Photo Challenge # 206 – Grandpa Elmer

This week’s photo challenge called for writing poetry or a short story. However, the photo reminded me so vividly of my real-life experience that I took the liberty of writing a memoir instead.

Photo by Vincent Bourilhon

My Grandpa Elmer was a Rambler man. Not a ramb-ling man, you understand. But a Rambler owner. He drove one for years. It was sort of a soft light green color, and I have special memories of that old car that still warm my heart today. Of course, the memories are really of my grandpa, but he and that old car were buddies, so wherever he went, the Rambler went as well.

During the years that Rambler was in the family, I contracted for my first teaching position — in a town about an hour away from my home. It was a very hard time for me. I had just gone through a divorce, and I was broken-hearted and seriously doubting my abilities to succeed at very much. But I did love teaching and had been trained for it, so I took the plunge when the job became available.

I was not to know that the school system itself had very serious problems. The teacher turnover that year involved 20 resignations and new hires to replace them. At the end of that year, the turnover was again abnormally huge — with 13 of us leaving. It was a truly negative experience for most of us who had gone to work there that year, but we all learned a lot — mostly about how to choose our employers with a lot more care. But at least everyone of us did finish the whole year and completed our contracts without giving up due to the bad treatment.

However, I had another particular problem personally. I had no car. I located another teacher from a town very close to my hometown who had taken a position at the same school, and I managed to work out an agreement to ride with him. I paid for the gas, and he drove his car. Unfortunately, his schedule didn’t click with mine on a number of occasions, and when he had to drop me off about half-way home, I was stranded. Getting through each day of teaching in a very bad school environment to start with, and then having to sit for an hour or more, waiting to get a ride with someone else in order to even get home was really dragging me down.

But Grandpa decided to come to my rescue. I can’t count the times he drove that Rambler many miles to come and get me on those very late afternoons when I got stuck part-way home. And he’d always get to my drop-off point within minutes of my arrival.

I was discouraged with that job. The school system was run by  irresponsible and foolish people, and the whole experience was a struggle every day. When I added the driving situation to that mix, I was just about ready to resign from the position, cut my losses, and try for a different position the next school year.

But Grandpa knew that quitting was never the way to go when the only reasons to quit were difficulties and disappointments. There are times in life when we may be led to resign a position in order to move upward and onward, and but those times are positive experiences, and they do not amount to “giving up” or “being beaten” by the circumstances. Grandpa had lived his life overcoming obstacles and circumstances, and he didn’t want me to give in too quickly. He knew it could set a pattern for life if I didn’t learn to stick with a job and finish it once I’d committed to it.

One afternoon I sat in the passenger seat, smothering in the heat pouring from the car vents — Grandpa always wanted his car nice and warm (read that boiling hot). I was so downhearted that particular day that I spoke my thoughts out loud and said I was thinking that maybe I just needed to resign. Grandpa didn’t look at me. And he didn’t raise his voice. Very quietly, he said, “No, Sandy. You don’t want to quit.”

Tears come to my eyes even now when I remember that day. He didn’t add anything else to that statement. But it took root in me. I realized at that moment that my grandfather cared so much that I learn to keep my word and take responsibility for finishing what I committed to that he got into his car and drove all that way, time after time, to make sure I was able to keep that commitment. I decided that if he cared so much about my “making it” that he gave so much of himself, then I owed it to him to stick it out and make myself end the year successfully.

Grandpa’s Rambler didn’t have balloons lifting it into the air. But as I looked at this picture and remembered those rides in that old green car, I realized that I had something even better than balloons lifting me during that year. I had my Grandpa Elmer. And he was truly the “wind beneath my wings.”


To participate in the Photo Challenge # 206, visit Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.





4 thoughts on “Photo Challenge # 206 – Grandpa Elmer

  1. This is wonderful story of encouragement in the midst of discouragement. Your grandfather was a great encourager. I’m sure you learned much from him.

    1. It was. The whole community was a bastion of small-minded people who didn’t want to have to live by any rules or self-discipline. Teachers who tried to enforce discipline and a higher standard of education were quickly given to understand that the system there did not operate that way. Rebellion was rampant. But I’ve actually taught for a system since then that was even worse. Thank God I had the opportunity to teach in some schools that were good as well.

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