May 22, 2024

In the moment I read an email signed by the president of the Peace Corps that I had been accepted to teach English in China at the collegiate level, I am reminded of a moment in my childhood. 

“Ain’t dat gramma’s house over there, mama?” I asked my mom as I sat in the back of my parent’s rusted Plymouth Reliant in rustic Chillicothe, Ohio. 

She couldn’t whip her head fast enough to scowl at me. “Ain’t ain’t a word,” she said to me in her Southern Ohio twang. “Ain’t no one never gonna accept you into college if you speak like that.” 

My mom, the daughter of a scuba and skydiving instructor and a psychiatric nurse, was set up for a prosperous career in either. Though at a young age, as I was, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, which made it extremely difficult for her to focus in class.

After her junior year of high school at St. Mary’s Catholic High School, she ran away with her first husband. Years after having me, she received her GED and began studying at our local community college, which was cut short when she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. 

My dad once told me that he went to high school to play football. He was good, but after a knee injury, his acceptance and full ride to Georgia State was canceled. With a kid on the way and just a high school diploma, he decided to work as a windshield packer at Pittsburg Glass Works.

I still remember the day I received my acceptance letter to Wittenberg University. My parents were ecstatic. My mom called everyone we knew and told them about how proud she was and facetimed my grandmother. My dad took a picture of the letter with his flip phone. 

During my four years of college, they have read every article I have had published, celebrated every academic award I have received and bragged about every A+. 

As a Theatre major, my parents have come to every theatrical production that I have been a part of and have been there in full support, even if they don’t necessarily get the content of a piece. 

My parents are huge fans of action films; huge budget explosion filled extravaganzas that obliterate the senses with giant robots and fast cars. A far cry from the work put on here at Wittenberg. 

I once asked my parents what they thought about a play spoken in Spanish and staged almost entirely in movement which was set with only a large piece of cloth. My mom said, “I really liked the faces you made in it.” 

I smile as I watch my dad, donning a Wittenberg football hat, travel around the lobby of Wittenberg’s Chakeres Memorial Theatre as he congratulates my fellow actors. I sometimes wonder if he is imagining himself telling my fellow teammates, “Good game,” on the football field. 

I wish that I could properly describe his face when a director of a project is talking about how much they enjoyed working on a project with me. My dad holds back tears and nods his head with enthusiasm as the director talks about how much of a pleasure it was to work with me. 

Their newest channel of support that they have given me is the push to go into the Peace Corps with my girlfriend. As people who have constantly reminded me that you must always serve your fellow man, they have been full speed ahead on their encouragement. 

My parents are so proud of me and I am proud of them for what they have helped me accomplish.

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