Category Archives: Augustus Rex

Auggie

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Easing back in

Eight years ago this week I was in Oslo and Copenhagen. The weather was tremendously cold!

In the Vigelund park, with snow falling on Oslo.

Random Sunday afternoon thoughts:

After a strange and unexpected few weeks of travel and family and estate and such, I am easing back into the flow of the forthcoming semester.

As I write on this Sunday afternoon, we are expecting some ice and sleet to arrive.  My two voice lessons today both asked to postpone, and I am quite adrift in silence at home, which is delightful.

On the way back from Lee’s Summit two weeks ago, having just buried my father the day before, I stopped by one of the many antique malls that dot the I-70 corridor, and purchased an old floor lamp with a lovely and gaudy half-globe painted glass shade.  This is the only light illuminating my living room, where I sit in my chair and write.

After a full Saturday that included five hours of voice lessons and a visit with a friend, this Sunday has been peaceful.  I made some banana bread this morning, and have watered some sourdough starter this afternoon.  I’ve spent time in my home office and done some tidying and tossing here at home. I’ve done some laundry.  And I recorded some tracks for one of my students, texted about various things, and have read a bit today as well.  This is truly a lazy Sunday — gray and overcast and chilly but not frigid.

The past few days have been strangely internal.  The reality of my father’s death — of now being the eldest, with no one above me in my immediate family — has finally sunk in.  After days of doing the things that needed to be done, I’m now finally grieving some.  And then on Thursday evening I saw Call Me By Your Name, and I was gutted by the father’s final speech, not to mention to the entire film.  For three days now, all of this has been rattling ’round in my conscious mind, and probably in my unconscious as well.

Meanwhile, this week ramps up at work, culminating in a Friday afternoon faculty workshop (for which I’m not ready).  Spring 2018 classes commence on January 16.

[And just like that, Auggie hops up from his perch on the sofa, starts doing his I’m-about-to-puke routine, and I grab him from the Persian rug and put him on the hardwood.  He retched in the right place.  Aug did not eat his breakfast, so I wondered if something was amiss.]

I picked up a new voice student this weekend, and will enjoy working with him tremendously, I think.  He’s smart and grabbed onto ideas immediately at his first lesson on Saturday.

The bone-jarring cold snap seems to be over, with the arrival this afternoon of some freezing rain.  My frozen pipe has now unfrozen.  The forecast calls for more moderate temperatures this week.  And perhaps I won’t be running my furnaces 2/3 of the time now.  (I fear for my natural gas bill and electric bill after these last two weeks.)

Part of my inheritance from my father’s estate is a lovely Seth Thomas wall clock, dating from the mid-19th century.  The clock is currently at About Time, a local clock shop, for an overhaul and fine-tuning. I also picked up my parents’ cuckoo clock and took it to the shop.  The cuckoo clock had been boxed for well over 30 years, and the bellows are shot.  This one will take some work to repair.  My father’s safe deposit box also included two pocket watches.  One of them was a much-used American Waltham railroad watch with a serial number that dates the watch to 1902. This would have belonged to one of my paternal great-grandfathers.  It’s also at the clock shop for repair and refurbishment.

And with some of the inheritance I’ll be receiving, I’ve made two purchases, one for me and one for the house:

  • for the house, the final installment of new Pella windows for the living room.  I had purchased new custom-made windows previously for the master bedroom, the back porch, and the kitchen.  This will finish the window updates.
  • for me, a new gold and diamond ring.  I traded in my Uncle John’s gold wedding band, a red coral and gold ring I purchased in Santa Fe, and my father’s high school class ring (although I did keep a diamond and synthetic ruby gold ring that my father was wearing) . . . and upgraded to a lovely five-diamond gold and white gold pinky ring. The only jewelry I have ever really purchased is cufflinks or a pinky ring, and I think this one will be with me until my dying day.

Speaking of inheritance, executorship of an estate is a part-time job.  Just sayin’ . . . .

A new year

Monday was the Feast of the Holy Name.  I was glad to be in church for a quiet Eucharist, and to read the festive Morning and Evening Prayer for this day. There’s nothing like reading the Te Deum on a weekday!


As I return to work today, after three weeks away, I am mindful that this is a new year.  Some thoughts on these next twelve months —

With my sisters and father, June 2017.

The calendar page has turned to A.D. 2018, but in my own life the calendar page has turned dramatically.  My father and I were not particularly close.  For the better part of two decades, we had not found a lot of common ground in many areas of life. There were no issues — just distance and not much to discuss.

But the death of a parent is still a life-changing event.  Now, just more than two weeks on, I’m keenly aware that there will be no more emails, no more visits with him at home, no more breakfasts at the local café, no more teasing him about Mizzou (which he loved) or sour cream (which he hated). The reality of his death is starting to sink in.

He goes with me, though, in the man I am today, in the ease I feel in interacting with strangers, in the laugh that sometimes bursts forth. I daily find myself doing something that clearly marks me as Richard’s son.  I shall endeavor to be the man he would wish for me to be.

And after making my way through many of his piles over the last half-month, I’m determined to make my own life tidier, both in real terms and psychological.

The last year did not afford me many opportunities to be as creative as I would wish.  I changed that on New Year’s Eve as I wrote a song, and I’m determined to keep up the personal creativity over these next months. Already I’ve written a new song!

The entry to 2017 was celebrated in Hong Kong; 2018, at home in Saint Louis.  I’ll renew my travel habits this year, with a March excursion to Moscow, Vienna, and London, and then some foreign location over the summer.  And then my sabbatical begins in October, and I’ll start that with some time out of the country.

The challenges at Webster are real, with budget woes and enrollment opportunities.  We have much work to do this semester: closing the deal with a new-student class, revving up for our decennial accreditation review, managing faculty change, living within more modest means, fulfilling our part of the bargain with the students entrusted to our care and who are counting on us to deliver.  Succession planning is on my mind, as is renewal.

The previous year brought some minor health woes: trigger finger, a skin cancer scare, weight gain, a cracked tooth and crown, increasing daily pain in my bad leg, blood pressure that rides too high. I need to deal honestly and effectively with these matters this year.

I’m wanting to do some volunteering this year, and have determined to find something to do with the International Center of Saint Louis, with Christ Church Cathedral, and perhaps with a local hospice. I’m living too much in a world of my own devising, and need to give to others.

And might 2018 be the year I find the right man and make a decision to share my life with him?  Perhaps, and I’m open to the universe’s karma on this one.

For some fun to round this out, some Auggie:

2017 in photos

Year-end letter 2017

Dear friends and family around the world,

Greetings as we approach Christmastide 2017, and as we celebrate the return of the sun this week with the winter solstice.

We heralded the new light of the winter season on Thursday this week by celebrating the life of my father, V. Richard Carter, who died on December 17.  His death was the result of a vile and evil acute myeloid leukemia.  We had six weeks and three days from the first mention of the illness to his last breath.

Pop’s passing shadows the rest of the year.  But as usual, I should report that this year has been filled with travel to various points around the country, a great deal of theatre, and (new this year) a growing private voice studio with wonderfully talented students.

I continue at Webster University as Professor & Chair in the Department of Music. We welcomed a new colleague this semester, and said ‘so long’ to a retiring senior faculty member in Spring 2017.  We also enjoyed a full-semester visiting scholar from Vienna this past 16 weeks. Our new programs continue to grow, and every day is a new adventure.

The loss of my father is counter-balanced this year by the birth, many weeks premature, of my first great-niece, Lily Riffle.  She is now a healthy and hearty six+ months, and a delight to hold and carry and feed, and then give back to her parents. Her parents, Blayne and Sarah Riffle, were married last year.  Blayne’s sister married this year, and so we now have Jimmy and Kristen Lachance in the family as well.

I started the year in Hong Kong, which was my big trip for the year.  But I do know already that 2018 is going to bring some fun international travel!

Regarding the growth of my private studio: a local children’s voice specialist closed her studio, and I inherited a number of Muny Kids and Muny Teens.  These talented students are a delight and joy to teach!  And my long-term student Aaron was selected for the National Honor Choir and a regional honor ensemble as well, in addition to All-State Choir for the second year in a row.  Meanwhile, Spencer is out on tour with The King and I.

I have new neighbors all around.  A young couple bought and rehabbed the house just of me this year, while a different couple, and their daughter Olivette, moved in just north of me. And then just a few weeks ago the Boo Radley house two doors up sold (at a high price, thanks be to god) to yet another young couple.  Suddenly I’m the old-man-in-the-middle.  But I love indeed the safety of new neighbors, and the care that these folks are taking with their own property.

I ended the school year with a guest conducting gig, leading our Chamber Singers in two numbers at the annual concert we call A Gift to the City.  Here’s a sound file of my own setting of Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Oxen,’ written 16 years ago for Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City: 

So we enter Christmastide with one more week left in 2017.  The events of the year-end are life-changers, and truth be told I’m a bit at sea right now.  I’ll regroup over the next weeks, and look forward to a sabbatical in Fall 2018.

The annual remembrance of the birth of Christ brings us hope for a better 2018, in our own lives and in the wider world.  May it be so.

P.S. — stay tuned for the year-in-review photo montage next week!