Opportunity and Aspiration

It was a manic morning of vacuuming, folding, and mopping. The scent of baked goods mixed with the smell of fresh-cut alfalfa pushing through dancing kitchen curtains where pans of confections cooled. My father urgently demanded that I bathe and put on church cloths as he emerged mid-day from the bathroom clean shaven, wreaking of Aqua Velva and wearing a freshly pressed short-sleeved madras shirt rather than his field clothes. All this primping and scurrying signaled one thing: we were getting visitors to the farm. Relatives were coming, relatives from far away.

Uncle Andrew and Aunt Gladys moved to the west coast in the late 40s and did well for themselves. Every few years they would return during the summer and pull into the driveway with a spotless car that had never seen salty winter roads. It was like an alien spaceship with exotic license plates and leather interior, unlike our pick-up truck with homemade blankets on the bench seat that kept stray coils from poking us in the butt. Their clothes, their accents, the way they spoke, the way they spoke to me, and the things they said were so different from anything I knew. They came to represent everything “out there.” Like Steinbeck’s Jody in The Red Pony, they brought a world to me that was beyond the horizon, beyond what I knew.

Some years ago I watched the documentary Hoop Dreams, which I highly recommend. It was about two inner-city boys who used basketball to get beyond their reality. I came away from that movie understanding that the two most important driving forces in their lives were opportunity and aspiration. They may not have known anyone in their neighborhood working in professional fields but legends existed of others who were given an opportunity to change their circumstances because of what they could do on the court. Likewise, seeing the possibilities my relatives represented allowed me to aspire to my own. Opportunity and aspiration is even more important for the LD person. It’s hard enough at times to find those things we aspire to, not to mention the opportunities to do so, while balancing the differences that we live with. So, how do we ensure that the LD person has both? Think about how opportunity and aspiration have influenced your life and write me a note.

 

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About marty castleberg

I grew up on a farm along the banks of the Upper Mississippi River in Wisconsin. I overcame my school experience to earn a PhD in Organizational Learning at The Union Institute and University. I developed curriculum for adults and taught at a small liberal arts college. Consulting and research in organizational learning with a group that started at MIT segued into ten years of field research at Harley-Davidson, where I was their Learning Historian/Reflective Analyst. I left consulting to learn the craft of writing that went beyond academic studies, organizational narratives, and the occasional essay. I thought the result would be humorous travelogues and essays, but what eventually emerged was much different. With all the theoretical understanding that I amassed about living with LD, I still didn’t understand; that’s why Dave showed up. If you don’t count my eight guitars and four bikes, I live a very simple life in San Francisco.
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2 Responses to Opportunity and Aspiration

  1. I love that story. But I love it from a different perspective.

    As the youngest grandchild of Andy and Gladys, I saw a different side of them. I’d heard of their younger, wilder (relatively speaking) years. But I always knew that my grandpa Andrew was an entrepreneur, and adventurer, and fearless. He was an inspiration to me always, but especially in my late teens and early twenties. When he was in his late 80s, he wrote his autobiography and self published it. He learned word perfect using DOS. He walked 3 miles every day. And he liked to listen to big band and swing music in his kitchen when he cooked. He had a pet goldfish, and kitten/cat sit for me.

    I love that they/he was an inspiration for you Marty, and that he was for me as well, but for completely different reasons. What that tells me, is that he was a ‘gift from the universe’, an inspirational person for all who are open to the subtleties that he offered.

  2. Thanks Katie. You don’t know this but your granddad was an inspiration for me later in life as well. I visited him after Gladys passed and saw his activity and the writing he did, something he started very late in life. I realized that I could do the same. I can’t say this for sure but who knows if Daveland would’ve been a reality if not for that picture I carried back with me in my head after my visit. I also have that actual picture of him I keep on my dresser. That one the kids made where he was wearing the floppy hat, looking oh so very literary.

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