My formal education stared in 1955 when I was a first grader at St. Peter Catholic School in La Porte Indiana. My family lived on what was actually a real family farm of about 200 acres growing corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. We had a few milk cows, the occasional pig, a few sheep and lots of chickens along with a dog or two and several barnyard cats. The cats had escaped the fate of so many other barnyard felines and not wound up in a gunnysack full of rocks at the bottom of a horse tank. What can I say it was a different time and this cat population control was usually done out of sight from us kids.
It was a short commute from the farm to the town of La Porte that had three elementary Catholic schools. We went to the one that served mostly Irish families.
My grandparents both maternal and paternal were not far removed from Ireland and on my mother’s side supposedly came from Roscommon County. I believe these grandparents were all second-generation immigrants from the Emerald Isle, but unfortunately I do not know this for sure. I should check this out though since if just one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, even if neither parent was, you are eligible for Irish citizenship. This is something that seems quite attractive these days.
The family had been in northern Indiana for sometime but being Irish Catholics they had not always been welcomed with open arms. Family lore included an oft repeated story of a KKK cross burning at the end of the lane leading to my paternal grandparents home in the early 1920’s. The Klan was very resurgent at that time and Indiana was a hotbed of this activity. Along with African Americans the Jews and Catholics were also on their list of undesirables.
By the mid-1950’s and being quite cocooned in the environment of conservative Catholicism 24/7 we were fairly sheltered from these blatant forms of racism and xenophobia. I mean we were after all white living in the very white world of rural Indiana and the KKK was on the wane by this time. The unrelenting religious brainwashing I was subjected to in grades 1-8 was in hindsight a form of child abuse no matter how righteous or well intentioned. Sadly generations had been drinking that religious kool-aide. My parents, at significant financial cost for a lower middle class family, felt the burden of parochial school for their kids was an act of love, a duty even and therefore something necessary. It was after all a bunch of Protestants who had burned that cross at the family farm several decades before.
A little over half way through my grade school years the rumblings of great social change were on the horizon. For my family this was manifest in the fact that an Irish Catholic was running for president and the ground truly began to shift when he was actually elected president of the United States. It was a true miracle, JFK in the White House. Even his assassination a few short years later could not slow the train of change.
Again, thanks to significant sacrifice on my parents’ part I was enrolled in a Catholic high school in Michigan City Indiana in 1963 called St. Mary. This was a time when my queer juices were really taking off though the environment of a Catholic School in northern Indiana was not conducive to supporting this gay flowering. Then an amazing thing happened late in my sophomore year and my family moved to a small farm outside of Woodstock Illinois, a town best described as a suburban bedroom community northwest of Chicago.
Thus began what in hindsight I believe today to be my two most important school years. Nothing like coming under the influence of a very politically left-leaning, staunchly anti-war Holy Cross nun and seeking guidance to deal with my ever emerging gayness from a school counselor several decades older than myself who was to become my first sexual partner. These two mentors did more to shape who I am today than all the many other teachers I encountered over my long and often tortuous formal educational path.
I have written extensively about these two individuals for this group and won’t reiterate those details here. Suffice it to say though that my formal schooling continued for years to come. Those academic adventures included 5 years at the University Of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, two years of nursing school at the University of Colorado and another two years at Regis University here in Denver where I was awarded a Masters Degree in Nursing Administration. That last one was truly a masturbatory exercise in how to waste time and money for which I take total responsibility, the faculty at Regis tried, and they really did.
So by my count that is at least 21 years of formal education. There are really only two years of that that mattered and those were 1966 and 1967 when I learned the joys of gay sex and how to challenge the status quo. The knowledge of gay sex has served me well, despite the little HIV issue. The importance of being a sexual adept though seems to fade with each passing year but the ability to hit the streets and man the barricades continues to be more salient than ever. As an often seen resistence sign says these days “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit”