Forty-five Years: A life time for some and yet a blink of an eye

Sometimes . . . letting it all disappear is needed

Hello from my office at school,

Today has been a bit of a crazy day. I did get up to school and was busily working in my office when I looked up at the clock and realized I forgot to go to my class. I ran down the stairs, and most had already left. I emailed and implored them to return, offering extra credit to those who did, and extra credit to those who had stayed from the outset. After returning from class, I was speaking with Estonia about the transitions happening here, and received a phone call. Bruce had returned. Who is Bruce, you might ask? It is the 2014 Super Beetle that has been marooned in Elko, NV since the 23rd of December. Getting it back to Sterner Avenue has been an adventure, but it is managed. He needs a serious shower, but otherwise, I think we are in good shape. Georg is still managing the transition from one home to another, but it seems things are falling into place. Sometimes it feels things are merely falling with no rhyme nor reason, but that epitomizes the entire last week. It has been a learning experience. I could write a book about organizational communication in this situation (which ironically is one of my doctoral competency areas), people hellbent on the proverbial CYA syndrome, and what feels like an incredible abuse of power (one of the three things that will exasperate me most completely). All in all, the learning lessons for me, for Georg, and for his family have been significant. The consequence of all of this goes far beyond Georg or me, but that is the nature of bureaucracy and their penchant for enforcement at all cost. . . .

It is slightly over a month later and this post was never completed. I am currently at about 36,000 ft and headed to Moline, IL where the daughter of this blog topic will meet me and help me accomplish my journey for Spring Break. No I am headed no where tropical. And the morning, which is a typical March snowstorm sort of thing, turned into an adventure when traffic was at a standstill on Interstate 80 and the traffic behind, coming down a hill couldn’t stop in the conditions. For the first time in my life I understand how multiple car/truck/vehicle accidents occur. I was actually speaking through the car phone option telling someone what I was seeing and slowing down. I had actually pulled a bit onto the right shoulder to protect myself. Stopped; watched a car hit the ditch to my right. During this time I am telling my phone listener – oops; there goes another car into the ditch. Yikes; there goes a semi into the ditch on the left. I saw another semi coming and bam! He took off my left rear bumper and rear quarter panel; then he seriously totaled the car in front of me. Blew out windows and everything. The poor young lady was crying when I got to her car and I could not see her for air bag. It took perhaps a minute to get her to respond affirmatively that she was okay. By the time it was completed 5 cars, a good sized truck and four semis were all off the road. Bruce has been put out of commission again. Dang!! I thought I was fine initially, but I am now stiff and sore and it seems I might have somehow jammed a finger. I have no idea how that happened. The picture here is of the Beetle. And of course I was headed to the airport. Fortunately, someone who astounds me by their complexity, came to get me. Got me to the airport and I made my plane. Incredible! I am believing my guardian angel is setting up another appointment with the boss and arguing I am too much work. Perhaps the Angel is correct. At this point, my car has been towed by a towing company in Drums to somewhere. I do not even know. Something I will get to work on this coming week from 1,100 miles away. Logistics and communication. Then, of course, the semi that hit both of us was a contracted Amazon semi. Perhaps I can get lots of free Amazon stuff. Probably not. After making sure the young lady was okay, I walked 200 yards up the road to the semi-truck. He was in the left hand ditch. He did not even realize he had hit us. It was the trailer that clipped us. I have to give him some credit in that if he had not gotten to the left as far as he did. I would not be writing this blog. I think ad Mr. Galán often says, somehow I have many lives; I always respond that God says I still have papers to correct. At this point about 4 hours after all the craziness, I am forty minutes out of Chicago. I am still a bit stunned by the way the day has gone. Perhaps I should have taken the back way to the airport and stayed off of 80. The State Trooper was not pleased as there were no commercial trucks allowed on the road when this happens. The speed limit was 45, which was what I was doing and I had my flashers on. It will probably be an interesting next month with vehicles yet again.

So . . . getting back to the topic of this blog. On the day I commenced writing this post, it was a Thursday, and it was the 10th of February. It was 45 years to the day and date (February 10th 1977 was also a Thursday) that my older brother had passed away from a construction accident. Much like my own experience today, it was a winter and ordinary day. It was a time we were finishing up a quarter of schooling, much like I am at a Spring Break now. He had gone home for lunch and went back to work, probably a mile or so from home. He kissed his wife and kids goodbye and out the door he went. In barely an hour, he felt perhaps 15 feet off a ladder. His head hit something sharp and he landed on the floor. He was conscious when the loaded him into an ambulance. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, he had a massive brain hemorrhage. He never regained consciousness; his children never saw him again; and they do not really remember him. Unexpectedly, it has become something I have done to keep his memory alive for them, to provide something me sense of the person who helped create them. The loss of him, though we did not ever get to really spend times as adults together, has been something that has caused me pause many times. I have wondered through the years what he might have done. I believe his decision to be an electrician like our father was a choice of necessity. It was his way of becoming a responsible providing father and husband. I am not sure he liked being in the trades. I think he was a musician at heart. I think he was a person who never found himself, but a man with phenomenal ability. He was thoughtful and passionate about music. I remember when the album Chase was released. He would listen to it for hours, picking up this trombone and being able to play some difficult licks almost instantaneously. I remember when the first double-album Chicago Transit Authority was released. Beginnings and Questions 67 and 68 are still two of my favorite pieces. When I listen to them, I think of him and Carolyn, his wife, and the mother of my amazing nephews and nieces. The irony that I will see some of them this next week as I write this is not lost on me. This past week, and again eerily perhaps, his first high school girlfriend passed away and her memorial service is today. It is strange how pieces of our lives intersect. Perhaps the likelihood of that grows as we age. What constitutes a long life? Is it merely age? It is a combination of things? I am reminded of my colleague’s words to me over the last couple weeks. Immediately following the Russian attack on Ukraine he noted he felt guilty for being here. He revealed that his elderly aunt, in spite of being seriously in harm’s way (and I am not sure there is any safe place there), refused to leave her home as an octogenarian. I imagine there is a sense of stubbornness as well as a sense of I have lived my life and whatever happens will happen. There must also be some freedom in believing such a thing. How and when might we find ourselves believing the adage, the incredible words “well done good and faithful servant” are appropriate on this side of the grace. For my colleague’s aunt, who is orthodox, I imagine, certainly is deserving of just such a blessing when her life hangs in the balance as a despotic lunatic engages the world in a global game of cat and mouse. Daily my thoughts, my emotions, and all of my being trembles as I read, listen, and watch what is happening in Ukraine.

It is amazing the value we put on life, but more astounding to me is how differently we view that idea of value and, yes, even life. One of the things I have become aware of is how the Russian mindset about life and value seems to be very different. More significantly this is historical. My colleague, who is Ukrainian and Polish, noted the reasons the Americans and British did not try to take Berlin at the end of the Second World War, but the Russians chose to do so. Likewise, the number of people lost in the war by the Russian Army was, and remains, staggering. I did some research and the secrecy of the Soviet Union about casualties is well-known. Consequently, the figures accepted vary widely. A figure beyond 20,000,000 civilian casualties seems reasonable, and an accepted figure of 27,000,000 has also been consider reasonable. The variance is from 9,000,000 to 40,000,000. That is an extreme, but regardless the middle numbers in the 20+ million is profound. The Russian General in charge of the takeover of Berlin, when asked about casualties, responded,” That is why Russian women have babies.” What an incredible statement. Not merely because of audacity of it, but because of the mindset behind it. Simply, people are expendable. The value of the individual, of their life, is considered in a fundamentally different manner. And yet, before we get too proud of ourselves, there is a lot we do that flies in the face of this sort of hubris. Nonetheless, as I looked at the information about the Russian cost, purely in terms of human life, I return to my initial term. It is staggering. The reason I raise this issue is currently the toll of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military, including numerous underprepared conscripts is extreme. Today I read an article that Russian POWs saying they cannot return to Russia. All of this points to their value on life. What I do not understand is how much of this disregard has been absorbed into the mindset of the common person? If so, we are in deep trouble, but as I noted in my last blog, I cannot imagine that Russians do not mourn their dead, especially if it seems that death was in vain.

Back to a brother . . . I spend a couple days earlier this week with his second eldest child. I wonder what he would think of his daughter. I wonder at times what he would think of his two sons, both following in his steps as electricians, but the eldest eventually getting a degree in engineering. Those math genes are alive and well in his eldest son, actually in all three of his children. There are more times than I can count I wish he would still be here. I wonder if he lived longer if it would have affected my sister. She and he were incredibly close. I am not sure how that really happened. I think because they were both willing to push the edge more than I. I was much more timid growing up. I worried about getting in trouble and, for the most part, they did not care. They were willing to suffer the consequences because they did what they wanted. I have not been one to really try to get into trouble, but that does not mean that I did not find my share. In fact, I have often said, imagine if I tried . . . (Ironic, “Renegade” the song by Styx is playing in the background right now). It is time to get back to the tasks at hand. This blog took some time to finish, but it is dedicated to an incredible person who never had the opportunity to live a full, long life. It is dedicated to an intelligent, passionate, and searching man who left a wife and three young children. It is dedicated to anyone who has felt the sting of death in this current tragic war in Central/Eastern Europe. It is dedicated to Rob, Jennifer, and Chase. Your father was a good man. I love you all. This video is of the band that most reminds me of his talented trombone playing.

To all who continue to read this blog, thank you! Thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin

Published by thewritingprofessor55

As I move toward the end of a teaching career in the academy, I find myself questioning the value and worth of so many things in our changing world. My blog is the place I am able to ponder, question, and share my thoughts about a variety of topics. It is the place I make sense of our sometimes senseless world. I believe in a caring and compassionate creator, but struggle to know how to be faithful to the same. I hope you find what is shared here something that might resonate with you and give you hope.

3 thoughts on “Forty-five Years: A life time for some and yet a blink of an eye

  1. Hello Dr. Martin,

    I would like to start off by saying I am terribly sorry for the loss of your brother. I have two brothers and a sister who are all considerably older than me, but I still couldn’t imagine life without any of them. I lost my cousin, Ashley, at the young age of 31 to a heart attack that came out of nowhere. She left behind a young son, and the love of her life, who she was to marry later that year. Death really makes you think, sometimes it is just a matter of time but other times, it really surprises you. I can still remember the day, coming home from work to hear my mother sobbing in the living room, telling me that Ashley had died. And at first I was thinking, “who’s Ashley?” because I had no idea that she meant my cousin. She had no prior diagnoses of a heart condition and was in great health, but then it hit me. I just think it’s crazy how many people take life for granted. I think the audience you are trying to reach here is people who have experienced loss. Thank you again for the opportunity to think about these things.

    Brooke Longacre

  2. The loss of a loved one is something you take with you on your life’s journey. It is not something that is chosen but an experience that cannot be forgotten. The pain associated lessons over time, but your memories remain. These memories define your life whether consciously or unconsciously you make choices that extend from those memories. Forgetting is not an option because by forgetting you would fail to remember the person that you lost. My older sister died at the age of 19. I was 16 at the time and it was a senseless tragedy. My family was devastated. It was the first time I have ever seen my parents break down and cry. I was in shocked initially relying on my close friends to help me understand why my life had unraveled, but I was also deeply worried about my sister beginning to wonder what the meaning of life is, do we all have a purpose, how could this happen, most importantly what happens to us when we die. I dreamed of my sister and in that dream, she told me she was OK. I was greatly relieved. Eventually I was slowly able to pick up the pieces of my life. I think of her often and wonder how my life would be different if she has lived. Would she live close and have children who could have played with my own. It saddens me that she died so young, but I keep her alive by remembering.
    Death is part of our reality but that does not make it any easier to lose someone you love. To all the thousands of people who died in the Ukraine my heart goes out to their families. It is such a waste of life and so unnecessary. I am not a politician. I watch Madame Secretary reruns and I catch a glimpse of the political world with all its nuances and how truly intelligent one must be to balance our countries safety while maintaining peace and democracy on a global level. It makes me grateful to live in a country where we have choices and to see how privileged we are to live in a genuine democracy. How our patriotism to truly value all cultures and beliefs is the foundation of a society that I want to be a part of.
    Ann Lockavich

  3. Dr. Martin,

    Loss and change are two things that every human being encounters in their lifetime. I think what differs is the legacy left by those who have passed. You mention the children your brother left behind and the incredible talent and love for music; each of these attributes bring memories of your brother that last as long as you do. That is his legacy.

    Having lost my grandfather this past year, I can begin to relate to the feeling you describe. However, for me, the loss was a slow crawl towards processing the grief due to some external circumstances. I see his legacy in the farm he cultivated, but also in the family he raised. He was not without his faults, and some of those forementioned caused me to have a more complex view of him after his death. But regardless, he was not only the family figurehead, his reach extended far beyond our circle and I cannot say he lacked influence.

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