Old words considered.

Friday, April 26th, 2002

Spring has come and summer, if I were to be honest, has already made more than one cameo appearance. It’s the end of April, the big birthday month, containing not only my birthday, but friends Tom and Steve and Susan and Sammy’s dad and more than one child of some of those selfsame friends. Happiest of birthdays, all. Thanks for your good thoughts and thoughtful gifts.

It was also the month for the big mass-production (heh) of first communions at the Greendale, Wisconsin catholic church attended by my godson, Patrick Michael Mulvey and his family. This was a fine excuse to grab a moderately cheap Delta ticket and zip up to a beautiful springtime weekend which was just a tad cooler by the lake. Nancy and Alan and Kate drove up from Fort Wayne, and we generally made a party of it. Beyond the ceremony itself, which was this modernist affair of kids in suits and..uh..wedding dresses swooping banners and tambourines through the aisles, some sort of croutons instead of wafers, and surprisingly well-performed music, there was we three who went to school together—myself, Nancy, and Deb, all products of an idealistic post-Watergate J-school bulge that continues to surprise me with a large number of, well, employed people who write, talk, preen, and pontificate for a living.

I think I’m long past any aspirations of getting paid for my words—although you never know what I might cobble together in my dotage.

But words are certainly one principal commonality we Ohio University survivors continue to share. For Nancy and I, it’s never been in dispute: Deb’s the most natural, gifted writer…and I’ll tell you that Nancy’s talents are not only in her wisdom and style, but in her energy and enthusiastic output. She started a website hereabouts a year or so ago and challenged herself with weekday updates—at a time when my public words seemed to trickle down to a sad silence. Nancy’s gift to us all has done so much to bridge the miles between Fort Wayne and wherever else her friends have been flung. It truly is like a cup of coffee with her every weekday.

My words, in comparison, have always been so damn meta, words about words, words about the periphery of emotions, words about not quite the point. And that was reinforced when Deb on Friday night brought a thick hanging file full of my words to their dining room table. Thank goodness I had a bottle of Milwaukee’s finest to steady my nerves as Ms. Mulvey led me through an examination of the various letterhead, wire copy, and scraps of found writing surface that I covered with IBM selectric-script.

Oh, man. Page after painful page of uncamouflaged emotional immaturity, trend-flirtation, obsession, self-deprecation, and the always popular low self esteem. There it was, the permanent record I only fuzzily realized might exist somewhere, somehow, in my amazingly confessional letters to Deb over the years—from my unemployment right out of school in Columbus, Ohio, circa 1978, through the early days in Atlanta right up to my marriage (which seems to have been analyzed more in phone calls than letters.)

Let’s be frank: I really did some stupid things, and some of those things I did more than once. I was suprisingly insensitive when a co-worker (many years ago) confessed her attraction to me. I was surprisingly naive just about every other moment of my social existence. And I was surprisingly obsessed with buying a good typewriter when I was making minimum wage. A couple of the pages were painful enough that Deb and I turned away simultaneously with a shared "Ewwww."

I’d like to think, typing to you know, that a powerful message about emotional growth and not repeating old mistakes was reinforced there a couple of weeks ago in Milwaukee—let’s just see, shall we, what kind of choices I end up making now?

Here’s to your wise choices. Put that folder away again, Ms. Deb, at least for a while.