Hello ’56 Classmates! I have been taking essay-writing courses at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, so I thought it might prove fruitful to request that you put on your artist hats, too.
That radical suggestion stemmed from my current writing efforts, and a distant goal to publish a personal memoir of travel, nature, and family (Seven Continents before Incontinence). It is to be a family legacy document, perhaps of primary interest to my two grandchildren and a handful of others. Surprisingly enough, all of those to whom I mention the above intended publication, react with a hearty belly laugh, followed by the query, “When can I read it?” That spurs me on.
As you may remember, my artist’s query went out on Friday, Dec. 5th, and it began like this: “You have a story. Tell it now. Let me speak to your inner Artist. I believe that we are all artists…”
On Saturday, Barry Passett was the first to respond with a quip: “My inner artist doesn’t work on weekends.” An earlier note from Barry to George went like this: “Your travel sounds wonderful. We went to Alaska some years back and consider it one of our most wonderful adventures. We had all six of our grandchildren (with parents) here over the weekend. Two would be perfect candidates for such a trip. I’m the uncertain one. Eighty has not been good to my back and legs, and I’m unsure I could handle a cruise ship. Wanted badly to go to Norway, and same problem applies.”
With great delight, I also fielded this comprehensive update below from our long-serving Class Notes editor Don Ritt: “Dear Classmates, Many of you are already there. 80! I join the club tomorrow. 80! ‘Congratulations’, they say. ‘Swell’, I say, ‘What do I do tomorrow?’
“I will not complain because all the males in my family were dead by 72, but it is a challenging time. I have been very lucky—married for 52 years, three successful kids, four grandchildren, productive career. I even became the first medical director of the Palliative Care Program at Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla at age 75. But now, there is less for me to do…play the piano, sing, watch TV, read, talk to neighbors, help care for my wife (a retired attorney with dementia), walk and walk and walk some more, go to medical functions and look important. I will find something tomorrow, probably related to palliative care. But I have learned stuff, and I do have my message: ‘We have but one day. It is today. Enjoy it and live it completely.’”
Somewhat earlier, Don sent this to George: “80 80 80 80 80. You are old, man. I, however will not reach that level until 12/13. Am planning a party for >100 people around that time at a nearby country club. I do things for palliative care in San Diego and do not have the amount of work I want, but I really cannot complain. My wife had a brilliant career, including going to law school in her 30s and then serving as research attorney in the state appellate court for 15 years. Now her life is hard, due to the development of a dementia. I am the caregiver on weekends and after 5 p.m. I am getting better at it. I stay busy, walking three to four miles, three or four days/week, playing the piano at two hospitals, consulting, etc. We cannot travel due to the dementia. Lillian wanders at night. Our kids/grandchildren are marvelous: a lawyer in LA, a high level graphic artist in SFC, a PhD psychology instructor near Denver. Thanks for your note. Enjoy to-day. Best always. DJR, DNR, DNR (Donald J. Ritt, Damn Near Retired, Do Not Resuscitate).”
At Homecoming last fall George saw Jay Jenkins, who looks good, hinted that he might have something for these notes, and gave him his card. The card says “Ship Models Re-stored”—intriguing, but unfathomable to George and his several thumbs. After watching another excruciating overtime loss to Amherst, George was able to purchase a “Wesleyan not…” T-shirt from the softball team, which has acquired the franchise.
And Jay came through: “Some of our 1956 delegation have had reunions here on Buzzard’s Bay several times since 1991. Our last was June 2014. Over those visits, we have hosted Jack Dunn, Spud Parker, Doug Northrop, Al Haas, Ed Johnson, Ken Spencer, Dick Boyden, John Gettier, Andy Mason, Dave Porter—with spouses or significant others—for two nights by the ocean. Plenty of yarns, songs, and talks of special memories. Lobster was king for most! To our distress, some of the wives are no longer with us. We were truly pleased by Wesleyan’s development and goals, although Eclectic’s seeming demise has been unfortunate. We are proud of the lead by Eclectic’s Bill Moody ’59 in devising ways to restore, use, and maintain the house for the future.”
Incidentally, recent contributors to this column have inquired why their pieces had not yet appeared in print. George explains that apparent anomaly this way: “I hope that our classmates realize that the magazine is not like the Internet, which is virtually instantaneous. It could take a year before what we receive shows up in print. It’s all about timing and circumstance.”
Speaking of which, George writes, “After my modest but lovely birthday celebration, Ann mused, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting in bed with an 80-year-old man!’ Ain’t it the gosh-darn truth!”
George Chien | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Runyon | email@example.com