face, he usually asked, “Are you hungry?  Wanna get something to eat?”  Not a word about the bruising battle he just endured.  When we sat around the dinner table, night after night, we talked about his escapades with his nine brothers in Indianapolis, or his latest tool or gadget, or what our uncles and aunts Gus and Helen, Mary and Bill, Amelia and Bill or June and Bill were up to.  (Different Bills, of course.) We were kept in the dark about the problems.

I grew up ignorant of the financial struggles that my parents were going through.  If they had trouble with the mortgage payment or car note, I never knew it.  My mother was famous for her unbelievable finds at the Goodwill or Salvation Army stores, and maybe the reason she shopped there was because of the money issue.  If so, she had a way of turning a liability into an asset so much so that most people were sure she patronized the finest department stores in town.  (That was another little item we discussed at the dinner table!)

I grew up ignorant of difficult family situations, whether the immediate or extended family.  I found out much later about certain failings or misfortunes of family members, but only through the reliable grapevine.  My mother was determined to keep the lid on news that she considered unworthy of broadcasting, even to her children.  She took the scripture seriously that says, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”  Proverbs 17:9 (KJV). 

I grew up ignorant of the popular sentiment that our first line of defense against sickness or any other problems in life was science, education, medicine or an outsider’s expertise.  My mother’s first inclination was to pray.  No, no, you don’t understand.  I don’t mean say a prayer—I mean PRAY!  Throw down, hot and heavy, vein-popping praying that started in the living room and ended up in the kitchen.  Not only did Satan or his imps not come into our house, I’m convinced that they put their foot on the accelerator as they drove by!  No, you didn’t mess with my mother when she got into her full-fledged praying mode.  I didn’t realize until much later that her kind of praying was not normal.

Yes, I grew up ignorant.  I didn’t stay that way.  What did happen, however, was that I was allowed to grow up in my formative years in a loving, protected, affirming environment.  I entered the hazards of real life away from home with all the spiritual weaponry and combat gear I would need to fight my own battles.  I am deeply concerned about children who are subjected to firsthand pain and rawness of life with no one to put a protective covering over them.  Maybe they can’t stay ignorant forever, but while they are developing the attitudes and thoughts about life during their maturing years, they need that bubble. 

Misapply these thoughts if you want, and I’m sure somebody will, but by growing up ignorant, I believe I actually grew up smarter.  In fact, I wish there was a lot more ignorance today about a lot of things. 

Many of us remember our good friend, Charley Mahaney, who used to holler to almost everyone, “Hey, Ignorant!”  It might have been more of a compliment than he intended it to be.

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Reader Comments (1)

This made me smile. :) Truly!

I am thankful for my parents who also shielded and protected me as a wee one.

I was ignorant that parents could be anything but loving, nurturing, and decent -- really!

December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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