Thursday, January 17, 2013

From Dave Schneider ~ Regrets and Remberances

Dear Classmates,
First I should say that I’m sorry I missed the 50th. I had planned to come – even had plane and motel reservations – but in the end it just got too complicated. I had planned a trip to Paris for April which I ended up not doing at the last minute for uninteresting reasons, but I went to Cambridge, MA to visit friends as well as pretending to do some scholarship over many ales, and made 2 trips to the Bay Area for grandparent duty last spring. In addition I was scheduled to go on a teaching assignment in China for 8 weeks in late June. It just got to be too much traveling in such a short time. And as we all know traveling by plane these days isn’t what it used to be.
The week before I was scheduled to leave for China I had a pleasant visit from our classmate Mike Davis (more on that in a bit) and then fell and broke my ankle 5 days before I was to leave. The ankle injury was serious (I now have enough metal in the ankle to insure that I’ll never get through airport security unscathed again), and in general I don’t recommend it. I’m fairly certain that the cause was my having bragged a few days before that I had never spent a night in the hospital. There are forces in the universe that pay attention to such boasts and act vengefully. So China got cancelled. I spent 2 months hopping behind a walker and another 2 months walking, sort of, but undergoing intense physical therapy (for the atrophied leg muscles as well as the ankle).
I’m now back to normal more or less with the occasional aches and pains – for all I know it’s that old age I keep hearing about. As I say I don’t recommend it, but I also realize that at our age this is not the worst thing that might happen. Otherwise I’m in great health except for a slight touch of diabetes, well controlled with magic pills, lots of exercise, and losing 50 pounds. It has, however, put a dent in my ale, donut, and ice cream passions (not at the same time), and Mexican food has become a luxury as well. My doctor insists that such eating habits caused the diabetes in the first place, but I’m convinced that it’s punishment for larger sins. Fortunately I like fruit and veggies.
I’ve been officially retired for a couple of years, but the nice part about being a college professor is that the lines between employment and retirement are dim. Until last year I had been teaching a couple of courses a year, but I’m taking this year off – maybe permanently. Office space is at a premium at Rice these days, so I’m in the process of vacating my office which I guess makes retirement seem rather permanent. Going through 50 years of accumulated stuff and deciding what to send to the trash can has been somewhat painful, and it’s been going slowly. Of course, I’ve also been discovering all sorts of memos and correspondence that have reminded me of things I had forgot. I even ran across grade books from my early days teaching at Amherst, Brandeis, and Stanford and miraculously even managed to generate some faces to go with some of the names. Wonder what’s happened to those kids (as they were then). It’s shocking to realize that some of them have probably met their maker, and others are retired and maybe even rich or homeless. They’re old by now, and what that makes me, I refuse to contemplate. I’ve stopped doing research, but I do have what will probably be my last book (on prejudice this time) at the publisher in manuscript form. Not looking forward to the revisions. 
As I mentioned Kappa Sig fraternity brother Mike Davis found his way to Houston recently with his charming French wife and daughter. Mike is retired from the foreign service and now lives in Marseilles. I had forgot that he actually got a PhD in history from Rice, so we did a mini-tour of the campus, much changed since his time here in the early 60s. It is a beautiful campus which has managed to keep some architectural integrity as it’s added an uncountable number of new buildings over the past 40 or so years. It was good to see Mike.
Life is good. We live close to Rice so I take in most sporting events (a labor of love and lost cause given their performances except in baseball and the country club sports– well, we did win a bowl game of sorts this past December). There’s lots of good music at the music school, one of the best in the country, and we also do opera at various venues around town, theater, etc.  I have been a docent at the local art museum for several years, and find explaining the higher mysteries of art to mostly 3rd and 4th graders with the occasional middle school, high school, or college group great fun and highly rewarding. Art has become a love of my middle age and beyond (I refuse to say old or elderly). I have been, on and off, doing other sorts of volunteer work, AIDs clinic and various groups of those whose lives are less fortunate  than mime – mostly working with kids. 
Our oldest daughter, Kris, lives about an hour away. She graduated from Austin College (north of Dallas) which except for the women reminded me a lot of Wabash – small and the same commitment to real education and a warm environment. You might be interested to get a copy of Loren Pope’s 40 Colleges That Change Lives (an approximate title) which gives rave reviews both to Austin College and Wabash. Kris works as a legal consultant for Hartford insurance, and her husband, Scott is a claims adjuster for Chubb; he spent most of November and December in New Jersey doing what claims adjusters do – hopefully helping out some. They have two children. Daughter Alyssa is a freshman in college, and son Taylor is a sophomore in high school.
Our daughter Caitlin and her husband both graduated from Stanford with law and business degrees from University of Virginia; they refuse to leave the Bay Area and live in San Carlos. She is a judge with EEOC, meaning she judges discrimination and sexual harassment cases in the federal government. Tommy, her husband, works for Financial Engines, doing whatever people there do. I’ve yet to figure out what that is. Two boys, one in 7th grade, the other in 4th. For reasons of modesty I’ll refrain from listing all the brilliant grandchildren accomplishments. And then there’s the fact that they inherited none of this from me; my daughters married well genetically. I also had no role in their upbringing – arguably all to the good. Still, one does take unwarranted credit from time to time, typically in the annual Christmas letter.
Some of you will remember my wife Doris who is aging better than I and who keeps busy with various activities, many of which seem to involve reminding me of my obligations and duties as well as my various delinquencies. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in Kauai in December, and then did the Christmas thing with grandchildren in California.
This is beginning to sound like one of those dreadful Christmas messages we’ve all got, and for that I’m sorry. I have the conceit that some of our classmates may actually be interested given that I’ve been off the Wabash radar for some years. But for those of you who can’t quite put a face to this name, it’s sufficient to know that I think I’ve aged gracefully and thrive as much as one can at this point of life. And, as I say, sorry to have missed the 50th.
Dave Schneider

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