Opinion: Few advantages for the wife of a superintendentHaving now reached that point in my life when I am just a bit chagrined, rather than proud, of how long I have been a school superintendent (20 years but who’s counting?), and simultaneously facing the eclipse of an old year and the dawn of a new one, I find myself in a bit of a reflective state.
By: Joe Graves, Mitchell superintendent
Having now reached that point in my life when I am just a bit chagrined, rather than proud, of how long I have been a school superintendent (20 years but who’s counting?), and simultaneously facing the eclipse of an old year and the dawn of a new one, I find myself in a bit of a reflective state.
I entered the field of education in part because it is a multi-generational tradition in my family but mostly because I believe in it. The ability to mold youth in a positive way, to pass on the heritage of Western Civilization, to be a practitioner of the mind, to build the future was then incredibly attractive to me. Twenty years later it is no less so.
True to my expectations, a career in education has been most fulfilling. I have, quite literally, no legitimate complaints. Yet there have been some sacrifices, unfortunately landing, at times on others. People will sometime ask me how my children handle having a father as superintendent. I’m not entirely sure. My children have rarely spoken to me about it. When they were young, elementary age, they were either not cognizant of it (as when one of my children greeted my return home at 6 a.m. from driving roads and making all the calls necessary to cancel school with “Guess what, Daddy, there’s no school today!”) or simply didn’t make much of it. As middle schoolers, my guess is that they simply endured it but what middle schooler doesn’t spend much of that time in their lives enduring their parents regardless of their occupation, intelligence, or appearance? By the time they reached high school, my children were, I think, too considerate to tell me that having a father as their school superintendent was just a complete and ubiquitous pain. All in all, my guess is that the situation of being the superintendent’s kid has its pluses and minuses.
There is, however, another. That “another” would be my wife. I haven’t noted many advantages to being married to a school superintendent that wouldn’t also exist if one’s spouse were in some other profession. The disadvantages, however, seem to leap to the fore. The constant interruptions of social gatherings, reading and television with tuning in the latest weather forecast. The early morning disruptions of sleep when your spouse goes to check roads and monitor buildings. The many evenings with an absent husband and father because he is at various school functions. The angry phone calls from parents and others who, not finding me home, feel free to berate her for something she is unaware of and over which she has no control. The meetings at which the speaker, ignorant or uncaring that she is present, feels free to characterize her husband as a skinflint, nincompoop, philistine, ignoramus, or cur. The media coverage which occasionally agrees with the aforementioned list and to which she is essentially bound to never respond. The friends she has lost because of both the justified and the boneheaded decisions her husband has made over the years. I could continue but I’m getting depressed.
My wife is an intensely private person. I have written columns for newspapers for 17 years and, though I may be mistaken, I can’t remember one that ever included so much as a non-glib reference to her. This is the case because I know very well that this is how she wants it. She prefers to be in that special lighting that Lord Byron spoke of: “She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes: Thus mellowed to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies.” While she routinely outscored me in every academic field at our shared junior high and high schools, waltzed seemingly effortlessly through college, passed the CPA exam handily on the first try, and remains simultaneously my biggest fan and most incisive critic, she typically chooses the background, mothering and working with our children, setting the moral clime of our home, creating a haven of complete irenic bliss.
Cinematically, she reminds me of the wife of Steve Martin in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” greeting him at the door after he has spent days upon days traversing the country in every imaginable conveyance in an attempt to get home for Thanksgiving. Greeting him with a smile and a perfect grace that instantly erases the grime and cares of the road, she made him suddenly a new person. The person who endured that journey is just a dim and distant memory. All is again right with the world.
For her patience, for her forbearance, for her kindness, for her love, I shall never be able to make the first payment on the interest for what I owe. Neither would she have me do so. Yesterday, we celebrated 25 years together. Paul said that man cannot imagine Heaven, that we have no idea what God has in store for us. One cannot really flat-out disagree with Paul, of course. But what I can say is that I have nevertheless seen a glimpse of it in the eyes of another.