Friday, November 25, 2011

Lower the Bucket Deeper into the Well

I find my musings are coming to me fewer and farther between...thus, I post less frequently than I did when I first began blogging.  I also note I am slowly approaching 600 posts.  Perhaps that is a good time to draw to a close this venture into self-publishing.

I know that I could turn my blog into a collection of essays and self-publish.  However, I am not so egotistical that I give that thought much attention.  I am trying to save past postings, in an electronic file, so that someone--my children?--may some day re-read them.  There's a difference between being egotistical about the value of what one writes, and wishing dear ones to be able to peruse writings in their own time.  My writing is my voice.  And someday someone might wish to hear me speak again.

We--in our family--have had just such an experience.  I have shared the story of my mother's journey in the final six weeks of her life.  She died after having had heart surgery which led, inadvertently, to her acquiring a staph infection that eventually killed her.  But just before she went into the hospital, she led a seminar.  Someone taped it, and after her death, gave my father the tape.  He passed it along to me.

When I received that tape, now 20 years ago, I listened to it.  It was bittersweet to hear my mother's voice--and her laughter.  I learned things there that I had never known--for example, her favorite color was blue.  I didn't know that--such a little thing, yet I did not know it. 

Recently, we were preparing to go to the annual family reunion that my mother's family continues to hold.  Part of the event includes an auction of items on which family members might be willing to bid.  My husband had the idea to convert that tape of my mother's talk and burn it on a CD--which he did.  We made 4 copies--one for me, my brother and my sister.  And then one to take to the family reunion. 

Well, the ensuing bid between two of my cousins ran up to $30--this in comparison to other items that were bringing $1 or $2 or maybe $5.  The winning cousin, who had been named after my mother, was pleased to get the CD.  But, it turned out, my oldest cousin was greatly disappointed.  So, I asked her if she would share the bid cost, which she agreed to--and another cousin piped up "me too".  So they all chipped in, and we made 2 more copies and shipped them off.

My mother's subject--Living Fully in the Autumn of Life.  How wonderful.  And how ironic.  I am now in the autumn of my life.  And I can have my mother giving me advice and pointers.   

This year has made me more aware of my own mortality more than any other year I can recall.  The recent bout with atrial fibrillation made me think how thin the gossamer web of life is, and how fragile.  I find myself thinking, worrying, remembering, regretting, rejoicing--all at the same time, practically. 
There are still things I want to do--things that I look forward to.  So, I will lower the bucket deeper into the well of inspiration.  And keep on keeping on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How are the mighty fallen!

Perhaps it is no surprise that I ended up majoring in English literature in college.  While I had first intended to go into medicine, an early encounter in my freshman year with chemistry ended that goal, there was always one of my first loves waiting:  poetry.

I grew up listening to and reading the Bible--King James Version.  I now prefer other translations more, but for sheer poetry, it is hard to top the KJV command of language and its lovely poetic sounds.  So, with the unfolding news this week about Penn State University, the phrase that rushed to my mind is the title passage above--David's lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.

The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.
From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. 
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.  (2 Samuel 1:14-24)
Pure poetry.

If ever there were a "mighty" in our times, especially in the field of higher education, it would be Joe Paterno.

My husband and I have gone to Penn State football games for YEARS!  We began attending these rites of fall when a friend of ours offered us tickets for several games.  We eventually built up enough points to be able to buy our own tickets.  So, we got 4 season tickets--and another friend gave us a parking pass right next to the stadium--we were set.  We took along friends and always had a grand time watching great college football.

We even went to what turned out to be the second national championship game, when Penn State beat Miami in Phoenix.  What a grand time.  And when Penn State joined the Big Ten and won its championship and returned to the Rose Bowl to play New Year's Day--we went to that game.

Several years ago, we decided to stop going to all the home games, and have loaned our tickets to a colleague of my husband's.  But we still watch the games on HD TV. 

And now this news.
The much vaunted defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, who crafted the winning defensive strategy against Miami, was indicted for abusing 8 boys (and a ninth has since come forward) since the late 1990s.  In 1999, when told that he would NOT be named head coach to succeed Paterno, Sandusky took retirement.  He focused his attention on a charity he ran, called The Second Mile, which he founded to give at-risk children a better chance in life.  All the boys in this unfolding scandal were ones who came into contact with Sandusky through The Second Mile.

 The Penn State connection to this story is that a current assistant coach, while he was a graduate assistant, had inadvertently come upon Sandusky in the Penn State locker room showers and CAUGHT Sandusky, mid-abuse of a young boy.  The graduate assistant, shaken, retreated and went to talk with his father, who said--tell Paterno.  The graduate assistant did.  Paterno told his superior in the university, the athletic director, who in turn told the vice-president, who in turn told the president.  And, there, it seems, the trail stopped.

The current furor now is why didn't Paterno do more?
Who knows?  I really have no answer.

But the consequences for this grand old man of football--who has all his life lived by a personal ethical code par excellence, who has insisted his players graduate, who has lived in the Penn State community for decades, who has a listed telephone number and a published address, who has given millions of dollars to his university--this grand old man has now fallen.

Should he have been fired?  Should the other three university powers have been fired, as they were?  Should the graduate assistant have told ONLY his father and his coach?  On and on the questions go.

And all we are left with is the sinking feeling--HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

With apologies to the Bard (who, by the way, DID write the plays of Shakespeare), I find myself speaking that portion of Hamlet's most famous soliloquy quite a bit these days.  I am in the midst of a bout wrestling with sleep.  

Since both my husband and I are now retired, and thus can pretty much live to our own body clocks, we have discovered we have different internal clocks.  My husband has always been an early riser--and now, even though he need not rise early, he continues to do so.  He winds down in the evening--so, don't even think about beginning a discussion after--say--9 p.m.  His mind is sufficiently wound down that anything that revs up the adrenaline is counter-productive.

I, on the other hand, have discovered that I am a night owl.  Try as I might, I cannot wind down much before midnight.  Even if I get sleepy earlier in the evening, the MINUTE I get up to do the final evening chores (e.g. emptying the dishwasher) I am AWAKE.  After I get ready for bed, and settle down in bed to read--I can read, get sleepy and turn the light out.  Even so, I still almost always take at least a half an hour to fall asleep.

But several times, of late, that half hour has turned into hours.  I had one night recently where I was still awake at 4 a.m.  I really can't figure it out.  Oh, occasionally, I know I have had a bit more caffeine than I should have.  But we have changed our coffee habits--partly to help me.  I now drink my diet Pepsi sans caffeine.  And in the evening, I have ONE cup of coffee--that is half caf/half decaf.  

Frankly, I chalk it up to aging.  Just as "other things" change as we grow older, no doubt our ability to sleep changes too.  

I mostly keep in good spirits--I figure, well, I can get by on 6 hours of sleep, or 5, or 4...You can see how the night goes, as my mind keeps bouncing around, careening off the walls of my skull.  

I think I'll start reading every time I can't sleep.  At the current rate, I should be able to whip through several novels a week!