Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Looking ahead - a note to an aging friend

Thanksgiving is a time when memories of my father are particularly vivid. Until two years ago, I would drive up to his small apartment in an assisted living facility and then we would drive back to my weekend home in the country for the holiday. Though I don’t much enjoy driving in heavy holiday traffic, we always enjoyed these - and other - long drives together. The other day I received a brief email from a man who became my father’s closest friend in his last four or five years. (One thing about very old age I came to realize, is that all of your lifelong friends have died). When I visited, the three of us would always take lunch together. Fred lived an active life and was a senior business executive whose passion was glider piloting. Now he is mostly confined to a self-powered wheel chair. He said that he missed our lunches together and hoped I would stop by. My response, a bit of a personal update and reflection, follows. Writing to him lead me to think about what my own retirement projects might be.

Dear Fred,

It was good to hear from you and I will share your message with Kaitland, Amanda and Jeffrey. If I am driving up to see Kaitland, I will certainly plan to stop by. Unfortunately, I have not come that way recently. On the first of July, I stepped down as Director of American University's Academic IT organization, the Center for Teaching Excellence, and began a one year sabbatical. I traveled both in Europe and in Asia, visiting Belgium, Hungary, Sri Lanka and Singapore. In the Spring, I will be a visiting Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, before I return to full-time teaching and research in the Fall. Were I to stop by the Cumberland dining room, I could show you my new electronic device, an iPhone. Probably one or more of your children and grandchildren have one of these and you should get them to help you check it out. I have also been taking my studies of Buddhism more seriously (Since Sri Lanka is a Buddhist nation, this has been one of my priorities for many years as an academic subject.) You might enjoy reading the Dhammapada, which was one of Buddha's early teachings. I am not looking forward to retirement, but one thing I will look forward to is more time to devote to Buddhist studies. I am thinking of learning Pali, which is the language in which Buddha preached and in which his many preachings were first transcribed.

Retirement is not here yet, however, and so I must get back to my 'to do' list, which includes, first of all, scrubbing my kitchen floor. Last night, I served standing rib roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to 39 hungry students and things are now a bit of a mess. According to Buddha, scrubbing floors can be viewed as simply another form of spiritual practice.

Do continue to write, from time to time, and keep me up to date on your interests and projects. If I fall down as a correspondent, you can always catch up with me on my blog, or on my Facebook site, AU Dormgrandpop. Incidentally, if you are not on Facebook, I recommend it as a good way to keep up with family and friends.

Thanks again for writing.




Blogger Richard Zimmermann said...

I have just found your blog, having searched for something that you addressed in 2005. I am amazed that you are still working so hard, because in that 2005 post, you mentioned taking a 4th class midshipman cruise on USS WISCONSIN.

That has to put you slightly beyond the 'spring chicken' age group. I am considerably younger in that my 4th class mid cruise was long after the battleships had been retired, and I don't have your kind of energy - unless your cruise was aboard a reactivated WISCONSIN. Ah, that must be it.

7:08 AM  
Blogger dormgrandpop said...

Richard (Admiral Richard?)
Thanks for the note. My 4th class cruise was in 1957 and this was definitely not on the reactiviated Wisconson. In the tropics, the lower deck berthing spaces were stifling. We had to stand 'security watches' periodically wich was agonizing, fighting to stay awake. Fortunately, my birth was in a main deck compartment, adjacent to a porthole. Our ports of call were Panama City, Valparaiso and pre-Castro Cuba.
With best wishes - Dormgrandpop

9:06 AM  
Blogger Richard Zimmermann said...

Thanks - but no, I never even came close to being an Admiral.

Still, you've answered my question in that you must have an extraordinary energy level if you're still teaching on a full-time basis.

My hat is off to you. I'm at least four years younger than you, and I sure couldn't do that much work at this point.

5:46 AM  

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