Thank you for writing this. My grandparents had a 6th-grade education. My parents were educated in a 1-room schoolhouse (think Little House on the Prairie.) I was fortunate to have an older brother who blazed the trail for me. The part where your parents refused to provide info for the FAFSA form rang so true for me- I thought my folks where the only ones who did that! They were supportive, but distrustful and unfamiliar with the overall process of the educational system.
Here's the weird part- we've got the college educations, but I don't foresee that I'll ever be able to amass the finances that my dad did. He was just fortunate enough to live and work in an era of tremendous growth, and the golden age of economic development for the U.S. I don't see that happening in my future. In dad's day kids could drop out of high school, and the next day be on the automotive assembly line making a comfortable middle-class living. Now I've got my fancy-pants degree, a license to practice, and I'm scraping my fingernails to stay in the middle class.