Just before the final class of her career
I didn't post anything yesterday--too busy (see below!). But here are two items, one of immense importance, the other ... just a curiosity.
1. Yesterday--May 9--my wife, Joyce, taught the final class of her wonderful career that began in the fall of 1969 when I saw her head up the hill to teach her first class in Satterfield Hall at Kent State University. She had started work on her master's degree in English and as part of her graduate assistantship at KSU she taught a section (two?) of freshman English.
We had met at Satterfield, only a couple of months earlier, July 1969, and had already decided to marry, which we would do on December 20. She was still living at home in the fall of 1969 (Akron's Firestone Park), but she used the new apartment I'd rented in Kent as sort of "home base" during her days at KSU.
She became a spectacular teacher--winning every teaching award Hiram College offered (some more than once), and she won, as well, a national award (from the National Endowment for the Humanities) and was honored with other winners (one per state) at the White House. Here we stand with Barbara Bush that day.
She worked so hard for her students--in class and out. (Her comments on papers were the most lengthy I've ever seen! By far.) She prepared thoroughly, taught intensely, dealt with students compassionately. She was a wonder, and during the past few days as her former students have become aware of her retirement, her Facebook page has sprung alive with love and gratitude.
Anyway, yesterday, without telling her, I sneaked over to Hiram, sneaked into her room (it was a moment or two before she saw me--she was so focused), interrupted things, told her final class some things about her, about us, then recited Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?), weeping the while. (I won't say what her eyes were doing, but--let's just say--they were not unaffected.)
I drove home, thinking about her astonishing career, her accomplishments, the love that flowed between her and her students ... for decades.
How can that all possibly be over?
But she is ready--more than ready. For nearly a decade she's been working hard on a book about abolitionist John Brown; she's nearing the end of her umpteenth revision; needs chunks of time to focus on it exclusively. And now she has it.
And I have a ringside seat ... no greater gift have I ever received ...
2. Followers of this site know that I've been reading my way through the works of John A. Williams (1925-2015), a writer I'd never even heard of until I saw his obituary in the New York Times last summer. Well, one of his recent books I finished (Flashbacks, 1973) was a collection of his journalism over the previous twenty years. He occasionally published in Holiday, so I thought it would be fun to own one of those old magazines, so I hopped on eBay, found one (not too pricey), and it just came the other day (see below).
And now ... one of those weird coincidences that rivals in gooseflesh production only one other experience I've had (later): In the table of contents, look what I found ... first photo is of the entire page; the second, of two names that jarred me with their close proximity.
The reason? Well, if you don't recall, the previous writer whose complete works I charged through was ... John O'Hara (you can Google the numerous entries I have about him--DawnReader O'Hara). So there they are, in the same magazine in 1967, one name below the other's. Too weird. Gooseflesh time.
O'Hara died in 1970, so this was near the end of his career; Williams was about midway.
The only other experience I've had that rivaled this occurred when Joyce was working on her book about Kate Chopin (1850-1904) some years ago (The Awakening: A Novel of Beginnings, 1993). She told me that Chopin's final story published during her lifetime (1902), "Polly," was in Youth's Companion, July 3, 1902. (See below.)
In that same issue is a story called "The 'Fuzziness' of Hoockla-Heen," written near the beginning of his career by ... Jack London (on whom I'd done considerable research, considerable writing). Kate Chopin's final story; one of Jack London's earliest; same issue of same magazine ... weird. Joyce and bought a copy; it's framed on my study wall ...
Oh, and you want something even more weird about it? (I just checked.) London's story ends on the same page--p. 334--that Chopin's begins.