Picture this: a few years back, Chris and I, along with my mom and brother, were visiting my grandma Tilly in Florida. Chris and Grandma Tilly were standing on the steps leading down to the beach as the rest of us fished tiny sea shells near the edge of the gulf. It was really, really windy, January, and honestly a bit chilly, although it was way below zero up here so it was a wonderful escape. Grandma was leaning against the railing on the stairway, not wanting to come all the way down because she has a bit of trouble walking in the sand. “Boy,” she says to Chris, pointing to the railing, “that’s a crappy weld.”
See, back during WWII, Rosie the Riveter made the posters, but Grandma Tilly donned her sleeves in a roll, too. As a youngster she went to school until about eighth grade - like a lot of girls from poor families did, and when so many men went off to war, she got to work. She was one of the women who could handle a blow torch as well as any man, and she was tough and sweet, intelligent and kind. When they say I take after her, it is an honor.
Grandpa came from humble territory, too, and joined the military, eventually becoming an engineer. They got married, and raised a family.
And almost 50 years after Grandma Tilly had last sat behind a desk as a pupil, she went back to school.
She was smart as a whip, but had no high school diploma, no thick piece of paper to confirm it. So Grandma got to work, studied hard, and got her GED when she was 64.
Now, I can only imagine what it might be like to walk back into the classroom and try to polish up on say, some math skills, after (been about a decade for me, at least for math) quite a while away from that desk. I know my grandma worked really hard to meet that goal, to further educate herself and to be able to, ultimately, pass the test that earns you a GED (General Education Diploma). She took advantage of the programs in her community with pride, and when I think about this woman who I admire so much, encompassing such a wealth of intelligence and experience, tackling things like algebra with gusto, I gush (notice?). Grandma’s story is something that I was reminded of while reading the Winona Post the other day (do that often).
GED classes are offered every six weeks through the Dist. 861 Community Education office. There are tons of other resources available too, like working toward your GED online, if that’s a good fit for you. The next registration time is January 23 through January 26, and you can call the office at 507-494-0900 for more information. There are also adult literacy classes and all kinds of other opportunities for continued learning.
Adult education is one thing: a decision to learn more, no matter how old you are. But I think that a lot of people forget that learning, when you’re an adult, is a choice, a choice to enrich yourself and your life, to step out into the world and say there is more out here for me, and I’m going to take it.
For Grandma Tilly, getting her GED was a moment of real pride, and I can remember as a little girl seeing it in her craft room, placed high on the wall behind smooth glass, cradled in a wooden frame. And I think that she knew too, that she was being an example for the rest of us, that she was showing us that no matter where you are in life, the desire to learn, the courage to reach out, and the will to work hard is what makes all the difference.