One day Martha loaded up her Pinto and headed out of Chicago. Her youngest brother found a new home in Wisconsin and urged his sister to leave the city behind. Paul and his grandmother, who had recently retired from the candy factory, joined her on the journey.
For a short period of time, they lived with Martha’s brother. Now at the time Martha’s brother had a family of 5. Things got a little cramped at his house. They wanted a house of their own. Martha got a production job at a cheese factory. She found a house and tried to get a mortgage. But the application was denied. A woman simply did not get a mortgage alone in the 1970’s. I heard that Martha cried, cajoled, and begged until finally the mortgage officer had a change of heart.
I can’t even imagine the culture shock they went through moving from one of the poorest neighborhoods of one of our country’s biggest cities to a small unincorporated northern WI town. Paul felt like an outsider. Let’s face it, he was.
The kids picked on him. He was poor and wore ill fitting clothes. His mother had a different last name than he did, but she had no husband and he had no father. His grandma shared his last name. Kids laughed and said mean things about his family situation. One teacher even spanked him in front of class and ridiculed him for not having a dad. As if it was his fault he didn’t have something he wanted that everyone around him seemed to have. His mother was working all the time so he had to attend most school family events alone. His grandmother didn’t drive.
The kids and teachers told him that he was stupid and never would amount to anything. Paul thought that the words they said were true. He didn’t bother trying and got bad grades furthering everyone’s belief in his stupidity. His mother was slow, so why wouldn’t he be?
It was during those years, however, that Paul realized he was smarter than his mother. His mother tried to get her GED but couldn’t pass in math. Paul earned a MBA and takes a special interest in finance. But I am getting ahead of the story. Paul’s mother thought if he graduated from high school that would be an enormous accomplishment.
Although everyone told Paul that he wouldn’t amount to anything, his mother always told him that he could do anything he put his mind to. For not being very bright, her encouragement and belief in him was a very smart move as a parent that didn’t have much else to offer.