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Three score and ten or more

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I spent a lot of the day at our old house trying to dispose of stuff so that we can get it ready to rent (and, who knows? pay off the hospital in Finland). One project was to empty seven drawers of filing cabinets so that the cabinets themselves can find their way either into the yard sale or to the office space of one of my descendants. I hadn't anticipated the angst involved. In one drawer was much of Janet's professional material. She taught mostly AP English. (To which her students referred as APE, and as a group and individually they presented her with stuffed ape toys on almost any appropriate occasion. She has apes with college graduation gowns, medical scrubs, etc.. etc.. We have disposed of about sixty stuffed apes, in sizes ranging between three inches and three feet.)

As an AP (advanced placement or college level English) teacher she taught most of the brightest kids I ever knew, and the filing cabinet was full of prize winning essays, other essays, poetry, stories, even a couple attempts at formulaic romance novels written by students that were almost as close to us as our children. Her hands have been hurting so badly that she had given up on trying to sort things and charged me with emptying the file drawers without even looking at the material. Impossible! It was like throwing away children. There was an unfinished book which she began which dealt with Creative Dramatics for children, handouts which she had created on writing précis, essay structure, audience analysis, internal logic, evidence, and on and on. I found myself in tears.

One of the blessings (in fact the greatest blessing) in being a teacher is seeing your students succeed and her students have done that so emphatically (Of course, in AP classes you have the cream of the crop to start with) going off to undergraduate and graduate schools including Emory, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and others. Her students include professors, executives, teachers (what goes around comes around ) writers, and others who are just wonderful people who still send her Christmas cards, baby announcements, and even the occasional entrepreneurial opportunity, but they go away, and eventually, all you have of them is the stuff in the file cabinet. Ultimately one has to empty the file cabinet, and it is a little like death.

I got half way through one drawer in her file, and know that I am going to have to go back (I think I will try to get her to supervise) and finish the job. Then I have to go to my file cabinet and dump one- act plays written by my playwriting students, prompt scripts from plays I have directed, and….. Some things about geezer status and coothood are kinda nice, but some things are painful beyond measure. One of those is giving up so much that has been so important.


At 5:39 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

The priest we used to have used to emphasize that all material things were just so much "stuff" to be gotten rid of, that they don't mean anything. Every year he would take personal belongings, set them out on a table and give them away. I got a silver teapot from The Ritz Hotel because of his tendency to do this. He didn't have a sentimental bone in his body!

Some "stuff" is far more than just stuff because it has many memories attached to it. The job you are involved in is very hard and I can empathize with you. Take a deep breath and remember you aren't throwing away children, not really! Your wife has all those kids in her head. :)

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Gayle's comment was wise.

These two sentences jumped out at me:

Some things about geezer status and coothood are kinda nice, but some things are painful beyond measure. One of those is giving up so much that has been so important.

I like the old hippy saying: "Let go; let God."

Easier said than done when I read about your wife's filing cabinet full of youthful dreams.

But we all have to let go of everything one day and depart the world as naked as we entered it.

Sometimes your blog's an oasis from the storm.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger t_cole said...

you made me cry.
in a painful and good way.


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