Biographical Non-Fiction posted August 21, 2011


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My father fights for me

Warrior Angel

by Spitfire

Non-Fiction Contest Winner 


My dad's junior high students loved him. He never raised his voice,and always showed compassion for those having hardships at home. He dealt out grades on a fair basis. Always the measure of civility, he refused to engage in combat with the rest of the world. That is, until the day of my college interview, the day I discovered his warrior side.

Like Dad, I wanted to be a teacher. The final step for admission to SUNY in Albany meant passing an interview with the Dean of Admissions.

"A mere formality," Dad assured me. "You're articulate, polite, well-mannered, and intelligent. Don't be nervous."

He took the day off to drive me the two hundred fifty miles. Together we strolled across campus, observing students. "Next year you'll be one of them," Dad said, giving my hand a squeeze.

The Administrative Building loomed ahead. We mounted steep steps. A few students roamed halls plastered with official notices. One of them escorted us to the Admissions Office where Dean Schultz, a stern-looking man with a small chin and narrow nose, offered a perfunctory smile and indicated that we sit. His face showed no emotion as he asked me standard questions. Dad sat close by, a quiet observer.

Twenty minutes later, the dean abruptly shut my file and leaned forward,a scowl on his face. "Miss Townsend," he said, his eyes focused on mine behind thick lenses. "Your grades are satisfactory enough, and your recommendations are in order. But while we've been talking I can't help but notice you have a lazy eye."

I cringed. My right eye tended to wander whenever I felt stressed or nervous. But never had anyone openly commented on it. Therefore my parents dismissed corrective surgery.

Dr. Schultz continued without mercy. "How can you expect students to focus on the lesson when they can't tell where you're looking? It's very distracting and will keep students from learning. I'm afraid we can't accept you into the teaching program."

The news stunned me. I fought back tears. Teaching was my dream. This university, my only application. Where could I go from here?

I glanced over at Dad. He had lost his easy-going smile. Tightening his jaw, he stood up, towering over the man. "Excuse me, Dr. Schulz." He spoke calmly, but his eyes smoldered. "On our way here, I noticed a girl with a hump on her back. Is she a student?"

Dr. Schultz responded coldly, "That would be Alice. She's a sophomore."

"And she's taking the teaching curriculum?" My father's brows lifted.

"Of course," Dr. Schultz snapped. "Most of our students are here to become educators."

Dad moved to the window and spoke in controlled tones. "I see a young man out there in a wheelchair. Is he a student, and is he going into the teaching profession?"

The Dean stood up. "That's Richard, president of the junior class. He has polio, but will graduate next year and plans to teach history."

Suddenly, Dad took long strides from the window until he faced the dean. His eyes narrowed. In clipped words, he stated the facts. "Let me get this straight. Two students, one with a disfigured back, and the other, confined to a wheelchair, can be successful in the classroom. Yet my daughter who can stand up straight and move easily around a room can't be a teacher because she has a lazy eye. Is that what you're saying, Dr. Schultz?"

The dean quickly sat down. He had waved a red flag in front of a bull. He could see my father was ready to take this all the way to the top.

I held my breath. Dr. Schultz stood up again.

"I get your point, Mr. Townsend," he said stiffly. Turning to me, he extended a stiff hand. "Welcome to Albany State."

In reflex action, I accepted his handshake, too relieved to be angry at his posturing. I had a future again.

My father's fight for me that day made him my warrior angel. His observations showed me the existence of hypocrisy among educated people. I learned how one person can win a battle against bias and discrimination.

The next time something happened to make a person feel less than he is, I would not remain silent.






Non-Fiction
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Students would occasionally say "Are you looking at me?" but never teased or called me cross-eyed, perhaps because like my father, I was fair and compassionate and patient. Fifteen years later I had corrective surgery after a doctor said,
"You're such a pretty woman, you should get that eye straightened. " It was an easy operation, and one I should have had long ago.
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