More almost knowing

Apr 25 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

On the heels of this post I went to visit a mentor. This is the person who taught me to do the experimental techniques that grew into the mainstay of my current lab. The equipment is better, and no more Gould Brush Chart Recorders that put more ink on my hands than on the page. But the direct lineage is there.

This mentor is 90. His wife is 89. Yet, you'd never know it. They are vital active people. Our latest co-authored paper was the first I submitted in 2017. They are models to me on how to age, gracefully, inevitably, and with active decisions about life. That they do not have major illnesses, or dementia makes this possible. But they are 90, and they have many of the concerns that come with being 90.

I missed his 90th bday party, in part, because the idiots organizing it are snobs. He still works every day at the BSD dept in a BSD university. He was not my PhD advisor, I didn't come to work with him till my postdoc, but my degree is from this Very Important Place. With history! And Nobel Prizes! And nationally ranked departments. But my decision to leave a sister-ranked school and go to almost-MRU resulted in a kind of social death reserved for people who leave Manhattan and move to Traverse City. (Do you even know where Traverse City is?). Anyway, they got around to inviting me to go to a party, half way across the country, in a city notoriously difficult to find places to stay, the week before the party. In fact, I found out when I got an invitation for a third colleague (the three of us have published together for over 30 years now), who is old, but failing, and lives in the UK. My email said in part: Can you send us John's email address, so we can invite him, and oh by the way, are you coming? Needless to say, I couldn't make it. But I did feel dreadful about it.

Right after the party, my mentor invited me & my partner to visit him at his vacation house in a gorgeous place. His wife was glad to see me (not always the case), and we had a marvelous time walking and talking and playing with his new dog. This doesn't convey the walks in parks on the edge of rain and storm and cliffs and ocean. It doesn't convey the conversations: catching up on kids and grandkids and dogs and friends here and gone. I realized that I am now the age he was when we started working together. I realized I have people who look up to me, the way I looked up to him. I realized I have taught people much of what he taught me. I miss working with him as much as I used to.

It is not such a bad thing to do to visit the people one loves. If I had all the time in the world, or almost none at all, I think I would go visit people I love.


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