January 25, 2012 by David Gillaspie
My Grandpa didn’t go to my Dad’s college graduation. He was invited. Grandma had to take the bus.
Grandpa’s idea was that anyone who went to school past the eighth grade was afraid of work. My Dad was afraid of work? This was a man who set chokers in the woods. He worked on the family farm, from haying to slaughtering livestock for the freezer.
What work was he afraid of?
Maybe it was the work Grandpa did before he broke his back doing it. He was a logger. That’s enough to scare anyone. Those guys don’t get a day off for rain, pain, or the booze they drained.
They are loggers and belong to the logging fraternity featured in University of Oregon wrestler Ken Kesey’s Sometimes A Great Notion. The saying in the book was ‘Never Give A Inch.’ To be correct it’s ‘Never Give An Inch’, but he wrote about loggers. You don’t want to argue with them, even in fiction.
Wayne Gillaspie graduated with a General Studies degree in five years.
Before college he spent five years in the Marine Corps. Those five years came between 1950 – 1955. For the historians in the crowd, that’s the Korean War. It was called a Police Action by some, just not those in-country.
He showed up in class with books, leaving his Silver Star and Purple Heart in his sock drawer. Korea was also called the Forgotten War. Not many wanted to hear about it. Too close to The Big One, WWII.
He wanted his kids to graduate from college. Since he was the first in the family to do it, he probably didn’t want it to seem like a fluke.
Relatives have mentioned that they don’t want to be mentioned in these pages, so lets say some of his kids finished at the same school he graduated from.
For me it was Southern Oregon College, now Southern Oregon University, to wrestle a year. Next came the Army and a try-out for the All-Army Team. I went in in September and came out two years later to the University of Oregon.
Last night my wife asked what I wanted to do after I left the Army. I said I was certain I didn’t want that career. What I didn’t say was I went full speed into the UO English Department to bone up on being a writer by reading literature. It seemed like the right move.
A degree didn’t cross my mind when I dropped out and moved to New York to be the writer in a crappy apartment in a bad Brooklyn neighborhood. It made sense to go to the Big Apple and take a bite.
When I moved back to Oregon, it made sense to finish my degree at Portland State University. See, once you dropout of college, you’re a dropout, a quitter, and that’s a hard label to carry around for a wrestler.
If you start college after high school, make it a priority to finish. Get your degree. Do what it takes even when every excuse makes more sense.
Plenty of guys back from Iraq and Afghanistan with wives and kids will get it done the hard way. If it’s just you, make it happen.
It won’t get any easier. It might save your back.
Do it so your family can gather around you and celebrate. They’re waiting.