Friday, May 11, 2012

Classical Secondary Education

Helen attended school during the second decade of the twentieth century. She had very strong opinions regarding what constituted a proper secondary education. This was formed by her own experiences as a student at Hunter College High School. There she studied Latin all four years, and as a result she could talk on and on about Julius Caesar, and Horace, and Vergil, and so on and so on. Among her learning experiences was her trip to and from school each day. She made this trip from 135th and Lennox Avenue to East 94th Street where the school was located by trolley or by shanks' mare.

This early training translated itself into a love of language, and the daily crossword puzzle in the local paper was a standard part of her day well into her nineties. She did not relish "getting stuck" and rarely asked for my input, but when she did, I knew that she was upset with herself, and that she was showing me the highest degree of respect by asking.

Mother, as I came to call her, which is okay because my own mother was "Mama," was fiercely independent and did not like to depend on others for anything she thought she should be able to do for herself.  She had, since she was widowed at the age of 75, always done her own budgeting and accounting.  She became extremely frustrated as she neared ninety to find that the numbers didn't behave properly sometimes when she was attempting to balance her checkbook.  Again, with reluctance, she turned to me for assistance.  Sometimes things were easily resolved, but sometimes things had gotten into such a state that, though I could straighten it out, she couldn't grasp the root of the problem.  Ironically, just a few years later, my father who was only a few years younger than she, began to have the same sort of difficulty.  As I was working on his bank balances, I was thinking, "What is it with these old people that they cannot deal with something so simple as reconciling a bank statement?"

I have not been able to balance a checkbook for five years now.  And I am not yet eighty.  You just wait.  You are getting older every day!
Helen took up painting at the age of 65.  She had never had an art lesson, but she took her new hobby seriously.  She enrolled in art classes and produced many dozens of oil paintings over the next 25 years.  This one she presented to me personally because I had admired it.  I am presently in possession of a number of her paintings.  One of her large paintings hangs prominently in a hallway at IU Health Tipton Hospital.


Shelly said...

She sounds like someone I would have truly enjoyed knowing. And those bank statements? A pain for anyone!

Vee said...

In addition to being educated and talented, Helen was a very proper lady. She would have fit right in had she accepted an invitation to tea with the Queen of England. Lovely lady!

Secondary Roads said...

You wrote, "You just wait. You are getting older every day!" Okay. I have been warned. Truth is the evidence is beginning to show--a little bit.

Pearl said...

So much to learn -- and to forget...


p.s. Thank you for your kind words the other day. I am so grateful, Vanilla.

vanilla said...

Shelly, the woman was a lady. Is it okay just to believe the bank's records?

Vee, she would have been at ease in the palace.

Chuck, the warning is never heeded, and "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Pearl, we do have a wonderful capacity for remembering the good times; and if we don't forget the bad, at least we store them in some near-inaccessible nook in a corner of the mind! Or,we paint them pink. Blessings.

Jim said...

A great memory.

Balancing the checkbook is fast becoming unnecessary. You just aim Quicken at your bank's online system and your checkbook is always up to date and balance.

vanilla said...

Jim, I have had the privilege of good people in my life who have left me with good memories. Yes, I tend to rely on electronic calculations these days.