Sunday, April 24, 2016

"My father was my teacher. But most importantly he was a great dad." Beau Bridges





My dad was born on April 24, 1917, and he would have been 99 years old today. He was not a physically imposing man- only about 5'6" and 115 pounds, yet his nickname was "Herk", short for Hercules. My dad had an unbelievably wiry strength: I once saw him lift my older brother right off his feet with his right arm, and do the same to my little brother with his left arm, just to get their attention when they were acting up!  If you don't think that is difficult to do, just try lifting your two sons!  Another time I saw Dad pick up a huge console television set that was on fire,  and carry from the living room and through the front door-all to throw it in the snow before the house caught fire! 

Although the brother-lifting episode is a memory seared into my brain, that is not the first thing I think of when I think about my dad.  A parent is a child's first teacher, and I think of the many things my dad taught me.  We used to watch golf on TV in the late 50's and early 60's- Dad was a huge Arnold Palmer fan (of course, Latrobe, PA is only about an hour from where I grew up in Pennsylvania. Also, the Steelers were no good in those days, so golf, not football, was the Sunday afternoon TV choice.) I can remember asking about the putting- especially when the hole was 8 feet away, and the golfer was aiming 2 feet to the right or left. Dad explained that in my terms- I was taking sewing lessons and learning about the grain of fabrics. He said,"Honey, you know how material has a grain?  Well, so does grass, and the golfer is reading the grain to see how the ball will roll." Years later when I became an avid golfer, I remembered Dad's lesson, as I learned to "read the grain of the grass- just like reading fabric."  

And another memory- a truly teachable moment- we were on the way home from a short family vacation.  Dad was driving, and I was hanging on the seat behind him, talking to him while the rest of the family slept.  (No seat belts back then!)  We were in Virginia and road was so dark and winding, and I asked dad how he could see where we were going, since there were no street lights, just "those white lines along the side and in the middle of the road." Once again, Daddy answered with an analogy that I could understand.  "Dede, when I drive the car, I follow the white lines, just like you use the electric scissors to cut your material, using the lines of your dress pattern as a guide.That's how you keep the car on the road." Pretty good answer, right? Even now, when I am driving alone at night on a dark road, I hear his voice whispering that treasured secret of how to drive a car and keep it on the road. 

Dad's education ended after high school graduation.  A meticulous man, he kept time books of the shifts he worked at Allegheny Ludlum Steel for 43 1/2 years.  I do not know how anyone could work 4-12, 12-8, and 8-4 for that many years.  When he finally retired, I asked, "Dad, how could you work those crazy hours all those years?"  His answer: "I enjoyed going to work.  It really only felt like about 10 years."  Long after Dad was gone and I retired from 37 years of teaching, I was asked, "How could you teach for that many years?"  I thought about it, and answered, "I really enjoyed going to school.  it really only felt like about 10 years."  I understood what Dad meant - he taught me to like my work, to share his strong work ethic, and to be proud of a hard day's work.  


I was always an avid reader, and my Dad was not. I piqued Dad's interest in reading when I was in college, majoring in English.  He asked to read some of my required novels, and then asked me to recommend more books he might enjoy. 25 years later, he read several hundred books from my school library- and I hand-documented each of the books, using a card catalogue system in a little file box.  He added a new notecard for each book he finished, and by the way, he did find that reading the same book several times could still be fun.  (James Clavell was his favorite author.)  A year or so into his newly found hobby of reading, he told me that reading was so difficult for him at the beginning-that the words seemed to "move" and he had to read the same sentence several times to comprehend the meaning.  I realized that Dad was dyslexic, and I- as the teacher- gave him strategies to improve his reading. He especially liked using a notecard under the line he was reading. He gained both speed and reading comprehension using the "notecard method."

And so, we came full circle.  Daddy taught me, and then I taught Daddy. We shared so many discussions and observations, and he was always my "go to guy" when I was sad. The sadness of losing Daddy, and then Mom - just 82 days later-  has left a hole in my heart, and in the hearts of my brothers.  

Thanks Dad! Thanks for the life lessons and unconditional love, and know that I am thinking of you today, on your birthday. 

Here is a picture of Dad in 1935- his high school graduation



As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  Many colleges have made the book required reading. 
Signed copies are available  www.dederittman.com Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 


Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out!  http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/ 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at dederittman@gmail.com .  The website www.gradygetsglasses.com IS UP AND RUNNING!!!.  Signed copies ARE available!   Grady plush toys are ordered! 

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. https://www.facebook.com/gradygetsglasses?ref=hl 

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