Burton Harold Barber is my father and no other "Burton" or "Harold" sits in our family tree. I have always thought of his name as odd. It is another one of those mysteries I wish I had discussed with my grandmother.
Somewhere between my fourth and fifth grade, our father bought his growing family a set of encyclopedias from Bill Bowler who worked as an educational salesperson during summers. Encyclopedias were our internet. I remember hours spent researching for school and just plain fun, much as I do today on the web.
One day my father and I happened upon the United Nations page in those volumes. Although nearby in New York City, for me at 10, this skyscraper is the end of the rainbow. He encouraged me to reach for the pot of gold, "You can be a translator there." Today that seems silly, but few women I knew were pursuing such dreams.
In sixth grade, Mr. Bowler and I met again. He was my teacher at the Columbus school where he taught his entire 35-year career. Although he had no children, he showed compassionate understanding and calmed this choke sobbing child who received a failing grade on a test, the first "not an A" ever. It was humiliating for me to fail so miserably and then cry uncontrollably in the classroom.
The following year, a drunk driver struck my father's car in the driver's door while he was on his way to work very early in the morning. He did not survive. I lost my coach and did not become a UN translator, but I remembered to reach for the sky.
My life's work, not my job, is to remind students, employees, family, and friends, both boys and girls, men and women, they can be anything they imagine just like my father thought I could.
Footnotes to this story:
1. Mr. Bowler attended my father's funeral.
2. A young Burt had missed one question of the New York State Regents Math Exam and told me to always check my work. (For those of you unfamiliar NYS Regents tests, they were a BIG deal.) He had not and received a 96, missing one question for which he knew the answer. When I took the exam in 9th grade, I checked and re-checked until the buzzer rang even though I finished much earlier. I got a 100.