Posted by: Jim E | February 25, 2010

Let Me Look Over Your Shoulder…

I remember so well growing up around adults…my parents were a couple of them…my grandparents lived next door…and I (and more importantly) my parents knew everyone in the neighborhood…the Olsons, the Walbergs, the Saxes, the Wolfs, the Burtons, the Russells, the Balfanzes…and I could name many more…I knew them all on a first name basis or should I say, last name basis…you know, Mr. Olson or Mrs. Olson…Mr. Balfanz or Mrs. Balfanz…and on and on…

I knew them and they knew me…Oh, I had my run-ins with one or another of them from time to time…like the time we painted the car of one of our neighbors…with paint and a paint brush…and hard as it may seem, the neighbor didn’t like it much…(I always blamed my cousin Tom for this bit of mischief, well at least coming up with the idea…if the truth be known, I think I blamed Tom for about all the trouble we got into…well, at least coming up with the ideas!!!)…

But back to my point…there were always neighbors…adults around to watch our every move…or so it seemed…but without a doubt my Mom had “eyes in the back of her head”…and she always told us that…but even as a young kid, I thought she was using it as a metaphor…though I didn’t know what a metaphor was…but I did assume she was “just kidding us”…and what she did have was a good system of spies…or that she was just smarter than us…but I still don’t know for sure…maybe the “eyes in back of the head thing” had something to it…

All I know is she knew too much about what we did or didn’t do…and I could only blame my cousin Tom so many times before that didn’t work any more…so adults were a part of our lives in the 1950’s…not all that is bad by the way…I loved living next to my Grandparents…and most of the neighbors were great too…I didn’t “love” the neighbors but they were alright as far as adults went…they reported on me too much but other than that, they were okay…

I “helped” Mr. Olson sometimes around his house…and other neighbors too…later I mowed Mr. Balfanz’s grass…he used the power mower…I got to use the push mower…I had to work up to the power mower…I was not old enough to use that yet…I wanted to but I had to earn that…it was how well I mowed the lawn with the push mower…and he was a taskmaster…he had me redo what I missed…watched me mow…to see if I did it right…and all that was training for me and for my kids later on…I never forgot Mr. Balfanz and what he taught me…because it became a part of my life not just for grass cutting but for everything else…

But my Grandfather was the best teacher…he was a taskmaster too…he could do anything…carpenter, mechanic, electrician, tool maker, plumber, brick mason…you name it, he did it…he built his house, fixed his car, put in his own septic system…and on and on…and for me, he was and still is…my hero…I have others but he was my first…he was a man’s man…he was what I wanted to be…fiercely loyal, honest, loved his family, loved his wife, a hard worker…took care of neighbors as he could…a man of integrity…I loved him and what he modeled for me…

He went with me to get my first car…my Mom and Dad didn’t have a car and so I learned to drive with a friend of mine…and used his car to get my license…and when I saved enough money between my senior year and first year in college to buy a car…he went with me to buy it…gave me some pointers but gave me my head…and gave me his approval at the end…I put down the $395 and drove home that 1953 Ford…some rust but we spiffed it up …and spent time with him on how to take care of it…he was great…

All this to say about the adults in my life…I basically asked them all the way along…”Let me look over your shoulder”…because I was a child, a young person, a young man…and needed to become an adult…but I will never forget those that taught me by who they were…what they had become…I wanted that…and more than anything today, we need young people who want to learn to be adults and will still ask…”Let me look over your shoulder”…


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