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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ramblings from the Heart

The power of the influences of youth

By Alan Hrubes

When a child is born into this world, I truly believe they are created equal in God’s eyes. All infants are similar to lumps of clay; capable of being molded via their influences as they grow from childhood to adolescence; from the teen years to adulthood. 

There are usually three outcomes from such influences. One result might be someone who has no scruples, conscience or love for their fellow man. They can be cheaters, narcissistic, arrogant, vulgar, cold-hearted and just plain miserable to be around. 

A second result might be someone who is exceedingly kind, caring, giving, thoughtful, concerned for their fellow man and will care for others before they think of themselves. You know, the Mother Teresa types. 

The third category is someone who is a mixture of both but in varying measures. The vast majority of humans are of this variety and so am I. I can be arrogant, vulgar, narcissistic and a miserable person to be around while on the other hand, I CAN exhibit those attributes from the second group of people and try to on a daily basis.

My influences growing up were many and varied to say the least. My father instilled in me the importance of a hard work ethic, punctuality and to think about the future and have a plan for when it arrives. But there were several women who were, and still are, major influences in my life even though they are no longer with us.

Mom was the disciplinarian in our family. With her, there was no grey area. She made sure we toed the line and if there was ever deviation from what was expected of us, the consequences were swift and consistent. Although she was tough on us (at least we thought she was!), deep-down, we knew she loved us dearly and wanted us to be productive citizens of the world who knew right from wrong. 

Towards the end of her life, she stated that she was happy for the result of her diligence and that she “raised some pretty good kids.” I think of Mom daily and smile knowing that she is looking down from heaven, proud of her children and happy with their outcomes.

I was fairly “normal” as a young boy, loving sports, frogs, riding my bike and shooting marbles on the playground. However, I did have issues with a speech impediment that was obvious and rather “un-normal.” The letter “R” was the nemesis that plagued my vocabulary and was a constant reminder to my friends of the great folly for making as much fun of me as often as they possibly could. 

A speech therapist was recruited to instruct me on the proper pronunciation of the problem letter. During fifth grade, at a predetermined time, a spare room located next to Mr. Mandigo’s classroom was utilized for the session of proper diction. Miss Berntson was the lady that helped me conquer my speech disorder and to this day, I remember how patient she was with me and how she would open her mouth and have me look at her tongue placement when pronouncing the menacing letter. 

A great deal of time was spent in that empty room with Thelma Berntson and eventually, I was able to figure things out. Miss Berntson lived a long life of 96 years until passing away a couple of years ago. It was over 45 years ago, but I still remember those sessions with the nice lady who exhibited a considerable amount of compassion, patience and care for me.

Extended families are crucially important in a youngster’s life. I had an “aunt” who, although not a blood relative, was very much an aunt to me. This woman was married to my mom’s brother and Elda was one of the sweetest, nicest, happiest people I knew during the days of my youth. I fondly remember going over to Uncle Stan and Aunt Elda’s place on Snyder Avenue for a visit and being welcomed by Elda with a huge smile, an even larger hug and an occasional kiss on the cheek. 

I always felt so good when Elda would make an extra fuss over my sister and me, exclaiming how big we were getting (even though she’d probably just seen us a few days before), asking questions about school and other important topics of conversation. After a while, we would all sit down at the dinner table and feast on hamburgers complete with Sweetheart buns, homemade potato salad and honest-to-goodness whole milk and not the blue-tinged Carnation Instant we had at home. 

Despite all of these wonderful occurrences and luxuries, the event I remember most was when Elda brought me to my home on Sargent Avenue after an overnight stay. I walked to the back door, unlocked it and as I opened it, I looked back to the street and Elda was still in the car with a big smile on her face and an arm waving to me in acknowledgement that I was safely home. To this day, I remember feeling so incredibly happy and loved, knowing that she had waited for me to look back at her before she left. 

Now one needs to understand that most boys my age back then were dumb as posts when it came to understanding stuff like that. But something as simple as someone making sure I was safe made a definite impression on me. Aunt Elda passed away last year but the memory of her love and compassion is with me today.

Ya know, a person’s life is a collection of events, relationships and influences experienced during their formative years. A blueprint of that person’s childhood is revealed once we become adults. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have had a wonderful childhood. The influences of my youth have helped me become the person I am today.

Allen Hrubes is an occasional Glendive columnist for the Ranger-Review and can be reached at allenhrubes@hotmail.com.

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