Tag Archives: family


Sometimes I am wrong.

Wrong in my knee-jerk response.  Wrong in my facts.  Wrong in my presentation.

So today I got to say “I’m sorry.”

And I’m glad I said it.  And I’m glad for the reminder that I’m not always perfect.

Meanwhile, my sisters and I each confessed Monday evening . . . that we are turning into our parents.

And that’s so wrong it’s right.

From campus Monday evening:

“I change people’s lives”

27 July 1996.  An email to my parents, who were living abroad in Argentina.

Summer session at the community college has just ended.  The 1996 Atlanta Olympics were under way. 

Doctoral study was less than a month away.  And I was coming to terms with the enormous responsibility one assumes as a teacher.

My father had printed this email, which we found in his boxes of papers.  I’m glad to have it.

Reminiscences: moving to Kansas

Found in my father’s belongings: this postcard, addressed to my grandmother, giving my new address in Kansas when I moved there on January 2, 1997.

The “choking back tears” reference proved false. My three years at KU, and most of that also living in Lawrence, were the single best three years of my life to date.

Reminiscences: the bill

In my father’s belongings were two documents related to my birth in 1961.

I was born at Southern Baptist Hospital in New Orleans. The total hospital bill was $113.45, which included four nights in a semi-private room (for my mother, of course) and $30 for the delivery room charge.

Care to know how crazy our health-care costs are now? That $113.45 in 1961 is still less than $1000 in today’s dollars!


Well, after seven years in the Lou, JeffA is heading back to Texas. He leaves today.

jeffa2014 - 1

At my home in 2014.

Here’s the story —

On April 4, 2011, I received this email:

     I don’t know if you remember me, but you and I spoke earlier this year about the possibility of me coming to Webster as a musical theatre major. Good news! I have been accepted into the program, and am now trying to work out the logistics.

     We spoke earlier about my serious concerns that I’d like to study voice with a classically based instructor to ensure I maintain proper technique. I’ve done some research and talked with some students . . . who told me about how musical theatre majors incorporate themselves into the school of music. With my research being nearly complete, I thought that I’d talk to you and see what my next step would need to be.

    My family and I will be up at the university in a couple of weeks to get a tour and check out the entire living situation and all, and I was hoping that I might be able to get a sample voice lesson with a couple of voice professors to see who would be the best fit for me. From my research, I’m particularly interested in possibly becoming a student of yourself or Ms. Carole Gaspar. However, I do understand that it might be a difficult task getting into either of your studios as not only a freshman, but also as a musical theatre major (considering most of my instruction will take place in the theatre arts conservatory). Nevertheless, I’d really like to see if I could arrange such a meeting/ sample lesson with you when I’m up there in a couple weeks.

Well, Jeff became my voice student, and a surrogate son in many ways.  (Even though he called me “Mr. Carter” in his original emails.)

He changed majors to Pre-Med, and then changed schools to Saint Louis University.  He stayed around for a Master of Science post-baccalaureate degree.  He took the MCAT.

He sings like a demon, he’s smart as a whip, and he’s kind and considerate.

And he’s going to med school in Texas starting next month.

Along the way, we have shared countless meals, hours and hours at the piano singing, a few drinks, some evenings at Scottish Arms.  He was a stalwart when I broke my leg, and he housesat one summer while I was abroad and painted a room or too.

Last week Jeff took the oath and became a commissioned officer in the US Navy.  The Navy will help with med school and loans to date, and he will owe them some years after finishing his training.

Jeff at his M.S. defense on Wednesday. I stole this from his mother’s Facebook page.

His momma must be so terribly proud.

We sang away the evening two nights ago. And toasted life with some damn good whiskey.

This is the guy I’d want as my own kid.

And I’m going to miss him more than I can possibly say.


Leaving Lee’s Summit

As I leave Lee’s Summit today, some closure is evident.

My sisters and I sorted through family items last evening, after 2+ days of sorting/packing/tossing/donating/loading into our own cars.

I am returning home to Saint Louis with scores of letters I wrote my parents, as well as letters and cards to me from my grandparents (all collected and saved when I was a child). Birgit the Volvo is loaded the manual Royal typewriter on which my father typed letters in the 1960s, and on which I typed my high school term papers; some ties and cufflinks; two bedside tables purchased by my parents in Argentina; three small lamps; and all sort of other memorabilia.

Some more furniture awaits another trip.

I also have the first quilt my mother ever completed herself, which will be swell on the bed in my guest room.

Karen went home with this family Bible from my great-grandparents Carter.

Over the last three days we have touched and remembered items from the china cabinet, from the walls of the homes in Hannibal and Lee’s Summit, from our parents’ dressers and clothes closets, and from the kitchen and library.  Beth is satisfying her ‘sorting’ heart to no end.  And we’ve all shaken our heads more times that we can count, and simply muttered “why?”.

I kept saying “I remember dusting that as a kid”!

Pop kept things in boxes, literally and figuratively.  He and Mom both were packrats and nesters, each in their own right.  When Mom died, Pop packed up her life and kept it in boxes, never again to be opened until now.  (On Thursday, I discovered his love letters to her from their college days!)  Between the boxes packed and left in Lee’s Summit in 1986, and what he brought home from Buenos Aires in 1999, we had a trove of family memories to sort.

Over the next year, I’ll be trotting out all sort of things to frame my days on earth so far.  I’m going home with their missionary ID cards; contracts from Lee’s Summit Public Schools; photos galore; and SO many letters that help explain me.

Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery is lovely in mid-May, with peonies blooming everywhere.

And my father’s stone (2017) is now joined on a plinth with my mother’s (1998):


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’ . . . .