George Worthy
George Worthy

Last evening I walked out to my mailbox to check and see if I had any mail. I didn’t, but something better was given to me. My neighbor was playing some music while he played with his children. It was really cool listening to his daughter laughing when she got caught playing hide and seek.

I was taken back to the time I was enrolled at California State University at Monterey Bay. I was older than most of the students except one. There was an older man who had been in school for over seven years. I don’t know what his major was or if he had any kids or a job, because I was going to be attending and wanted to find out if the pressure would be too great. 

I had enrolled at this temple of higher learning when I closed my produce brokerage office. I had been brokering produce for about 20 years and now, with two sons out of the house and in college, I wanted to be able to find some time. My gosh! I just re-read what I had written and it seems like a hundred years ago. I had explained to all my customers that I wanted to get a diploma because I had not paid much attention when I attended school as a young man.

Produce customers are a little difficult to keep happy. They are working with a perishable item and if something arrived on the East Coast that wouldn’t pass inspection, they are out of product until they could get another truck in from California. They didn’t really understand my desire to accomplish this task of obtaining a college degree. But I forged on.

After long discussions with Lorraine, I enrolled at CSUMB and the counselor sat down with me to decide on a major. All I knew was I liked to write, and I hoped I could find something easy because I still had daily requirements that took a lot of time. We settled on Human Communications. Of course, Lorraine also offered me some of my own advice, “Nobody can beat two people!” We worked together and she began her time as a wine rep. By the way, that is my favorite saying. There have been times in our marriage that I remember to say that when I needed help or vice versa.

I went ahead and enrolled at school and sat down with my counselor to figure out my schedule. Let me tell you that the counselors at CSUMB are the rocks of the school. I remember so clearly the times I thought it was never going to work, and my counselor would sit with me to come up with the right schedule.

I was enrolled in classes that are required if you are to graduate with your classmates. The very first class was taught by a young lady that assigned us certain books to read and then point out the salient points that the author wanted to get across.

Since this was just a reading and writing assignment, I thought it would be easy. Well, just let me say that classes in college are a little more difficult than the very first book report I ever turned in for credit. It was “The Yearling,” by Marjorie Rawlings. It is a story of a young boy in the Everglades of Florida. The protagonist, was about 11 years old and so was I. I stayed up reading that book as it was written about me, or it could have been. In any case, it was my first book report, so the teacher kept sending me back to my seat until I got it right.

When I sat down at my next class, I found that the teacher was about my age. I handed in my paper, which was about “The Yearling.” I guess I figured that I could skate on that nook since I had enjoyed the book when I read it. She said she was sure I could do better. So as I walked back to my seat she stopped me and told me to try writing a poem that told of a different time.

I tried again to explain that the boy was my age when I read the aforementioned book. That was what made it a great read for me and that I didn’t have another book that measured to “The Yearling.”

Mrs. Gosling, my instructor, said for me to look to myself and find a book that deals with the present day or recent activities. I thought sure I could do exactly as she said, but it took longer to get it in my mind to write about my past activities. She was aware that I had been a soldier and she suggested I write about that. I explained my inability to come up with a story line, and she told me to write it as a poem.

Now that had to be the most difficult thing for me to do, and she just kept telling me to try and remember the emotion I had while in Vietnam. I just shook my head and walked slowly back to my seat. I had never even tried to write poetry and was sure that I would make a fool of myself.

I went back to my counselor to ask if I should try another class or major. The only thing I thought about was that these two were trying to get me back into the realm of writing. It turned out that they succeeded. I wrote three poems about contact with the enemy while in Vietnam, and the words just seemed to fly out of my finger tips.

I had to take myself back down a road I would have never traveled without their encouragement. But it turned out that if you really put yourself into a thought process, it is possible for anyone to write poetry. I will always be grateful to the counselors and teachers at CSUMB for their guidance and encouragement. I will scratch something for my next column. Let’s see if I can still do it.

God Bless.

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Gonzales columnist George Worthy may be reached at [email protected].


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