Wednesday, November 23, 2016
The Day Before
In the coffee shop. About half-full right now (nearly 2 pm). Most appear to be college students home for the holidays. Some seem to be gathering with high-school friends. They talk about the "old days"--and about their new experiences away at school. They seem unaware (or, better, unconcerned) that an Old Guy is nearby. Listening. Typing. (Surely not about them!)
When I got to college in 1962--Hiram College, a block from our home; my dad was a professor there)--I felt a surprising loneliness at Thanksgiving. Sure, I enjoyed being with my family, relatives (sometimes), and our parents' friends; I enjoyed seeing again those high-school friends who had gone away to school.
But, as I said, I also felt lonely. The stories rushing from the mouths and memories of my friends-who-had-gone-away seemed so much more interesting and even more exotic than my own. The names of their new friends and experiences salted their sentences. So my stories about ... Hiram ... seemed, by comparison, so prosaic. Boring, even. So I mostly listened--enviously so.
Because my dad taught at Hiram, I could go tuition-free there. And--to be honest--I hadn't worked hard enough in high school to merit much else. I had a B average, did so-so on the College Boards. I was immature (far more than some of my former classmates), ignorant (ditto), unfocused. I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself now that I realized I was not going to be playing pro baseball or basketball. (Oh, the daffy dreams I'd thought were forecasts!)
My love life was hopeless, by the way. That first Thanksgiving in college (1962) I was seven years away from meeting Joyce. Seven years is a long time when you've just turned 18. (Seven years earlier I was 11--the age of my older grandson right now!) My high-school romance was imploding (she'd gone Elsewhere--had met Another), and I saw no real possibilities anywhere. At 18 I was already figuring in my foggy heart that I was never going to find someone to love me. (I was wrong--but that's another story!)
As I said, we usually got together with our parents' best friends--the president of Hiram College (my folks had known him and his wife back in college) (I knew their three children well--they were the approximate ages of the three Dyer boys) and a chemistry professor, whose daughter was a good friend and Hiram High classmate. There was something very comforting about our Thanksgivings together. I felt a sort of continuity because of them, and one of the most moving moments in my life occurred the first Thanksgiving after I commenced my teaching career in the fall of 1966. I had expected I'd have a lonely holiday (my parents had moved to Iowa, and I could not get out there and back in the time allotted for our brief school holiday), but then the phone rang: It was Mrs. Rosser (the wife of the Chen professor), inviting me to have Thanksgiving dinner at their house. I wept with gratitude. A thanksgiving.
And now--tomorrow--our son, daughter-in-law, and two grand grandsons (7, 11) will join us in Hudson for dinner. We've already done much of the preparation--the baking, the cranberry sauce, etc.--and just Tom Turkey and the "smashed" potatoes remain.
So I will not be alone. I have not been alone since July 1969 when Joyce Coyne saw something in me that was somehow, mysteriously, more attractive than repellent. Oh, how her love surprised me! And how it continues to do so!
And so--for her--for my family--for her family--for my career that I loved--for friends--for former students who have been so kind--for all of it I will, tomorrow, as I do, I confess, every day, celebrate a profound and deeply humble thanksgiving.