Tag Archives: Getting older

#TBT: GSE

Nineteen years ago this month.

I was part of a Group Study Exchange of four young (under-40) professionals, going to Brazil from central Indiana, all under the auspices and sponsorship of Rotary International.

This trip changed my life.

Read more: https://jeffreycarter.wordpress.com/travel-memoirs/brasil-2001/.

Learning

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning how to be a human being.”

This weekend, I began reading Mourad Lahlou’s cookbook Mourad: new Moroccan.

But to call this a cookbook is inexact, inadequate.

This book is a guide to a Moroccan way, a glimpse into the living soul of a cuisine, and perhaps of a man.


The opening essay is a memoir of how the author came to cooking.  His loving stories of childhood in a multi-generational home in the medina of Marrakech are tempting and compelling.

The conclusion of one section — he accompanies his grandfather on the daily market run to the souk, with produce first, then meat — ends with the arresting sentence I quoted at the outset.  That sentence grabbed me and caused quick, happy tears as memories of similar learning exploded in my mind.


I did not know my maternal grandfather; he died when I was six.

But I have much of my father in me, and much of his father.

The last photo I have of Pop Carter, taken a year or two before his death.

Pop Carter, who died in 1985, had a short fuse.  I do too, although I like to think this is mellowing with age and self-realization.

He also had a patience about him, and an orderliness that came with being a draftsman.  I remember the organization of his workbench, with screws and nuts and nails and washers and tools and implements all carefully sorted and stored.  I remember how he used the word “kindly” in unexpected places in sentences.  He was gentle.  And respected.  And sincere.

I never really knew him, though.  We lived apart, and we saw each other in visits several times yearly.  I have no idea of his politics, or what he liked to read (if he read at all).

What I have now, in my late 50s (how strange it is to write that!), is a lasting memory of love, of kindness to others, of the gift of banter and putting others at ease, of watching him at ease in his world.  Of being centered.

And I think that is a part of what it is to learn to be a human being.


I pause to wipe my eyes and love a bit on MacCarthy, my new companion who is more at ease today as I write than he was yesterday.  This poor damaged dog, so in need of love . . . .


My own father had that same gift of banter.  I saw him do this any time I went to the bank with him.  He had a kind word for anyone he met there.  I’ve written on this blog previously of this gift that I do think he passed on to me.

I am writing on Sunday, after watching this morning the Sunday Eucharist from Washington National Cathedral.  A mention of a Red Cross blood drive in the District of Columbia pinged quickly to memories of my father’s involvement with the local blood drives in Lee’s Summit.  And again: strong recollections of him greeting, joking, counseling, soothing.

Unless I’m delusional, I think this same spirit lives in me.

Watching him with others = learning how to be a human being.


Esther Marie Gutshall Summers, Marie Blocher Carter, Ruth Gutshall Blocher, 1984.

The kitchen was a central place at family gatherings.  While others were watching sports on television, I preferred to be in the kitchen with my mother and other female relatives who were cooking our feast.  I am not part of large extended family.  That relative was most often G-ma, and sometimes Aunt Esther.  I don’t have strong memories of chatter or gossip or teasing in the kitchen, though I’m certain that kind of chatter happened.  And if I was in the kitchen, I was listen and observing . . . and learning how family works.

Wads of my domestic memories are wrapped tightly “with those whose rest is won,” as the great hymn text says.  Last Friday, I was in the kitchen working on lunch while I attended a virtual meeting, my camera and mic on mute.  And I had a sudden flashback to Aunt Esther’s kitchen.  She’d be cleaning up the breakfast dishes and prepping for lunch whilst listening to the daily Kitchen Klatter talk show from Shenandoah, Iowa.  In an instant I felt as if I were channeling her spirit . . . .

(More about Kitchen Klatter.)

From these strong women I learned how to be a human being.


I don’t know why that phrase struck me so forcefully Sunday morning.  Perhaps it’s a result of the physical isolation brought on by this damn virus.  Perhaps I was just in a place of tenderness and emotional need.  No matter.  I’m glad to have had the nudge to remember, and reminisce, and realize.

#TBT: 1998

From First Presbyterian Church, Lawrence, Kansas — a church directory photo.

April 1998.

One month before we had buried my mother.  I bought this jacket that week as I was buying a suit to wear for the funeral.

And Simon Carrington had inspired me to start wearing a pocket silk, which I do to this day.

I had no gray in my hair then.

Getting older

It’s the little things.

The joints that don’t like the first part of the morning.

The slow but inexorable loss of hearing.

The chatter from my right tibia, always telling me that I broke it and had to have surgery six years ago.

The need to put on a sweater or turn up the heat, even on a 70° day.

That sweater thing is the one that rankles me the most, since I used to tease my elders about feeling chilly.  Now I get it.

Next act

So, with the announcement that I’m stepping down as Chair of the Webster University Department of Music on May 31, 2020, I am thinking about the next act in my life.

(Well, I’ve been thinking about this for several years, and more fully for the last few months.)

God willing, I’ll have another ten years on the faculty at Webster, since I do not expect to retire until I’m 70.  Sixteen months hence, my teaching load will of course shift a bit (although I’m already teaching a full-time load each semester), but the hours of administration each day will no longer occupy so much of my week.  I’ll not be doing email at 11 p.m. to catch up from the day, which means time to read and write and watch and listen.

Questions on my mind right now:

How will this act in my life differ from the previous?

Be summative?

Be valedictory?

Engage the community?

Meet people where they are?

Secure a solid financial retirement?

Secure a legacy, if I am to be granted one?

Give to others?

Grow in connection with others?


I have some clear thoughts about all of this, but I’d love to hear from my readers.  Your comments are welcome!

 

#TBT: college days

This is a photo from 1981, most likely, given who is in the photo.  Some of the gents from Landen Hall were prepping for a ‘shirttail serenade’ outside one or two of the ladies’ dorms at Southwest Baptist University.  Notice that we all have hymnals in our hands.

Thanks to my old roommate, Stevie Davis, for this memory!

Oh yes . . . very left of the photo is a 120-lb. Jeff.

Falling

So some days one is quite chuffed, and makes his way home in the ice, stopping even at Aldi and trying to get some Thai food, only to find the restaurant is closed because of inclement weather.

And then one clambers up the back steps with Circus harmony music bag, a grocery bag, and a packed briefcase from work.

And then one opens the front door, takes a look at the concrete steps, and sees no issues . . . only to find that the last two steps are ice covered.  Of course one might also have broken two bones in the same leg in two consecutive years, and be terrified of falling on stairs, and always hold onto the railing.

Taking that penultimate step, one might conceivably go down on one’s buttocks, landing hard on the os sacrum against the leading edge of a concrete step.  One might conceivably also be in quite a bit of discomfort.

After taking to bed for two hours, then struggling to stand up, one might lounge in his chair, seated on a coccyx pillow, a massage pillow perched against his lower back, with the heat on.  And one might feel a bit of relief.

One might also decide to make sausage rolls.  And watch basketball.

Posting for a friend.

First day of school

Today I begin my 32nd year of university teaching.

Here’s what I looked like 31 years ago:

I was music director for Brigadoon at Blue Springs City Theatre. Someone took this photo of me, sitting on the edge of the stage. I had a cold — that I remember well!

And today:

Older.  Wiser.  With more training. And significantly less hair and more gray.  And more weight.

What do the eyes say?