I've found myself looking at my time at the College of Charleston when it started a year with 500 students and ended the year with 400. The faculty to student ratio was 1/14. Nothing was depersonalized about the place. I'd attempted some classes at Wichita U with enormous class sizes that overwhelmed me. It also had professors I couldn't understand. A lot of kids I went to high school with went on and did well, but for me it was like a dog chasing a rabbit into a brier patch. Wasn't long before the dog couldn't handle it. The dog couldn't read with comprehension and had self esteem from the bottom of a pecking order, a mind jumbled up with the tensions of home, a host of contradictory expectations for what I'm to do after high school. I didn't want to do any of them. I wanted to learn how to become a sensible human being. Sensible is all I ask.
Ted Stern asked me several years ago why I was motivated to go on to college coming from a family and cultural experience that did not include education. I don't think I'd ever thought of it in that light. I looked within and found that when I was a kid, the teachers at school were the foundation of my life, and my mountain grandmother. Home was mental mayhem in denial. No access to the rational anywhere but the teachers at school. What made them different is they went to college and learned to think more or less rationally and have sensible lives. I wanted to have a more or less rational sense about my life, be able to understand what I read and have some understanding of the world I live in. I liked education and never quit learning.
At the College of Charleston we had an honor code that was enforced absolutely. Anyone caught cheating on a test is out. If you see this person cheating and fail to turn him or her in, you're out. If you see someone cheating, you will report it or you're out. In my last year there was a guy caught cheating on an exam at the end of his senior year. Out. We didn't cheat at College of Charleston. It's a great learning throughout one's education that cheating is not a consideration. It's a good code for life at work, at home, with oneself. Simply honor. Like the day the BROC group received me and asked me to say how I felt. I looked inside a moment and came back with, "I feel honored," and that was enough. It was my meaning. That's something from the old way of thinking, honor. Doesn't have much meaning in this time, but it does with old people in old time religion churches. I'm glad I never had to turn anyone in. It almost never happened. Maybe once every 3rd or 4th year.
The whole time in the mountains I've lived in the AirBellows School House continuing my education. The drive toward literacy became a purpose in itself. I continue to expand my own literacy. I guess it's made me an odd-ball conversationally, but I don't care. Learning has been the passion of my life, and anybody doesn't think that's good enough is welcome not to. I don't care. It's for me only. Anybody that doesn't like it might try minding their own business. Brings to mind Jr telling me one Saturday night on his 4th drink, a little loose in the tongue, "I'm full of shit and anybody that doesn't believe it can eat it." I thought, spoken like a true Buddhist monk.
I never used school with ambition to make more money. Money has never been my ambition, which is what kept Jr and some of his circle uncertain about me, because I showed no inclination to be there for any reason but Jr's good. I realize it is kind of incomprehensible in this day and time. It wasn't many years ago it wasn't incomprehensible at all. It's something we need more of in our world. When I believe something like that, I take it as my role to act on it, not to tell somebody else to act on it or make a law saying everybody must or else.
I don't believe I could have done it well, or even done it, with a lapse in integrity. I saw how the "help" from the "service" agencies ripped him off, and Jean, what they did to her. In my mind I was there to protect him from these lapses in integrity in people with little to none, and myself suspected for being one. I understood that. I also understand that in the mountains time answers questions. I always knew that by Jr's last literal days he would understand by my example that I was there for nothing but his own good. I never once had a temptation to overrule my own sense of integrity. Never once. That I accomplish this task God has given me being trustworthy as Jr himself was my guide.
There wasn't anything in the house I wanted except that Jr be able to stay at home and not have to die of despair in a nursing home dungeon. Jr Maxwell was the kind of man who did not belong in there. He had always treated me right with absolute integrity and deserved same in turn. There were no lapses in my own integrity because I didn't want anything but Jr's well-being. The women of Hospice found this remarkable, but I could only find it the way I want it to be in my world. And I'm the one with control over how it is in my world. It's not that I'm something unusual. It's simply the old-time way and I'm in a world here of people who have lived their lives the same way. Jr's world was a world of people who live by their own codes of integrity, the people of Whitehead. Mine was no different from theirs. It's that you just don't know about people you don't know. I'm a transplant, not many people knew me. The day Jr's soul left the body Elvira Crouse told me, "Now the people of Whitehead know you." I was grateful and gave thanks. Yet I tended to see that it was for no more than the code they, themselves, lived by. Their code is my code. I guess she was saying that what I hold important Whitehead holds important too. I take it to mean our codes of integrity are in tune and Whitehead is the place I belong.