Good Morning from my office,
I got in early today and I have been trying to work my way through a list of things that seems to never reach the bottom. I guess that is a good thing because I have decided if the list is empty, either I am really bored, which I have noted the likelihood of that occurrence before, or I have expired, which I am hoping is still a bit of ways from my reality. Anyway, what I have found is writing my blog actually focuses me. It allows me to get all the things that, though important (at least to me, and perhaps a couple of others), do not really help me get my daily tasks completed in a timely or strong manner. In addition, and again the old adage of “practice what thou preaches” comes to mind, writing regularly is helping my writing. Again, at least I hope it is . . . sometimes I go back and read this and I wonder if my brain was actually functioning. It has always been that way . . . . sometimes I read things and think: “my, did I write that?” More often my response is: “Oh my! Did I really write that (and now followed by “and I posted it!)?
The past week has been an interesting reality check. Because of some things with my family (extended), I have had to consider a lot of my family history. Families are such amorphous things at times. What actually relates us all? What makes us somehow reach out and decide to be identified with something or someone? It is certainly not merely a DNA thing. I know that from my own experience. It is not even growing up with them, or at least, it is does not seem that is a deciding factor. What makes some families “tightly-knit” and others more like a “large-hooked-crocheted-throw”, which has frayed or tattered edges (and I realize that analogy can take me other places, but not going there for the moment)? I am surely aware because of my own adoptive history that being in a new family in my case offered opportunities I probably would not have had in my birth family. Of course, what is interesting for me, and especially because I was adopted in 1960, was that I have always had some idea, involvement, or possibility of involvement with that birth family. My paternal grandmother was, and continues to be, my hero. I do have half-brothers and half-sisters, but I have made the decision to stay out of their lives. My biological mother is still alive, but there is no relationship there. Again, that is a choice I have made and I am responsible for any of those decisions. I am okay with that.
What has somehow come to the fore yet again, but in a very different way, is simply this: I had no children with Susan, the woman I married out of college, and while there was some attempt to have children, it did not happen. Theresa, my second wife, had three children, but by the time we were married, her youngest was sixteen. As a person with a post-partum tubal ligation, there were no additional children planned. There was a time in my late 30s and perhaps, even into my early 40s where I felt like I had missed the opportunity to have a family of my own. Somewhere around 45, perhaps when I returned to Michigan Technological University to finish by Ph.D., I realized that I was okay with the fact that I was childless, and single. It just seemed like something that had occurred and so it just was. It was my reality. It was how my life played out. In fact, I have often stated, “While I have no children of my own, I have lots of everyone else’s.” I was okay with that because I could just send them home if I did not want to deal with them. I was (and I still am) in control of my situation. One of the things recently realized more clearly is that while I am around people (almost all of the time), I am usually in control of those situations. I manage them if you will. This past year, somehow I have felt my own, what I will refer to as, “reverse-empty-nest” syndrome. Instead of being lonely because they have all left, I believe I might feeling lonely because they were never there to begin with. This has sort of surprised me. It has also required me to contemplate why that might be. I am pretty sure I do not have clear answers or reasons for all of this, but I am pondering it. I have inquired about being a host for a foreign exchange student as a sort of temporary remedy, but I decided recently to wait for a year before doing this. I have some important things still up in the air regarding tenure and other work on my plate.
I have been given the most amazing gift of being able to work with some extraordinary people and I want to focus on those opportunities. What I realize is there is not often we are offered the change to specifically impact others. We do some of it everyday, but too often we are not aware of it. Before you accuse me of being narcissistic, hear me out. Indeed, we have people crossing our paths daily and in a variety of situations and circumstances, but most times we are completely incognizant of what their needs or how we might help them actually is. Certainly, teaching first year writing offers interesting opportunities that many do not have in their own classes. I guess that is the efficacious nature of FYC. On the other hand, teaching Bible as Literature has been another class for me here at Bloomsburg where I have had the opportunity to offer some of my best work. Perhaps it is because students are really attempting to figure out how it all fits together. Because my upper level courses, which are experiential in nature, there too it seems I have the opportunity to really meet students where they are. All in all, it has served to take care of any desire I might have had to be a real parent (I am not sure that being creative in my understanding of parent will fly with some readers, but I understand.). Of course part of the reason I have been comfortable is simple, in spite of what many have told me over the years, I was a bit afraid to be a parent. I was afraid I would be a miserable failure.
Lately I have found myself rethinking this issue: what I am beginning to realize is that just perhaps, I might have been a good parent. What I am realizing is that being able to help students, colleague’s sons or daughters, nephews and nieces, or offspring of others still offers this opportunity to provide something that they might not otherwise have. In the case of some students, this is only possible if I have a chance to meet with their parents. I am reminded of Emily, a former student who is now an amazing professional. She was also an honors student and I worked as her mentor. Because of that, we did research at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.. When I think back to some of my former professors, at every level, there was one, in particular, who was a mentor, an advocate, a person who took a genuine interest in me and my development. I owe those persons an amazing debt of gratitude and I guess this is my way of giving back for what they gave me.
Lately, it sees that mentoring aspect of my life and that desire to be a parent has somehow reappeared and it makes me realize that I am missing something I have not really technically ever had. The title of parent is an amazing responsibility and something I will never really have, but I guess I am now aware that I missed out . . . so now I will be a mentor, perhaps the uncle as some have called me, an uncle for real as I am to some amazing nephews and nieces and great-nephews and great-nieces, and even a surrogate parent to some others who have taught me as much about caring and loving as I have ever known. It is such an interesting journey and the return to earlier thoughts and questions always seems to catch me off guard.
Thanks for reading.