Walk With Me-Thirteen
By Carol Englehaupt
One of the biggest regrets of my life is lack of a college diploma. It’s not because I didn’t try. I left home the night of my high school graduation to go live with my sister, Phyllis. She offered me the opportunity to get my first year of college.
Phyllis lived in Valley Center, Ks. a small town outside Wichita. I worked all summer in a factory. It was hot, dirty, boring work to earn enough money to pay tuition and buy books but without my sister giving me free room and board I would not have been able to attend Wichita State University.
I got my first semester in before my brother-in-law got transferred to Texas. I couldn’t afford to stay in the dorm so I moved back home to find out that my family was moving from Lyons, Ks. to McPherson, Ks. I moved with them and found a job at the County Treasurer’s office where I worked for two years.
By age 20 I was ready to go back to school, this time at Emporia State University. I remember so clearly talking to the counselor, setting up my classes, planning on rooming with my best friend from high school. I was interested in a career in commercial art. I would have started college in fall of 1970 when my father unexpectedly passed away.
We did move to Emporia but instead of going to college I got a job in a bank and worked another two years. I lived at home and helped my mom and three younger sisters out. I don’t know why I didn’t try for night school but it never even occurred to me. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
I’m relating all of that information because I want you to understand how excited and eager I was to go back to college. With Josh in school and gone all day, I could go back to school. I didn’t try for a degree but I was interested in the desktop publishing certificate. It felt good to be in class and studying and moving toward a goal that was mine.
For the first time in over ten years, I was flourishing but Josh was struggling. The round trip of almost 100 miles a day was physically draining on him. He had to get up at 5:30 am. We had to meet up with the bus by 7am. His poor sleeping habits made those early hours difficult.
I remember one horrible day during the winter. I was in Ottawa, Josh was in Joliet and we got hit with the worst blizzard. I headed home to pick up my older son so I could head for Joliet to get Josh and by the time I got to Ransom, Interstate 80 was shut down. I absolutely panicked. The children who were stranded in Joliet were put up in a motel room accompanied by the teacher and the bus driver. I don’t, to this day, know what he felt or how they managed it.
In 1990 we bought ten and a half acres and built a ranch house with an open floor plan. The house was planned around Josh’s disability and when we moved it put us into a different school district. I was hopeful that Josh would finally get to go to school in his home district but that wasn’t to be.
The school bought a small bus and once again Josh was being bused to Joliet; this time to Gompers Jr. High on the east side of Joliet. The good news was it shaved a few miles off the round trip but it was still a brutal week for Josh.
I bought the school lunches for Josh but also sent him a lunch of foods that I knew he could eat. This was predominantly soft foods like puddings and yogurts. He often came home with the lunches I sent untouched. I remember one year he started the school year weighing sixty+ pounds and ended the year weighing forty five pounds. It would take me all summer to get him built back up.
There were a lot of advantages for Josh in school. He had access to speech therapy, physical therapy, and trained teachers. He got to go on field trips to events that I never could have taken him to. I always volunteered to monitor which allowed me to travel to the events with him. Yes, I know the reason I did this was for me because after the blizzard incident I was paranoid. But I also enjoyed seeing what he saw.
I know my limits and I didn’t keep him from attending events but I did make sure I was close by to be there for him if he needed help. A few of the events he enjoyed were plays put on at the Rialto in Joliet, a rodeo at Rosemont in Chicago. He got to go to Lincoln Park Zoo and other events that are eluding my memory at the moment. I don’t deny the benefits of public education but the disadvantages were adding up.