IRH ’53

In the fall of 49 a fresh-faced, rail-thin 18-year-old from Warsaw, KY, showed up on the doorstep of Transylvania University, ready to show his stuff. He majored in both history and political science, earned the opportunity to spend a term at American University in DC, and was the crafty leadoff hitter for the Pi Kappa Alpha softball team, always a threat to bunt his way on.  Dad loved his Transy days thoroughly and made sure his children knew that as they grew up. He kept in touch with many classmates over the years, served on a reunion committee at least once, and was a faithful donor.

My grandfather Harris had attended TU for two years, 1916-18, but family finances kept him from finishing his education there. No doubt his fond memories played a role when it came time for his only child to go to college; I imagine that’s one reason it felt natural to my father to want the same for Amy and me. Just before my senior year of HS started, Dad and I drove down to Transy to talk with the folks in admissions and take a tour. One thing led to another and before too many months passed, I was ready to commit to being a member of their class of 86. My sister, less pliant than I, chose to carve her own path a year later, accepting a basketball scholarship at Union College in southeastern KY.

At the end of my senior year in college, the soon-to-be-graduates voted on a number of gag awards to distribute amongst themselves.  I copped two of them: “Most Likely to be Studying on a Friday Night” (false) and “Most Likely to Become a Transy Professor” (perhaps).

There was no open position in the math program at TU when I was on the job market six years later, but one did arise in the spring of 94. I had just moved to a house in Georgetown from an apartment in Lexington in December; nonetheless, I elected to apply, and I was invited for an on-campus interview.

It didn’t go very well. I don’t think I went in overconfident, but I was underprepared.  I gave superficial answers to questions about why I wanted to join the faculty there; my presentation, on a topic from first-semester calculus, provided plenty of evidence that I was still very much a work-in-progress in the classroom. By the end of the day, I knew that I hadn’t earned serious consideration for an offer.

I got over it quickly. That summer I attended a great workshop at Purdue on an innovative approach to an upper-level course I would be teaching in the fall. Its reasonably successful implementation, then and in subsequent years, probably boosted my case for tenure at Georgetown. The following January, I met Martha—perhaps that wouldn’t have happened had I gotten the Transy job.

Dad, on the other hand, took things much harder, holding Transy responsible for the outcome. I attribute much of that to my father’s protective feelings for one of his offspring. But he was also plenty stubborn and a grudge-holder when he wanted to be—over the following year I tried, to little avail, to explain how I just hadn’t merited the offer. He let the matter affect his feelings toward his alma mater. He still went to reunions, but he became much less enthused about staying involved and contributing.

I recognize Dad was an adult possessing full agency for his actions and emotions, but I couldn’t help but feel responsible for his cooled ardor for TU—after all, had I not applied… My father was already plenty bitter about much of the world around him; it seemed like my actions had taken away one of his remaining loves.

Just about exactly twenty years later, Mom and I sat down in her family room to discuss what kind of charitable donation she might make in honor of Dad’s recent passing. I suggested something to benefit Transy students majoring in the same areas he had studied, and Mom agreed.  Around the same time, an opportunity arose to buy bricks for the renovation of a plaza on the academic side of campus. I purchased one in honor of Dad, one that reads simply “Ira Richard Harris ’53.” It sits just to the right of the base of a big “T” on the north end of the plaza (there’s a “T” and a “U” at both ends).


I suppose these actions were driven in part by my desire to atone for still-lingering guilt, but: a) in the end, Dad’s Transy years were a special period in his life, and b) I have my own dear memories of the place only because of his encouragement that I go there. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back—I just wanted to have all of that honored in some small way.

Recently I learned of the need to formalize the intentions of the gift made four years ago, and yesterday I went over to Transy to sign the paperwork. Afterward I got a tour of one of their new dorms and also saw the recently-renovated interior of the classroom building adjacent to the plaza. It was an altogether pleasant visit in spite of the cold.

I kept to myself that the next day just happened to be the fifth anniversary of Dad’s death.

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

Last weekend was Homecoming at the college. As a part of that, they hold a Saturday morning brunch during which they recognize winners of our Distinguished Alumni awards. This year I had the honor, along with two of my science colleagues, of being an invited guest of one of the recipients. He’d been one of my first group of advisees, assigned to me in the fall of 93, my second year at Georgetown. After graduation, he went to medical school and has gone on to a notably successful career as a surgeon in Florida. He married a classmate and they have six children, the first two of whom are now enrolled here; by coincidence, I was assigned as an advisor to the oldest last year.

Each awardee had the opportunity to give a few remarks. My former advisee used part of his time to talk a little about each of the three faculty he’d invited. It was interesting to hear him briefly describe details of his interactions with me, things I’d long forgotten, and maybe in a case or two, something that didn’t quite jibe with how I thought it had gone. And that got me thinking more about the memories we carry around with us.

When I write about things that happened so long ago, am I getting everything right? Did my sister really jump up and down for her tricycle?  Was I in the front or back of the car when I listened to the young woman who didn’t get a sorority bid?  Do those sorts of details matter? I guess to a reasonable extent I hope not; I’m trying to be an honest broker, but I’m also telling stories, and after inserting a few phrases of the “it’s my recollection…”/”I believe it happened this way…” kind, one hopes the reader gets that point. (I’m sure I also choose to leave out some things from time to time, for a variety of reasons.) I suppose it’s a piece of the whole “truth vs. Truth” thing—I just hope I’m doing alright by the T.

I’m discovering as I age that my near-term memory definitely doesn’t work like it used to. I’m still an ace at getting students’ names down within the first three weeks of class, but I’m regularly finding now that a semester or two later, the name doesn’t automatically come back when I pass someone on the sidewalk. The “right” word to describe a situation doesn’t surface as freely as it once did. I joked with Martha the other night that should I wind up with dementia someday, all she’s going to hear about over and over is stuff about AT40 and the stories I’ve been posting here. I am totally seeing the likelihood that the tales of our younger years are the ones that persist in our minds.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving 2013 was the last time I heard my father speak. He was in the hospital after hitting his head in a fall at the nursing home. A brain scan showed no blood clots, but as the days passed it was clear things were becoming less right. Throughout that Saturday afternoon I had the sense that Dad’s whole life was unspooling in his head, hurtling toward his youth. He introduced himself to the doctor who came by as, “Ira Richard Harris, from Transylvania College”—Transy calls itself a university now, but he was naming it as it was in the 50s, when he attended. And at one point, he asked me (I don’t know now if he addressed me by name) what time the Reds played—while he was a lifelong fan, he’d followed them quite closely growing up. (That question came rushing back on Opening Day 2014.)

Appropriate or not, a well-known painting by Dali sprang to mind as I’ve been mulling these things over. When I looked it up a few days ago, I discovered he also painted a sort of sequel, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory. It’s on display at the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, FL, and from what I can tell is about his reaction to the coming of the nuclear age. For me, the title of the follow-up expresses what seems to be happening in my own head as the years steam by.

Sorry/not sorry for going meta and getting too serious here. I’m not sure I’m making sense or saying exactly what I want to, but it’s part of a conversation I apparently want to have. With whom, though? Maybe lots of folks–family and friends near and far, new and old, living and dead.

Fly Like An Eagle

Ben came home from school one afternoon with a piece of paper in his hands, gave it to us, and asked, “Can I please do this this year? I have friends that are.” Our eight-year-old had recently started third grade and was brandishing information about an organizational meeting for Cub Scouts to be held soon at the school. This wasn’t the first time, of course—he’d showed interest a year earlier, when we’d chosen to dodge the issue. I had spent some good portion of a year in Cub Scouts, probably when I was a fourth-grader, but I don’t recall any particularly fun or interesting stuff that we did—not enough to want to continue, apparently.  Besides, neither Martha nor I are exactly the outdoorsy type.  But Ben was well aware that the father and son next door to us were heavily involved in Scouting; our son saw the boy, who was four years older, as something akin to a big brother. Whatever Brennen was doing, that’s what Ben wanted.

Fairly close to exactly nine years later, on Monday evening, Ben successfully navigated his Eagle Scout Board of Review, with a little over seven weeks to spare (he had until his 18th birthday). We’re very pleased for and proud of him. It turned out that he really enjoys camping and not bathing for days on end! But along the way he certainly learned many valuable skills. (As an aside, it’s no surprise that he elected to join Brennen’s Troop when he crossed over from Cub Scouts.)  When we asked him after the meeting Monday about his favorite Scouting memory, he named two: his High Adventure week of sailing in the Florida Keys, and participating in a National Youth Leadership Training Leadership Academy in the DC area (he’s also been on staff at his Council’s NYLT the past three years).

I went camping with Ben twice. The first was for a Scout Centennial Jamboree outside of Louisville in the fall of 10, while he was still a Webelo.  The second came in the summer of 15, on a trip to Muskegon, Michigan. We spent one night on the USS Silversides, a WWII submarine, and another in a local state park. Both were great times; looking back, I can say I wish I had done more of that.

Ben undertook his Eagle project last fall. Its primary focus was cleaning an almost century-old DAR monument near downtown Georgetown, but he also organized a sprucing-up of the area around the monument and replaced the flag on a nearby pole. Later, on a crisp, clear early November morning, there was a rededication and a flag retirement ceremony; members of the DAR and the mayor, among others, were in attendance. From there, just a few merit badges remained. He finished the final one, Family Life, this summer when he completed a landscaping project in our back yard.

At Ben’s Board of Review, the man serving as the chartered organization’s representative to the Troop, who has long ties to the community, gave Ben the photo you see at the top. It’s from the first dedication of the monument, in 1920. That’s quite an incredibly generous gift! The photographer was facing north; directly behind the assembled dignitaries, out of view over a hill, is Royal Spring, the land feature that made Georgetown a desirable spot to settle. There’s now a parking lot for our local electrical utility on the spot where the camera was set up.

It’s dangerous to thank by name the adults who helped guide Ben on this journey—I’m afraid I’ll fail to highlight someone who played a vital role. But I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention Ms. Rice for her three years of Cub Scout leadership, Mr. Caldwell, Mr. Maddix, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Baker, who served as Scoutmasters over Ben’s six-plus years in Troop 215, Mr. Rice, Mr. Shaffer, Ms. Homkes, Ms. Fryer, and Mr. Cleland for various Troop roles, Mr. Carruthers for his NYLT mentorship, and Ms. Hanes, for shepherding Ben through the Eagle process (the late Mr. Hanes also had an important part right after Ben crossed over). There were many others who did important work; please know Martha and I are appreciative of all of you. Any oversight in the list above is entirely on me.

We have hundreds of photos of Ben’s Scouting adventure from across the years. I’ll content myself with including just two here.  The first is obviously from Cub Scout days. Martha’s notes say it was taken on a day they went geocaching in Frankfort in the fall of 10. There were a couple other boys in his Pack, but most of the cohort is present here. Three of these pictured wound up staying through to Eagle rank—Ben (in the olive fleece) is the second to finish, but the third will be done very soon.


The second shows our boy working on the monument on the day of his Eagle project (plenty of others were there to pitch in—they’re just not shown in this picture). The view is of the same side you see in the 1920 photo—it’s such a different view! You can see the waterworks now present on the site of the spring behind it.


There will be a celebratory Court of Honor for Ben’s achievement in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, congratulations, son—may you continue to soar, and may what you do with your life be part of the solution.


Requiem For A Dormitory

This post may have limited appeal if you didn’t go to college with me. Consider yourself warned.

A couple of Saturdays ago I went to an alumni event at my undergraduate institution. Entitled “Farewell to Forrer,” it was a chance not only to see old friends and acquaintances but also to bid adieu to what had been the women’s dorm back in my day—it’ll be no more within the next several months, after they strip it down and perform various abatements. In its place will rise an expansive campus center.

Forrer Hall is/was a C-shaped building, with four stories of dorm rooms and a lower/basement level on two of its sides—the high-ceilinged front lobby eats up what would be one level of rooms on, well, the front. Several of the halls were traditionally occupied by members of the four sororities (each group also had a chapter room on the lower level). The campus cafeteria forms the fourth side of the square, and there’s a courtyard in the middle. It had opened in 1958 (which means my era came in the first half of its existence—yikes!).

Transy has done a lot of dorm-building over the last few years. One of the first pieces of that puzzle was to take down Clay-Davis, two men’s dorms that sat at right angles but shared a common lobby. I don’t remember there being a similar event held before their demolition (but who knows if I’m right?)—I would have enjoyed attending that immensely, particularly if I could have toured where the old WTLX studios had been one last time.

I had an overnight visit to Transy during my senior year of high school (my friend Frank also came along), somewhere around November 81. I’d guess my first trips through Forrer happened then, heading across the back circle from Davis to see the academic side, grabbing lunch in the cafeteria. The next time would have been move-in day the following September; I still remember my confusion when one of my new classmates told me that our mailboxes could be found over in “Foy-er” (at least that’s what I thought I heard through his Eastern Kentucky-ish accent).  “The foyer?” I responded.  We got it cleared up and I soon found Box 78 in Forrer’s back lobby.

It ordinarily takes me less than thirty minutes to get to Transy from where I live now. Festivities that evening started around 6:30pm, but I was delayed more than a little by a torrential shower on the way. James, Judy, and Suzanne were already on site. After we signed in, I went with James and Judy to take a gander at the now mostly-empty rooms on the first and second floors. Sometime since our graduation, they’d retrofitted them all with air conditioning (insert image here of old man complaining about how easy kids today have it). Judy found a couple of the rooms she’d lived in, though one was still being occupied by a student working on campus over the summer.  The event’s planning committee decorated a few rooms with memorabilia from each of the various decades of the dorm’s life. It was a game effort, but how can one possibly capture the feel of YOUR four years out of a ten-year span in a 12 by 12 space?

Suzanne eventually caught up with us—she’d eaten first—and we all soon headed back downstairs for the rest of us to get our dinner. How long had it been since I’d had a meal in that space? We sat in the “back” part of the cafeteria, a section I didn’t use all that much way back when (except for the spring of my freshman year when the front was closed, while construction of the current campus center was going on). The rest of our remaining time together was spent catching up and reminiscing, with an emphasis on the latter. At one point we walked across Broadway to the academic side of campus, to a courtyard where we sought out the bricks honoring my father and our friend Stacey.

It still surprises me on occasion how simply being in a place can transport one back in time. Several of my friends spent lots of time in the front lobby, so I was there plenty. In January 84, they opened a computer lab in one corner of the lowest level—much of the programming I did over my last five semesters happened there. Transy’s visitation policy in the 80s was maybe a little liberal for its day—curfew was 11pm during the week, 2am on the weekends—so I was upstairs in Forrer from time to time. All those spots, from so long ago, but yet…  For a short while that evening, it felt like I could have been a 20-year-old all over again.

But am I sad that Forrer is coming down? Not really. That time of my life is long gone. I didn’t live there. I’ve seen several (admittedly model) dorm rooms over the last year on college tours—the ones in Forrer are plenty dumpy now, relatively speaking. It’s fine for it to go.

Plus, the new building looks like it will be swell. It’s scheduled to open in about two years. It’s against the odds that Ben will wind up at Transy, but if he does, that’d be the fall of his sophomore year, which was the semester the Young Campus Center opened while I was there.

Well over two hundred alums, spouses, former faculty, and staff attended. I had a great time and appreciate the efforts of the organizers. It’s nice for those of us who live reasonably nearby to get opportunities like that to reconnect.

Not surprisingly, I took pictures that night.  Some of those and a few more short tales are over the flip:

Continue reading “Requiem For A Dormitory”

Night Driving, July 29 1990

I’ve been fortunate over the last two-plus weeks to visit with three of the five guys who took part in my wedding (along with their wives). First, I saw Tony and Lisa while the family and I were about to start a short tour of college visits. Last week, I went to a couple of concerts with Greg (Katie went with us to one); I’m hoping to write up reviews in the next ten days or so. And over the weekend, the jumping-off point for this missive, John and Ann came through my neck of the woods.

We’ve had mighty fine weather for late July here in Kentucky the past few days. On Saturday, we met up with John and Ann in Newport, just on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. We gave the Hofbräuhaus a spin and then walked across the bridge to watch the Reds whip up on the Phillies. Then on Sunday, they drove down to Georgetown and we wound up getting some fine Cuban food in Lexington. It’s been close to a decade since we’ve seen each other, but in so many ways it was just like old times.

As it happens, Sunday was their wedding anniversary, their twenty-eighth. Numbers geek that I am, I have a distinct appreciation for 28th anniversaries, since that’s how long it takes calendars in the Western World to perform one complete cycle. [Two asides here, at least one of which is pretty nerdish: 1) I have a friend who gave birth to her son on my 28th birthday, so yes, I can indeed tell you on which day of the week any of his birthdays thus far occurred, just by thinking about my own; 2) I know something else about my 28th birthday, and I already have given thought to writing about it in roughly eighteen months, for my 56th birthday.]

So July 29, 1990 was also a Sunday. I recall a few things about that wedding weekend. I stayed in the same hotel with my officemate Paul and his family. The ceremony took place in a beautiful Catholic church in Chicago. John, I, and the rest of the male half of the wedding party almost entered the sanctuary late, but it was all cool in the end. I wished I’d written my toast for the reception beforehand.

And I remember what I listened to on the way back to Urbana that night (it’s Sunday evening as I write this, probably around the same time of day as that journey). As you have no doubt surmised, it was the cassette you see pictured above. Getting it into my hands at that moment was a group effort. That’s not my handwriting. It’s Paul’s. I didn’t have a tape deck then (and wouldn’t until I married), but Paul did, and he was gracious enough to offer to transfer CDs to cassette for me so that I could listen to them in my car. I imagine it was fairly painless for him to do—just pop a disk in, press play and record, and turn the volume to zero so that it wouldn’t disturb his work. I still have around three dozen tapes that he recorded for me in this manner.

They weren’t my CDs, either (shh, don’t tell anyone).  They came with high recommendations from Greg, who had loaned them to me, though I did purchase my own copies later.  Greg and I had started hanging out at the beginning of 90, having met at the bridge club.  There was a lot of overlap in our musical tastes, but since his CD collection was much more expansive than mine, our sharing tended to be one-sided.  The Darling Buds, from England, and the Go-Betweens, from Australia, were probably the first two bands I came to seriously appreciate via Greg. Very different from each other, but both great pop groups.

(The blank cassette was mine.)

Paul had committed those disks to tape only nine days earlier, so I was just gaining familiarity with them. While I certainly didn’t love them like I do now, it wouldn’t shock me if I listened to that tape more than once that night.

It was a transition point in my time at Illinois, at least from a social standpoint. I was now roommate-less, after a little over three years with John. I’d soon move to my one-bedroom apartment on Main St. (We barely squeezed the couch around various corners into the new place. When I moved again a year later, I regret to say that we broke it apart and tossed it out the window.) As it turned out, though, my circle continued to expand. I spent much more time with Greg, Katie, Toby, Karl, and their physics pals. That fall, I got to know new grad-students-in-town Jay and Michelle. And I would play lots of bridge and become better friends with Mark and Chris. Maybe I caught glimpses of the future as I was streaming down I-57 that night, but I strongly suspect I didn’t know for sure. The music definitely helped tamp down any insecurities I might have had.

Here’s one song each from Pop Said… and 16 Lovers Lane.  The Buds released several singles in the UK from this album, though the excellent “When It Feels Good” wasn’t one of them.


I think “Quiet Heart” is just plain spectacular. It’s always struck me as a fascinating choice for the second track on the disk; it’s quite an act of confidence to place a ballad in that slot.


Happy Blogiversary To Me

One year ago today, I started this blog.  I had no idea where it would lead, but it’s been darn satisfying. To note the occasion, two lists and a reflection.

First, the twelve posts with the most views, in descending order (there is a tie for second):

1)  Observing the centennial of my father-in-law’s birth
2)  Noting the fourth anniversary of getting the dog that calmed my son’s fears
2)  Playing a Wizard of Oz character in my kindergarten year-end play
4)  Reminiscing about my high school cross-country experiences
5)  Recounting the time I may have met my future wife (with a twist ending)
6)  Reviewing the local high school’s production of Les Miserables
7)  Remembering my dad on the anniversary of his death
8)  Touring with my paternal grandparents as they taught all over KY during the 1920s
9)  Reliving my dreams of becoming a disc jockey in my early teen years
10) Thinking about my 16th birthday
11) Offering a tribute to David Cassidy
12) Deciphering patterns in a radio station’s playlist

I think there’s a little wonkiness with the numbers for a couple of those, but I’m just the messenger here.

Next, a dozen of my favorite posts other than those listed above (#2, 5, 8, 9, and 12 on the most-viewed list would qualify if I allowed them). These are in the order they appeared.

1) My years-long quest to see 10,000 Maniacs in concert
2) My son’s odd thoughts on what might qualify as a Christmas song
3) The 40th anniversary of Elvis’s death
4) The first day of my college life
5) A review of the very few letters I wrote home while in college
6) A visit to the town where I lived when I was five years old
7) Winning a standoff with a lounge lizard
8) An overview of Christmas songs I just don’t need to hear all that often
9) My in-laws’ square dancing days
10) The well-known country singer that was in my father’s high school class
11) Riding the bus when I was in third grade
12) A look back at my mother’s teen years

There are two sometimes orthogonal themes consistently running through my efforts so far: a desire to share songs I enjoy (with more than the occasional reminiscence attached), and various bits of family history. I often say that this is meant to be a book of memories for my son, but to date it’s been considerably more than that at times. If you dig around enough, it’s clear that I’m still grieving over the loss of my parents, both of whom died within the last five years. I have things related to their final years still to be worked out in my head, and maybe writing about Mom and Dad helps with that. I hope you haven’t minded being a party to that.

On the more upbeat side of things, I’ve also tried to display gratitude, whether it’s to long-time pals or to newer friends I’ve made through the blog. I owe thanks to many, many folks; whether you’ve offered advice, promoted this site via link or tweet, or dropped by to read, please know all of it is greatly appreciated. I’m looking forward to what happens next, whatever it is.

I wrote last November that the direct inspiration for The Music of My Life was a conversation one year ago yesterday with my college friend Judy.  But if July 20, 2017 was its date of birth, that moment had a couple of parents.

Winter 2014: Discovering music blogs. On a Saturday evening (either January 25 or February 1), I was in the ER with my mother, who we knew was terminally ill; within a few days she would undergo a procedure that would offer her some relief.  While waiting for her to be examined and ultimately admitted, I did an internet search for something I’d been meaning to look into for some time: the National Album Countdown, a radio show I’d listened to some in the summer of 76 (WSAI would play it on Sunday evenings after AT40 ended).  One of the top results was an article from a few years earlier on The Hits Just Keep On Comin.  I learned some things about the NAC I didn’t know, but over the following days I became engrossed in the many articles jb had written about AT40.  It was an eye-opener to find someone writing about things that had interested me for so long. No doubt his work has been an influence on mine; I’ve pretty much poached the idea of looking back on the previous year’s posts at one’s blogiversary from him!  In the years since, and particularly over the last 12 months, I’ve continued to learn about many other interesting voices in the music blogosphere.

August 11, 2016: Writing about music (and memories) in earnest. I’d been thinking about “live blogging” old mix tapes on Facebook for a while, and this was when I took the plunge, taking 44 days to go over two cassettes I’d recorded in May 85. (Those articles were reposted here over TMoML’s first six-plus weeks.) That led to writing about other songs and moments on FB, which led to what turned into the PastBlast posts, which led to that lunch with Judy…

I’ve written far more in the last year than I ever dreamed I would, but ideas for posts still come to me regularly.  I imagine for some visitors it’s an exercise in witnessing self-absorption—far too many first-person singular pronouns, with an insufficient number of punchlines—but on the personal side it’s allowed me to conduct a little bit of accounting of successes and mistakes, both large and small, from across the course of my life (heavier on the mistakes—that’s just my nature), even if those sorts of things don’t show up here all that often.

For Year #2 of the blog, I’ve decided to up my Twitter game.  My handle is @music_life_blog.  Follow along if you wish!

Finally, here’s a song I posted one year ago, my first Song of the Day.  This is what I had to say about the origins of SotD then.  As it happens, I’ll be visiting Greg and Katie next week, and we’ll be going to a couple of concerts. I’m pretty stoked.

Okay, one more thing: next Tuesday I’ll be hosting my first guest post. Luckily, I got HERC to write something up for me before he took off to help with his new grandchildren!

A Daisy for Miss Mabel

Today, Martha and I traveled to Warsaw for one of my thrice-annual visits to my folks’ gravesite; late June, around the time of Dad’s birthday, is typically when one of those trips happens. As usual, I ordered flowers from Ribbons & Roses, the town floral shop. It’s a continuation of the practice my father started years ago for his parents and aunt (I go only about half as often as he did, but then again, I’m over twice as far away). The proprietor and I often have a bit of a conversation about Dad, and today was no exception—among other things, we talked about some odd occurrences at her shop as my great-aunt’s house, a block away, was being demolished (they involve a rodent and seventy-five carnations) and how she helped Dad deliver his flowers to the cemetery toward the end of his years as he grew weaker.

Warsaw Cemetery is maybe a quarter-mile from R & R; we took the beautiful bouquet and placed it behind Dad’s stone. After I talked to Mom and Dad for a while, Martha and I split up and began a quest.


Yesterday I told a little about my father’s first-grade teacher, Ms. Mabel Lucas. What I didn’t mention was that while I was putting that post together, I learned that Ms. Lucas was also buried in Warsaw. We were seeking her gravestone. I didn’t necessarily plan to take as much time as was needed to find it today, but at the least I wanted to eliminate some portion of the cemetery for the next visit.

I was in luck—I came across it in less than 15 minutes.  It’s actually within view of my parents’ site, a couple of rows back and maybe a half-dozen plots to the left.  We stood there just a while, and then Martha made a capital suggestion: “Why not go back to Ribbons & Roses and get a flower for Miss Mabel?  Surely your dad would have done that himself.”

So that’s what we did after lunch.


It’s been a stormy day throughout Kentucky. The rain and thunder missed Warsaw until well after we left in the early afternoon, but I fear that the bouquet and daisy have been blown around and damaged now. For a short while today, though, teacher and pupil were gifted with flowers.

Happy Birthday, Martha and Ruth!

Best birthday wishes to my wife and sister-in-law! They get to celebrate a good chunk of their day together this year; at the time of posting, Martha is en route to Black Mountain, NC, where she and Ruth will spend the next few days at a choral workshop.

The above pictures were taken at sixteen months; for those of you who know them, can you tell which is which? Over the last couple of decades, I’ve gotten the chance to play that game on a few dozen photos from their pre-school years–not bragging, but I believe I get it right over 90% of the time (yes, there’s usually a tell). Occasionally I get the question if I have trouble with identifying them now.

Here’s another one, taken at Christmastime 40+ years later. This time, I’ll clue you in: Martha’s on the left, with Ruth on the right.


Hope you both have a wonderful day!

And So It Begins…

At the end of school a couple of weeks ago, Ben officially became a HS senior. We’ve already been on a few college visit excursions, with more to come in the months ahead. It won’t be long until it’s time for him to work on applications, essays, etc. This summer will be giving us all a taste of some of what’s to come, too. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for it, but I don’t appear to have a choice!

Yesterday we dropped him at an academic camp at a school in Indiana, where he’ll spend the next two-plus weeks. He’ll be working on a project with a team of two or three other students, and they’ll write up their work and make a presentation at the end. Today he’ll figure out which project he’ll pursue and learn who his teammates will be. He’s not one for communication, but I hope we can pry out of him some information tonight. I am excited for him to have this chance. While I suspect he’ll figure out whether this is a college he might want to attend, what I’m really hoping for him is that he’ll learn some things about himself, make some friends, and experience at least a bit of success in his team’s efforts. My fear is that he keeps to himself too much, and I’m hoping this peer group will help him break out a bit from the shell I perceive him to have.

Ben was all too ready for Martha and me to leave. I get it to a large extent; I didn’t experience any homesickness when it was my turn to leave the nest. For the last year or so, he’s been letting us know in ways that vary in level of subtlety about his desire for more independence. I don’t doubt we hover too much—the curse of having only one child—but sometimes I wish he weren’t quite so forthright about it, would humor us a bit. On the other hand, it’s encouraging to see his confidence and relative fearlessness about going forth in the world.  My guess is he’s going to need that.

His return from the Hoosier State won’t be the end of his time away this summer. He’ll be gone for two one-week periods in July for his work with National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), a Boy Scouts program. Three years ago, he was selected by his Troop to attend NYLT at our Council’s campground; in the years since, he’s been tapped to serve on its staff. This year, he has been invited to receive additional training at a NYLT Leadership Academy in the DC area. It’s a cool honor and I’m certainly pleased for him (and proud, too). But all told, this will be a month away from us over a seven-week period! Sigh.

On our return home last night, Martha and I stopped off in Batesville, IN for an early birthday dinner for her. We went to The Sherman (known prior to a renovation two years ago as The Sherman House). I’ve seen its billboards for over three decades now on my treks up and down I-74, advertising hotel rooms and authentic German dining. But until yesterday, I’d never been there.

With the remodeling came some change in menu: they now claim to be a combination German-American bistro/chop house. The German entrée offerings number only about a half-dozen. Unfortunately, they were out of schnitzel last night; we made do with stroganoff and the falscher hase. It was all pretty good, but I have to say that we were a little concerned at the start. We arrived at around 6:30, and no one else was dining! It took almost 30 minutes before anyone else showed up to eat, and maybe six or so other parties had arrived by the time we left. 6:30 didn’t seem that early to me, but maybe things are different in Batesville…

One reason I wanted to go to The Sherman (I was surprised to find it’s named after the Civil War general) was that it’s a place my parents frequented over the years. I suspect they started going during my time in Illinois, perhaps dropping by on the way home from visiting me.  They clearly enjoyed it, because they kept going back, maybe as often as annually. As Martha and I sat in one of the alcoves last night, I wondered: might this have been a table where they once dined?  Maybe I was just a little wistful over never having gone there with them. Just one more way in which I feel the loss.

So, I’m a little melancholy this morning. In just a bit, I’m back on the road to Cincinnati, for the funeral of the mother of a second cousin.  This cousin and I had just recently established contact on Facebook; we have a mutual interest in genealogy, so I’m hoping in the coming months we can fill in some holes for each other. For today, though, it’s a small show of support in his family’s time of grief.