RECOLLECTIONS – PART V
After Iraq invaded Kuwait, President George H.W. Bush spent several months building up U.S. forces in preparation for a counter-invasion. As soon as the U.S. invasion started, the Left in the United States became active in its usual way, including seizing federal courthouses. It appeared as though there was going to be a repeat of the revolutionary radicalism of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. The Left’s initial impulse died out quickly, however, when it became apparent the American public supported the war. While it was still white hot, though, Wichita’s group of leftist activists (in which my good faculty friend Dotty Billings was a leader) seized Congressman Dan Glickman’s office in the federal courthouse in Wichita. They were going to hold it as a “sit-in,” but abandoned the project when told they would have to be arrested and wouldn’t be able to get out of jail until bail was set on Monday (the seizure was on Friday). For my part, I was anxious to oppose any repeat of the ‘60s, and I and a few people who independently reacted as I did put on a counter-demonstration, holding American flags on the corner by the courthouse. There were federal agents there, ostensibly watching both groups; but one of the agents was an IRS security person, Booker Leeks, a former student of mine, who told me later the agents had been there not to stop the seizure but to see that I and others like me didn’t do anything we shouldn’t.
Nothing came of that situation, but the following week my neighbor and I went downtown to a pro-U.S. rally that had been called by somebody. A large crowd attended the rally, and somehow the leadership role gravitated to me. We wound up putting on weekly marches downtown until the short war was over. (My personal feeling was that so many marches weren’t needed, especially since the Left had withdrawn from the scene, but the rally-ers’ constant desire was to keep doing it, so we did.)
There was some division involving a limited group. A young man and his mother resented my being the leader (there was no organization and hence no formal elections or officers). I was part of a group of five or six most-active participants (mostly veterans), and we weren’t about to turn the movement over to them, however, partly because we saw no reason to, but also because they saw the movement as a “support the troops” effort rather than having a “support the U.S. in the war” purpose. “Support the troops” is a way of doing what’s popular without taking a stand.
A family out near Valley Center wanted to build something special for the parade that followed the war. (This was a larger parade than the marches we had been conducting.) I helped them build a wooden replica of a tank, and that was what we entered in the parade.
Early during the war, I wrote a prose poem “An American Pledge” that was published in a good many papers around the country. (It’s on my web site as item Ms13.) The fellow introducing me at a large auctioneers’ workshop read it aloud to the crowd, but his intentions were better than his gosh-awful rendition, so I read it a second time. The poem expresses the mixed feelings a thoughtful patriotic American will feel about war.
There were two young professors from Iran in the Barton School of Business, both popular but with one being so well liked he won the College “excellence in teaching award.” I was having lunch with them over in the student union one time when they said to me matter-of-factly, “It’s all right to kill a Baha’i on the street.” That made plain the vast cultural differences, despite appearances. It reminded me of the comment made by one of the Yeltsin Scholars spending a few days at our house when I asked him about the millions Stalin had killed: “That needed to be done; they were enemies of the state” (or words to that effect). Another professor from Iran, who happened to be the chair of the FREDS department, owned a house several doors down the street from ours. When he and his wife decided to sell that home, they had me serve as their attorney. Knowing the house had had serious water-flooding problems that I understood had been fixed, I advised them that any contract-of-sale to a buyer should reveal the problem and how it had been taken care of; otherwise, the buyer, after later finding out the history of the house’s water problem from a neighbor, could claim fraud, perhaps suing them for non-disclosure of a material fact. When, however, it came time to sit down with actual buyers and I mentioned our need to put such an explanation into the contract, the professor exploded, and peremptorily declared he wasn’t going to pay me any fee. I told him I was disgusted and in no way would take his money.
In 1982, I was one of the honorees at the annual “Bender of the Twig” ceremony at WSU for faculty who had been teaching for 25 years. A short talk was given about each recipient by another member of the faculty. Everybody was amazed when the person I had speak about me was Professor Dotty Billings, known on campus as being very far to the left. She’s the same one who led the seizure of the Congressman’s office at the beginning of the Gulf War. We have long been good friends, with lots of mutual respect. Dotty is deeply thoughtful and caring, and welcomes views other than her own, as witness her having had me as one of the speakers in her “Global Issues” course for several years, speaking not on business law but on political philosophy.
The school newspaper announced one year that black students were intending to wear racial scarves to the graduation ceremony. I put out a statement in the Faculty Senate that I strongly opposed racial symbols at University functions. I was on the WSU Graduate Council and its members had as one of their roles the placing of academic hoods around the necks of graduate students who were coming through the graduation line. I wound up acting inconsistently with my statement, which had received a certain amount of national attention. I put on the hoods, even for those with the scarves. My thinking was that I had a paramount obligation to do my job as a member of the Graduate Council. So far as I was aware, there was never any note taken of, or criticism toward, my inconsistency. That I felt the need not to adhere to my objection still pains me.
Our darling Cairn terrier Benji died in mid-June 1992, and it was a little over a year later that we got Molly. I’ll never forget the first day we had her, when she was out front of the house and looking up at me with her lustrous eyes, so full of vitality, and enormous black ears. We used to play ball in the house, with me flipping a tennis ball behind the easy chair I was sitting in, and her chasing the ball down to the utility room. That particular form of play ended, though, when I flipped the ball vigorously but carelessly, smashing a Lladro figurine of an angel that the Wengers had given Ginny after a trip to Spain. Before we got her, Molly had become used to living in a dog carrier, a sort of portable doghouse. By choice, she spent lots of time in the carrier during the twelve years we had her on Hathway. I used to tell classes that the finest teacher I had ever had (sorry, Mrs. Kreiner at East High) had been our terrier Molly. She got out of the fenced backyard one time, went out onto Rock Road (one of the busier streets in Wichita), and was run over. Someone stopped, picked her up, and took her to a vet, who then contacted us. For several weeks, Molly lived in a box in our livingroom, her back legs tethered together. During all that time, her sweetness of temperament shone through. It was a great lesson in fortitude and good cheer under very painful circumstances. Eventually, she healed well. Her main health problem (until the kidney failure that ended her life) was with a persistent skin rash. The ladies at Classy Canine grooming said Dr. Cowan was the best they knew at treating such a thing, so I took Molly to him, who diagnosed it as a thyroid problem. Medicine cleared it up, and let’s give a salute to Cowan for his expertise. At some point, he assigned me the task of giving Molly a weekly shot. I hated the thought of hurting her and became ill by Wednesdays at the thought of having to give her one on Friday, so the lady groomers volunteered to give the shots in my place, explaining they had all worked for veterinarian offices and were experienced shot-givers. After we had Molly put to sleep on January 10, 2005, I went in to Classy Canine once a year for ten years with a box of candy to express my thanks.
While I was monitoring one of my business law exams, a student (who had to have been a college junior or senior, since it was an “upper division” course) asked me if I had brought a calculator. He was having a hard timing figuring the answer to a question calling for applying the underinsurance clause on property insurance. I’d set up the math so it would be so easy that the math wouldn’t be a factor. The test-taker just had to figure what 7/8’s of $80,000 was. When I told the student I didn’t have a calculator there, he fussed with the paper for another few minutes, gave up without answering the question, left, and dropped the course. I should mention that the top 10% of my students were excellent; the bottom 40% were surly, resentful of needing to do any study, and absent much of the time. Classes differed greatly, one from another, with a fine group of students in, say, a 8:30 a.m. class and a poor group later the same morning. I taught a course on Real Estate Law, with each class starting out with an ideal mix of business students, real estate agents and brokers, paralegal students, and contractors. Things went beautifully until the first hourly exam. Then I found out every semester that the overwhelming number of them hadn’t learned anything, either from the textbook or my lectures. Most didn’t take any notes in class, and I eventually was forced to the expedient of writing out an entire set of lecture notes for each one to have. Even then, they didn’t study those. Eventually, I told the department chairman I saw no purpose in offering that course any more.
We and our neighbors were having dinner in a nearby Mexican-food restaurant one night during the spring of 1999 when the husband commented on a purple spot on the top of my left ear, and suggested I have it checked by a doctor. His suggestion almost certainly saved my life. When I saw Dr. Davis, he took a slice off the spot to biopsy it, and the biopsy seemed to show a deep (Stage 4) melanoma (the most virulent form of skin cancer). At St. Francis Hospital, I was wheeled into one of the big medical diagnostic machines (CT Scan, MRI, or whatever – I’m not sure). I was told “don’t move for 45 minutes.” The sides of the machine closed in on each side, pressing my arms to my body, and the ceiling came down to where it touched the tip of my nose. I concentrated on wiggling my toes, and oddly enough didn’t suffer claustrophobia. (Why they put someone through such a thing without a sedative is beyond me.) The results of the test were encouraging: the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes. If it had, much of my neck would have had to be removed. I was scheduled for an operation with a plastic surgeon to cut off the melanoma. When I arrived for the surgery, I was told they’d goofed: they didn’t have the test results yet that they needed. Since melanoma is said to be fast-moving, I found the six weeks from diagnosis to the surgery very worrying.
I figured I had just a few months to live. Each day was meaningful, and even the feel of the bark on one of our trees reminded me tactilely of the reality of existence. Ginny and I visited our daughter and her family in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and on our last morning there I had someone take a picture of me seeing our two grandsons off on their school bus, which I had reason to feel would be the last time I’d see them. When Ginny and I got back to Wichita, I took the film in to the film shop in our nearby grocery store, where a young man behind the counter took it for developing. When I went in a couple of days later to pick up the pictures, he told me the shop had ruined the film. Pure irony! (It reminded me, though in only a minor way, of when my mother forgot to put film in the camera when she thought she was taking pictures of the party in our Denver home on the afternoon following my graduation from law school.)
It was during the period when I thought I was terminal that I decided to retire from my part-time law practice. I was 65, so that seemed long enough, anyway. It hardly seemed worthwhile to spend valuable time working on “solving everyone’s worst problem,” which is what a lot of law practice is. I did continue at WSU for four more years.
There’s something special about sitting in the anteroom of a cancer clinic, knowing that everybody there is going through the same sort of crisis you are. A camaraderie different in kind from any other prevails. My cancer doctor was a fascinating, bouncy personality who pretty much had a monopoly over cancer treatment in Wichita. I was amazed at the charge he made for twenty minutes with me during which he gave a likeable impression of all-knowing cleverness while doing no more than applying to the first biopsy the guidelines put out by the government (the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health; I don’t remember which.)
It’s an ecstatic feeling – a rebirth – when a verdict of terminal illness is lifted! The plastic surgeon removed the melanoma, and in doing so took off enough tissue to determine by biopsy that he had gotten all the cancer. He found the melanoma to be very shallow, and not to have spread. This, of course, was very different from what had been indicated by the biopsy taken initially by my doctor. The consequence was that I was considered cured, with no follow-up treatment called for. (I had dreaded the idea of Interferon, which was said to have awful side effects for a year and no strong prospect of being effective against melanoma.) Dermatology check-ups for 19 years haven’t shown any recurrence.
I retired from WSU on July 5, 2003, and thought it would be fun to teach myself how to play the piano, using a book “Learn to Play the Piano in Ten Easy Lessons.” The thought was to keep it a secret, and to surprise Ginny at Christmas time by sitting down and playing carols. Her own retirement wasn’t going to take effect until October, so I had time to myself to go to the practice rooms in the Duerksen Fine Arts Center on campus every afternoon to practice the lessons set out in the book. After Lesson 5, however, the author forgot he was teaching neophytes, and especially as the lessons got into chords things became exceedingly complicated, with no practice lessons given. The result was that, making little if any progress, I quit, and wasn’t able to surprise her as I hoped. The episode reinforced my admiration for Brad with his guitar abilities, for Logan with his vast musical creativity, for Conor with having also become proficient on guitar and bass on his own, and more recently for Leslie, Brad’s wife, who plays the bass and is proficient musically in various ways. All have done something I haven’t and perhaps couldn’t.
My graduate assistants over three or four years did what they could to help set up my collected-writings web site. It was a long, drawn-out struggle, since so much published material had to be scanned onto electronic form and then edited to make it suitable. Eventually, though, the job was done, and for several years I’ve been adding new material to the site. The internet service provider used to provide “site analytics” showing how many people had visited it, how long they stayed on site, whether they downloaded material, etc., and the statistics showed several thousand visitors every month from all over the world. About ten years ago, though, the provider discontinued having the statistics available, and so I can only conjecture what sort of viewing the site is getting. My daughter, a computer whiz, put one of my books on the e-publishing site Kindle, and a small royalty comes in occasionally from that. It’s kind of fun to receive it, because for many years Ginny has asked me jokingly “how much money are you making off your writing?” The associate editor role for Conservative Review, while it existed, and for twenty-eight years with Roger Pearson’s Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies have been primarily work as a helper, writing frequent pieces, advising Roger about whether submissions are good to publish, and editing. That’s all been volunteer, reflecting the journals’ marginal financial predicament.
I’ve kept a card that notes several funny things written or said by students. There were frequent references to “a statue of limitations,” meaning “statute of limitations.” Also: “Loosing one’s capital contribution” or “loosing a lawsuit.” “Tendency in common” instead of “tenancy in common.” “Contemporary pubic standards” (no explication needed). “Making a prophet.” “Going into bussiness.” “Weather to be or not to be.” “For a fashionable remedy” (instead of “fashioning a remedy”). “Assignation” instead of “assignment.” “Equity aids the vigilante.” The importance of knowing “the difference between writing and wrong.” “Pierce the corporate vail.” And that the emancipation of a minor is brought about by the Emancipation Proclamation. I made a constant effort to teach my college juniors and seniors the difference between “to, two and too,” and “there, their and they’re.” (The better students didn’t need it, but there were plenty of others, who seemed never to learn but who purported to resent a business law class’s having an English-usage feature.)
The movie “Dead Poets’ Society” portrayed a splendid teacher at an elite private school. A student of mine thought he has paying me a high compliment when he said, “Your classes aren’t at all like Mr. Keating’s.”
Our daughter has a friend Lynn who was the time-keeper in a high school debate I judged at Heights High School. I don’t know whether Lynn caught the humor of it or not, because we never discussed it, but there was a point during one debater’s cross-examination of his opponent when he demanded to know, “How do you know that?” and was answered with a stammering “I know it of my own carnal knowledge.”
A class during one summer session had slightly more than fifty percent Chinese students in it. Figuring I’d continue to have Chinese students in the Fall semester, I wrote a paragraph-long introduction in English which I had my graduate student, who was Chinese, translate it into Mandarin for me. She then read the Mandarin version into my tape recorder, and I memorized it, thinking I was giving the same inflections she did. When I spoke the introduction in the Fall class, though, the Chinese students told me they didn’t understand a word! (I should have just played the tape version.) The influx of Chinese students stopped when the Asian economic crisis hit.
I did have several Vietnamese students who had come to this country through the terrible ordeal “boat people” went through in escaping from Vietnam and/or through time spent in refugee camps. These were wonderful people, and I still have lunch every four to six months with five or six of them, even after being retired almost fifteen years. Unfortunately, there has been some dispersal of others, with three moving to Dallas, one to Kuala Lumpur, another to Chicago, and yet another to Singapore.
The College of Business celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2001, and the dean asked me to compile a history of the college, accompanied by a “power point” presentation (together with pictures) he could use at a college banquet. I collected the information and pictures, and got the help of the University’s media people in putting together the power point. The dean said, at the time he asked me to do it, that he’d publish the history, but he never did (nor did he ever comment to me about the history). It’s on my web site, and a Google search for the history of the Barton School brings it up if the person doing the search goes far enough down through the entries.
Before my retirement from the University on July 5, 2003, I sent a letter to the dean of the college and some other University officers asking that there be no events to commemorate by retirement. I explained that I would rather just “fade away” than to have my intellectual work filtered through the words of speakers who weren’t familiar with it. This desire not to trivialize meaningful things through the equivalent of small talk reflected the sentiments I voiced many years before in the beginning sections of my book “Emergent Man.” Nothing has ever been said about my request, either by me or anyone else, so I don’t know for sure how it was taken (other than that there were, as I requested, no events). I have been one of the very few retired professors not to have the title “emeritus” bestowed on him. This may be in reaction to my letter, or perhaps it is an expression of ideological animus by those who decide on the emeritus status. It doesn’t matter to me since it has no bearing on the quality of my writing, which speaks for itself; and, rather like when I didn’t want to ask for any special treatment for Brad by asking that his ERA statistic re removed from the baseball team’s stat sheet, I’ve chosen not to make a point of it.
When Ginny retired from her IRS job as a computer systems administrator in early October 2003, she and I immediately took off on a three-week driving tour of New England to see the fall color. Vickie gave us a couple of free nights in a delightful bed and breakfast in Vermont, and Vermont turned out to be our favorite state among those on the trip. There was much beautiful color, such as New England is famous for, but after we got home Wichita went through about six weeks of spectacular color of its own.
On that trip, we visited Dartmouth College, where my grandfather Frank McDonough, Jr., (“Pop”) had started as a freshman exactly 100 years before. He always loved Dartmouth, and we could see why. The college is located in the small town of Hanover, NH, surrounded by gorgeous country. The education was different back there in 1903: he told of a training table where the students were taught proper table manners.
Brad and two friends (Rich Zimmerman and Pete Karzounas [if I remember the spelling correctly]) started the bluegrass band “Slipstream” in time to have become well-experienced by the time they performed at Ginny and my 40th anniversary party at “The Ranch” in 2003. My niece Cindy Sevilla and her family came from California for the party, and Jay and Shirley Barnes from Wichita. “The Ranch” was just south of 120th Avenue in Westminster, a little west of Pecos Street. Somewhat later, we took a trip to the Black Hills to see Slipstream perform in the Black Hills Bluegrass Festival, and eventually to Jackson, Wyoming, to see them as the featured band in one of the city’s weekly “Hootenannies.” Just outside Jackson, they put on a “house concert” at the home of a local architect. Our biggest trip to see them perform was to the “Grey Fox Festival” in far-eastern New York State. It wasn’t long after that, though, that a trip to Montana and Wyoming convinced them they didn’t like combining lots of travelling with doing gigs, so after that they limited their gigs to the Boulder, Denver and Colorado mountain areas. (It’s surprising how much interest in bluegrass there is in the mountain towns, such as Eagle.) Along the way, they broke off their connection with Pete, their bass player. One of the most memorable afternoons of our lives was when Ginny and I attended the Tribute-to-John-Hartman performance in an old church/school building in Salina, Colorado (a “wide place in the road” in the mountains a few miles west of Boulder). Almost as memorable was when we and the Wengers went to their performance at the Gold Hill restaurant, also west of Boulder. In 2014 and 2015, we went south to Guthrie, Oklahoma, to see Brad perform as one of the “Sam Parks and the Fretliners” band members at the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival. The festivals were great fun, although a little chilly at night (it’s held the first weekend in October each year). There was good visiting with Brad, and we ate more than once at an old restaurant called, appropriately in light of its history, “the Stables.” There was a poster inside the restaurant with the picture of a forlorn mutt peering out and the words “Missing Dog. Blind in one eye, missing left ear, three-legged, and castrated. Goes by the name of Lucky.”
Molly, our second precious Cairn terrier, had to be put to sleep on January 10, 2005. She had been increasingly sick, and our veterinarian told us she had kidney failure, which he couldn’t do anything about and which would put her through growing misery and pain. I buried her just north of the deck at the back of the house, and covered the grave with decorative lava rock (something that becomes pertinent when I tell about my ladder accident). Molly was dark black, with some gray as she got older, whereas Benji had been gold.
It was just a few days later that we set out on a memorable trip. Our friends in Westminster, the Wengers, had a special deal offered to retirees of United Air Lines (where Bob had worked as a computer specialist in Chicago for many years) to go on a week-long trip on the “Delta Queen” paddle boat up the Mississippi from New Orleans to Vicksburg, and back, in February 2005. Ginny and I were able to get in on the deal, which accordingly wasn’t very expensive. The week was delightful, and there was so much food that I came home 15 pounds overweight and went on a diet that over several months took it all off. One of the highlights was visiting a beautiful antebellum Southern plantation, where the trees formed an arch over the long road that led up to the house. Vicksburg, of course, was fascinating in light of its Civil War history. (Ginny and I drove down from Wichita to visit a distant cousin of mine there a few years later, and we were shown great hospitality, seeing all the sights, which included a couple of “haunted mansions.” It seemed the folks there really believed in haunting, but I can’t be sure of that.) At one of the mansions, we were told that Civil War surgeons had removed so many arms and legs that the limbs had been piled from floor to ceiling.
Conor, our oldest grandson, started at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, as a live-at-home student (since Amesbury, MA, is only a 15 minute drive away) in the fall of 2007. On one of our visits back to Amesbury, we and Vickie attended a “parents’ day” at the school, going to each of Conor’s classes. The classes were impressive, and what stood out was that Conor seemed to be the leader among the students, who clustered around him at the blackboard, counting on his lead. The school’s campus is as fine as any Ivy League college (perhaps better than most). Four years later, Conor graduated with Honors, and we proudly attended the Honors convocation, as well as the whole senior class’s graduation ceremony out on a spacious lawn. It was at about that time that Vickie and I drove him to an interview as part of his application for admission to Georgetown. The interviewer must have been impressed, because Conor wound up attending Georgetown for four years with a fine scholarship, graduating magna cum laude (kind of like my introducer’s “laudy how come”). From there, of course, he has gone on to medical school at the U of Massachusetts in Worchester, and is in his third year, doing “rotations” among the various medical specialties. It’s hard to imagine anyone who has greater potential to be an excellent doctor and surgeon.
Logan will graduate from Syracuse U in May 2018 after majoring in “Film and Television.” From age 13 on, his passion has been musical creativity, writing, performing and producing a great many excellent songs. He had an internship in New York City in the spring and summer of 2017, something that often took my thoughts back to the memorable time I had there in 1956-7. Ginny and I listen to his music on SoundCloud, where the songs go from one to another without the listener needing to intervene.
For quite some time, Ginny and I have drunk our coffee out of Georgetown and Syracuse mugs two days a week. On Sundays, my mug is a dark blue Georgetown one, and Ginny’s a Syracuse one. On Wednesdays, she has a gray Georgetown mug, and I have the one for Syracuse. (The blue and gray colors for Georgetown bespeak the Civil War division between the blue-uniformed armies of the North and the gray of the Confederacy.)
We began bowling at Northrock Lanes in Wichita shortly after we retired. The Monday team, which is called “Strikers,” is the one Ginny is on with me. Irvin Dow was on the team for several years, coming down to bowl when it was his turn but also doing the league secretary’s work at a table on the upper level. What was amazing about him was how coolly he handled both, including answering league-members’ questions and solving whatever problems they may have. He bowled with us one Monday early in the winter season two and a half years ago, and the next day we heard he had been found dead in his car. There was never information about the cause of death, but there is every reason to think it wasn’t suicide. Ginny and I attended his funeral in a church in Mount Hope, and I said a few words. Irvin was so well liked that the Wednesday senior league was renamed “the Irvin Dow Memorial League.” I bowl in that league, too, on “The Happy Four.”
Age has its effects. For several years, I volunteered to help at the Homeowners’ Association’s “trash pickup day.” When people would bring their throwaway items, I and the other helpers would throw the items up into a large dumpster that the city provided once a year. About the time I reached 75, I noticed I could no longer throw the heavy things into the dumpster the way I always had. I had become much weaker, and the years since then have just increased the weakness. After Christmas in 2017, I wanted to get up on the 4-foot high wall out in front of the kitchen, and then walk along it to where I could reach a plug in the string of lights to start the process of taking the lights down. It was a difficult struggle to get up even on that low-level wall, and after I had finally accomplished it I found my balance so bad that walking along the wall would be too precarious. Over the past 31 years, I’d done those things without even needing to think about them.
An incident that should have killed me caused me back in 2014 to promise Ginny I wouldn’t get up on a ladder again. Since then, we’ve been paying a very capable handyman to do things I feel somewhat ashamed I can no longer do. The incident had to do with the steel ladder slipping out from under me as I was cleaning out the gutters at the back of the house. I’d done the foolish thing of putting the bottom end of the ladder onto Molly’s grave, without thinking about its being covered with loose lava rock. When I was up about 10 or 12 feet, the ladder didn’t hold, slipping out of the loose rocks. I did a free-fall, landing face-down on what very fortunately was soft garden soil. A fraction of a second after I hit the ground, the ladder came crashing down onto my back and head. Incredibly, my injuries amounted only to some shallow cuts on my scalp and back, and to a case of whip-lash that I continue to feel (though not severely) today. The whip-lash was quite painful at first, and when we attended Logan’s beautiful graduation ceremony a week or so after the fall we sat in the stands while Logan, as senior class president, lead the procession and gave an excellent speech. The ceremony was a long one, and I had trouble holding my head onto my shoulders, there being no functioning muscles to support it. My travail was certainly no reason to miss one of the highlights of our lives!
In 2015, Ginny and I flew to Washington to attend Conor’s graduation from Georgetown. (As we’ve seen, he’s gone on to medical school at the U of Massachusetts in Worchester.) On our way back to Wichita, American Air Lines canceled the leg of the trip from Dallas to Wichita. They blamed it on “weather” even though the weather in both cities was fine and there was no problem apparent anywhere else. After I stood in a long line and finally made my way to the front, the airline representative said we could be gotten on a flight two days later, or the airline could fly us to Atlanta and then to Kansas City, with it being for us to get home from there as best we could. No thanks to American, all turned out well, however. We called Jim and Karen Pinkerton, who had moved to a suburb of Dallas a couple of years before to be close to their daughter and her family. Jim picked us up at the airport and he and Karen spent the next two days showing us around Dallas. One of the places we all went was the Southern Methodist U campus. We toured the George W. Bush presidential library there (although I’m not an enthusiast for GWB).
A little later in 2017, Ginny and I spent three or four nights in a condominium in Aspen, Colorado, with our son Brad and his future wife Leslie. I noticed I was feeling the effects of altitude for the first time, huffing and puffing. (It was surprising, though, to watch the video of Brad and my climb up Cataract Gulch up at Sherman townsite more than twenty years before, and the sound shows that I was breathing hard even before our climb.) When I had my annual physical with Dr. Paul Davis in late 2015, I told him of my Aspen reaction. When he listened to my lungs, he heard a sound like wax-paper crinkling. An x-ray then had something suspicious on it. He suspected “pulmonary fibrosis” (PF), and referred me to a pulmonologist, Dr. Livingstone. When Livingstone reviewed what Davis had sent him, he said it seemed clear that I did have PF, but that he’d need a CT Scan done in order to confirm it. At home, when I checked on the Internet, I found that PF is an incurable, terminal lung disease. So I went through a few days similar to those after my Stage 4 Melanoma diagnosis, with my mind racing about what the best future would be for Ginny, and how I might die with the least possible misery and pain. When I saw Dr. Livingstone a week after the CT Scan, he broke the blessed news: “Congratulations! You don’t have it. Your lungs are the typical lungs of an 81-year-old.” So again, I walked out of the valley of death, whistling a happy tune. Two years later, Dr. Davis, continuing to hear the crinkly sounds from my lungs and my report that I was still breathing hard, hinted that he thought I really do have PF. So in late 2017 I made an appointment with another pulmonologist (the one to whom Dr. Livingstone had sent my file, with my permission, when he retired). The second one concluded I don’t have PF, explaining that if I had had it back in 2015 I’d be in terrible shape by now, which I’m not. He said he’d order another CT Scan done, but never did; and I haven’t followed up to assure it, figuring I’ll just let my overall condition going into the future be the diagnostic tool.)
During the now almost fifteen years of my retirement, I have taken advantage of the abundant free time to read the many books of which I have written reviews for the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, and to write a number of articles. Right now, for example, I am reading my tenth book on contemporary China, intending to write an article about China once I have my many questions answered. It’s the usual process of reading, typing extensive notes, and then writing a review or article. When Roger Pearson sends me submissions to give him my opinion about, or to edit, that takes priority over my own writing. What really takes the highest priority, of course, is the round of daily life, a life spent with Ginny in a wonderful loving relationship.
Roger Pearson, with whom I’ve worked for so many years, suffered horribly last year from a pinched nerve in his lower back. The first surgery was botched, causing a second, and during the many weeks since then he’s been in various rehabilitation centers in the Washington, D.C., area, greatly debilitated. His prodigious determination to keep going with JSPES has resulted in his getting materials together for a Spring 2018 issue, but we have discussed the possibility of ending the journal or of his taking JSPES from a quarterly to a twice-a-year journal. If the journal goes out of existence, I’ll continue to study and write, but probably with my web site as the outlet. My daughter Vickie is redoing the site in beautiful form, much more readable than it’s been.
Early morning on Saturday, March 5, 2016, was beautiful, and I parked in the Lawrence Stadium parking lot and walked across the Arkansas River bridge on Douglas to reach Century II, where the Exhibition Hall was the scene of the Trump rally that preceded the Sedgwick County Republican Caucus. I was there before seven, and so was in time to get a seat that was perhaps only 20 rows back. The crowd was lively, with people of all ages and both sexes. A woman who had been on Trump’s “The Apprentice” conducted some long preliminaries, which included a speech by Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is one of the country’s leaders against illegal immigration. Trump’s own speech was the same as I had been used to seeing on television, touching on all his main themes. After the speech, the crowd filed out, forming a line of several hundred people along the east side of Century II. It took 3 1/2 hours to get in to vote. Mexican activists drove by the Trump crowd repeatedly, flying Mexican flags and playing loud Mexican music. The people in line spoke pleasantly among themselves and, surprisingly, I sensed no impulse to stop the harassment. I finally got to mark my ballot for Trump at 1:20 p.m. Long lines of people had streamed in to the voting area from east of Century II, and were full of supporters of Ted Cruz, with the result that Cruz won the vote by a sizeable margin despite the size of the Trump crowd. I didn’t see where those other lines originated, but someone said, probably accurately, that churches were bringing in busloads of evangelicals to vote.
Ginny and I were shocked in mid-February 2018 when Tom Trigg, a friend at bowling, died suddenly from the flu. Tom’s mother had asked Marjorie Hartman, our nursery school teacher many years ago, to take care of Tom, who was afflicted by what Marjorie thinks was a combination of Downs Syndrome and autism. Marjorie had engaged the services of Terry Lingo and his wife Olga to have Tom live with them and be under their care. Terry, who worked at Northrock, had Ginny and me as invited guests at Tom’s August 25 birthday parties at the bowling alley, so we got to know Terry and Olga from those celebrations, starting when Tom turned 50. The one last year was for Tom’s 59th birthday. When I asked Tom how old he was, he said 60, but Terry smiled and said he was only 59. “Well,” Tom said with surprising acuity, “going on 60.” Tom was much loved by the bowlers and would greet each of us by saying our full names, such as “Hello, Virginia Murphey.” He’d always recite when the next league session would be, telling the date. His death was sudden. Marjorie says he ate a big breakfast on Saturday morning, but was acting strangely that afternoon, causing Terry to take him to a hospital to be checked. His white corpuscle count was frighteningly high, which indicated he had a great deal of infection. It had gotten into his blood. Tom’s organs began to fail one at a time, and he died on early Monday morning, first speaking the names of both Terry and Olga, and saying he was seeing his long-dead parents. The family was told the affliction was the flu, part of the pandemic that is in progress nationally. For it to kill somebody so quickly without his feeling sick more than very briefly is itself a shock. We attended Tom’s funeral service on Friday afternoon, and it was magnificent because the minister, Rev. Jeff Gannon, knew Tom so well and painted a long, beautiful word picture of him.
(End of Part V, and thus of these Recollections)