Good morning from my kitchen table,
It has been quite the week and my brain seems to be on overdrive. I have journeyed again to the Midwest and back. I used to like to fly, much like I used to like to road trip, but I think those days are in the past. For the seventh straight time I have flown #United, they have managed to rearrange my travel plans or itinary, and with no compensation, sometimes no apology, and general without my getting mileage because I did not book through them. I am reminded of my colleagues favorite acronym “AMF” and that is not the former owner of Harley Davidson. I continue to get Pieces of Lydia’s estate completed and I think I am in the home stretch. . . . Where does the time go? It is now Thursday of the last week of classes t and I have for me classes are completed for the semester. It has been a busy week with something going on every night and that will be the case until Sunday evening. I have a list of items that I need to attend to, but for the next few days, it will be a serious grading initiative. As much as students might believe there is no one more looking toward summer than they are, they might be mistaken. It is always a relief to finish a year and look toward some sort of respite regardless of how short it might be. I am actually taking a class to receive a online teaching certification beginning the 14th of May and it will continue until the 21st of June. My summer teaching commences 8 days later. There is my summer. I do hope to get one article out for review by the end of June. Ideally two, but I am trying to be realistic in my expectations.
As I have reflected on the past 4 months it is hard for me to fathom that two of the people I have cared for the most are no longer here. I spoke with Carissa the other day and we were chatting about Lydia and the changes of not having her as part of our lives at this point. It is still something that seems more surreal than real to me. There are times that I replay some of our moments in my mind. I think what I miss the most is the accent she so desperately tried to overcome. I think the second thing I miss is her beautiful eyes and amazing smile. When she loved you and was happy it just radiated . . . and she was always on a mission. There was something she hoped to get accomplished and she knew what she wanted and why. I think the other thing that always stunned me, especially when I first met her, was how on top of things in the world she remained and her understanding of international economics and why things worked (or didn’t work). She spent so much time looking at the WSJ everyday and she read it from cover to cover, even long after she was at COH. As I have gone back to the house in Wisconsin, I cannot go into the “big house” without a certain degree of sadness. I think about all she accomplished and the house is certainly a testament to that, but all that is there are still just things. They represent George and Lydia, but she was so much more than merely things. When I was back in Menomonie (and Eagan) for Peter’s funeral, I was so blessed to spend some time with some of those who cared for her. It was more important for me to hear their stories and share Lydia memories with them than they realize. While I am in the last part of finishing up the estate part of Lydia’s life, she lives on in so many ways. I think that is the part that really matters.
As I am into the week of finals and grading, the cliches of the word commencement will be part of the coming week once again, and while I know there is truth in all of that, it is so much more complicated than that. I was reminded of that difference at Peter’s funeral. I think there were people there I had not seen since I probably graduated from high school or before. When I was finishing high school, college was the exception rather than the rule. It was a sense of many people from my part of town had little idea of how they would begin to pay for four years of college. It was generally out of the question for many like me. That was one of the main reasons I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I had not even an inkling of what I would do in college or why I would go; what I might study or what I would do with it if I knew. So between the cost, the indecision and a less than ideal relationship with my mother, I was off to the Marines at the age of 17 and less than 115 pounds. It was traumatic as I spent those first 96 hours at MCRD in San Diego. It was a beginning of sorts. It was the beginning of my trying to figure out who I was and where I was headed. It has been quite the journey. When I told someone at Peter’s funeral I was a college professor, his response was, “NO SHIT?” and I responded matter a factly, “Yeah, no shit.” I have reflected more than once on the life I had as a young person. What I know when considering all the facts, or at least the facts I seem to remember, I was fortunate to be a baby boomer person. I think it was the end of a time where, as a country, we believed, for the most part, that the world was a good place and we were lucky to be where we were. I was not rich by any means, but I had a lot of stability, even in a family that struggled with a number of issues. None of those struggles was so terrible that I lost a lot. I was speaking with someone the other evening and we were discussing families. I think reflecting on both the positive and the less than ideal of our upbringing is an important thing. We need to understand from where we come and why we might respond to others as we do. I believe being a parent must be one of the harder jobs in the world, especially if you are going to try to do it well. There are positives I have that are the consequence of both of my parents. There are some qualities that probably cause others some consternation (and me too) that I have also inherited from them. I think it is always fascinating to see how genetically same siblings are so different in their personalities and their interactions with other people. Life is always a beginning. It is a continuous learning process. It is a string of successes or failures, but it is a string. It keeps coming.
As I often tell others, it is not that difficult to figure out. We have two options: we can keep going or we can stop. It might seem easier to stay down when we fail or fall down, but that is not a good plan, at least for me. I cannot stop. I have made some serious mistakes in my life and some of those mistakes have had serious consequences, but I have recovered, for the most part. Some of those processes took longer and were more painful than others. In reflection, I think losing my ordination after a difficult and poor relationship with a bishop was one of my more difficult times. I still find things that cause pain from that and it has been over 15 years ago. I know that the first years following my divorce from Theresa, which was also part of the ordination issue were a dark time in my life, even though I was back in graduate school and trying to move forward, I think it was a time where I took a step forward and two steps back on a regular basis. I am fortunate to have gotten beyond that. That struggle actually followed me to Wisconsin more than I might like to admit and it probably while I was not as successful their as I might have hoped. Again, it was a series of steps that seemed to move in more than one direction. This is another reason I am grateful to, and for, Lydia. Lydia gave me something or someone on which to focus that actually put my life in a much better place.
As students graduate this week, I think they might find what is confronting them (a very different world than the world of 1977, the year I would have graduated from college had I gone straight through) a bit more frightening than my world was. It is not that they are less prepared or less aware. In fact, I believe they are better in both categories, but I do believe the world is a much more difficult place than my world was. The globalization, the consequences of a different imperialism, an unprecedented attack on both the environment and on equality and justice (in many ways), and the reality that most people have lost a sense of hope (in my opinion) makes this world much more sinister, much more frightening. It is a world that seem much more intent on hurting rather than helping; on tearing down rather than building up; on blaming the other rather than working with the other. It does not matter if it is locally, nationally, or globally. It would be easy to give up and become part of those who see nothing better, and while I am certainly not idealistic about our prospects, I do believe if I do my small part to make it a better place, there is someone that will benefit and something that can happen that is positive and maybe as a ripple effect, there can be a more significant consequence.
I could write a great deal more about all of this, but I need to get back to my grading initiative. So to all of those with whom I have been blessed to work, and are graduating, I wish you much success and a life that brings you a sense of meaning and happiness. Thank you for your work, for your growth as a student and a person and for making my days better. It is in the meeting of the wide variety of students that I do see a reason for hope. I think there are some amazingly good millennials that will certainly have a positive impact on the world. Take the chance to wander; it is a good thing. For now, it is back to grading. I am hoping to wander (and wonder) again soon.
Thanks for reading.