The Silence Breakers

person-of-year-2017-time-magazine-cover1In what has become an anxiously awaited tradition Time magazine selected its Person of the Year last week. Much as has often happened this year’s winner of the cover spot was a group of women known as the “Silence Breakers.” In bold moves that have toppled the reputations and careers of a host of powerful men, women both famous and unknown have stepped forward to reveal acts of sexual harassment and violence long hidden from the public eye. In a veritable deluge of accusations the stories have dominated the news cycle for weeks and pointed to a societal problem that has generally been unspoken but well known. The tales of mistreatment have included men of all stripes and have initiated a national dialogue that heretofore existed mostly in the shadows.Many wonder how and why so many women are suddenly speaking of incidents that they kept secret for decades. Particularly among doubters there are questions about why it took so long for them to reveal what happened to them and what has made the present time so different that the #metoo movement that has gone viral.

I suppose that for some the first thoughts go back to the story of the boy who cried “wolf” so many times that when the sheep were really being attacked nobody was willing to listen. Some wonder if the number of accusations has been exaggerated by a kind of mass hysteria, and I suppose that it might be easy to go to that place. Instead I would venture to suggest that the very reason that so many women have been silent is because of the doubt that is historically associated with such incidents, particularly when the man involved is a powerful person. We only need to consider the denials and insults that ensued when a number of women spoke out against former President Bill Clinton. Paula Jones was described as trailer trash. Monica Lewinsky was defamed. Kathleen Willy was thought to be unhinged. Such are indeed the reactions toward women who have the audacity to reveal acts of personal degradation that have been perpetrated on them. It is little wonder that there is great fear when it comes to speaking of such things. When a man who brags of highly degrading behavior with women then goes on to be elected to the highest office in the land it makes all of us fearful of being heroic.

There is also the strange psychological phenomenon in which the victim actually wonders if somehow she either imagined the abuse or brought it upon herself. I can attest to such situations myself that I did not discuss for a very long time because what happened was so shocking that I was unable to know for certain that it even took place. One of those times occurred when I was a young adolescent at the beach with my family. As I walked along a fishing pier my gaze was suddenly averted toward an old man with a smirky grin on his face. He pointed downward and that is when I saw that he was exposing himself to me. I turned and ran away, but I was so embarrassed that I said nothing to anyone. Instead I stayed close to my aunts and uncles and told everyone that I was feeling sick. I have since learned that my reaction is very typical. My mind twisted the shocking event into something for which I felt responsible.

Even as an adult I hesitated to admit to a situation in which one of my coworkers frightened me with highly suggestive language. I kept it to myself for many days before speaking of my discomfort to my husband who insisted that I inform my boss immediately or he would. I felt a great deal of relief when my employer believed my story and began to investigate other whispers that he had heard about the man. In only the space of a couple of days the offender was fired from his job and a number of us felt immediately safer. The news of the man’s departure was greeted with applause.

Sadly not all such situations turn out so well. On another occasion in which I informed the Human Resources Director of the highly unprofessional behavior of a supervisor I was accused of attempting to foment a rebellion. It was long after I had decided that my only recourse was to leave that job that it was determined that everything that I had said was true and that the reality was even worse than I had described. It had felt horrible to be deemed a trouble maker and someone who might be stretching reality. While I treasured the fact that I had done the right thing, I also understood why so few women are willing to endure the humiliation that I suffered at the time. The pain associated with being a witness can be quite real.

My mother was a beautiful single parent, someone who was quite attractive to men. She often told me of situations that became very difficult for her. In her infinite wisdom she taught me how to proactively avoid the pitfalls. She instructed me to watch how much alcohol I drank when I was out at night so that I might be in control of my faculties. She noted that I would be better served if I did not dress too suggestively. She taught me how to sit and stand and carry myself around strangers. She cautioned me to never ever meet with a man alone in a hotel room. She even worried about the moments when I was in a car at night with a male that she did not know well. At times I thought that she was overly paranoid or that she only imagined her allure, and yet over time I realized that she knew exactly what she was saying to me. Her intentions were profoundly protective and effective in a world that can be hazardous for women.

I’d like to believe that there is a movement afoot that will make things safer for women in both the workplace and private life, but when a politician who is accused of child molestation is ahead in the polls I lose heart. When the members of his party are unwilling to speak out for what is right, I become cynical. I realize that we have a very long way to go and that mothers still need to school their daughters in how to take care of themselves. I also understand how brave the “Silence Breakers” are, because I know that even now there are those who doubt their motives and perhaps even think of them as liars.

I believe that we all have to be silence breakers to the extent that we have to condemn the actions of men who sexually harass women. The process of reeducating our society begins with each one of us. It’s critically important that we teach our children the importance of mutual respect and individual dignity. Our actions will be more important than our words. When we condone sexual abusers by ignoring their grievous actions we are guilty of creating an environment that accepts the degradation of women as simply locker room antics. Instead we must send the loud and clear message that such behaviors are wrong and that those who cross the line of propriety will be duly punished.

We must take this movement seriously, and be just as angry with anyone who falsely accuses a man as we are with the perpetrators of indecency toward women. It is well past time that we make the relationships between the sexes less fraught with dangers. It is obviously possible because the numbers of men who treat women with the respect that they deserve far out distance the predators. We have the capacity for making incidents of sexual harassment less and less frequent if we all agree that we have reached a watershed moment, and if we honor the women who finally took the first step in regaining control of their lives. 

Update: In a dramatic election decency won last night. Thank you, Alabama.

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The Number Line of Our Lives

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Last week I was at the University of Houston where I was planning to have lunch with a student who is considering returning to Texas from his out of state college. Our first stop was at the offices of transfer counseling services in the Cougar Village. I waited near the reception desk while he met with a representative to outline his needs and learn how to proceed in making the change. It was somewhat quiet in the office and my chair was right in front of the receptionist who was a tiny young woman who appeared to be quite businesslike but nonetheless polite and inviting. I thought of my own experiences with academic counseling at U of H in the long ago and remarked that I truly appreciated her kind demeanor, relaying a bit of my own experience when I too was little more than a slip of a woman.

My initial contact with the university had been quite a discouraging affair that almost sent me running. I sat for well over an hour before I was even seen by anyone. When my moment to garner information finally came I was greeted by a surly woman who literally barked the obvious fact that she was behind schedule and had very little time for conversation other than that related to the business at hand. There were no warm greetings, not even a tiny smile. Instead her angry demeanor set a tone for the interaction that left me flummoxed and almost as ignorant about policies and procedures as I had been before I came. My session ended on such a rushed note that I felt as though I was being pushed from the office. I somehow maintained my composure in spite of how I was feeling until I reached the ladies room down the hall where I found a stall and proceeded to cry for at least five minutes. Luckily once I got past the bureaucratic arm of the university it was smooth sailing. My classes were challenging and interesting, and my professors were always accommodating and determined to help me navigate through the years of my college life. I grew to love the University of Houston, but shuddered at the thought of having to deal with the business and paperwork associated with entering and exiting.

I joked a bit with the student with whom I had outlined my story and then she in turn relayed hers. She was from Asia and was majoring in mathematics. There were a number of career pathways that she was considering, but she was most interested in applying math in the business sector. She was excited about graduating in the spring and spoke of the many people at the university who had supported her when she first came and knew so little about the city or even our country. It was apparent that her efforts to be hospitable to those who visited the office had stemmed from her own experiences and the appreciation that she felt for those who come to the university attempting to make life changing decisions. She delights in the fact that she is now the one who greets so many of them. She wants their first impression to be be positive because she understands their fears.

I enjoyed my little talk with this stranger who now seemed a bit more like an acquaintance. I appreciated that she had taken the time to relate her own story with so much candor. I felt the kind of bond that two people enjoy in that brief moment when their worlds collide and they are willing to approach each other with mutual respect. It amazed me that even though our collegiate ties were separated by many decades we had both felt the same sense of apprehension and hopefulness as we imagined our lives stretched out before us. I was now viewing mine from the rearview mirror of nostalgia and she was just placing her foot on the accelerator to forge into unexplored territory full speed ahead. Both of us felt a kinship and gratitude for those who had helped us to reach our respective points in life. In particular I understood that her lovely demeanor toward everyone who walked into the office would set the tone for a wonderful experience that might encourage even those who felt lost to take the risks that most certainly would lie ahead.

Eventually the student with whom I had come for a lunch date finished his own appointment and we headed to a restaurant on campus. I saw in his eyes that his meeting had not given him the answers that he had hoped to hear. He felt a bit discouraged by all of the hoops through which he would have to jump if he decided to transfer his work from one university to another. It would be almost like starting over and losing all of the time that he had already invested. He was caught in a quandary that I too have faced, and so we began a quiet discussion of his options over a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato basil soup. The fact that it was a grey and cold day did little to help his mood, and I could see the wheels turning in his head as he calculated the cost of staying put in a place that made him miserable versus changing to a more positive environment where he has friends who care about him and encourage him to make the move as they have already done.

Time feels very different to me than it does to a young adult barely entering his twenties. I have the advantage of knowing how quickly it passes. i have experienced enough to know all too well the importance of being happy. Our minds tell us when something is wrong and while it may be challenging to extricate ourselves from certain situations in the long run we will always land on our feet and find the contentment that we seek. I have learned all too well that life rarely follows a straight line. Instead it is a series of curves looping back and forth often throwing us off balance. It is a high wire act that is both frightening and exciting. If we take a deep breath we learn that most of the platitudes that we hear have some merit. We won’t fail as long as we follow our hearts and keep trying. The clock will keep ticking but we soon learn to ignore it as well as the unsolicited advice and critiquing from well meaning people who think that they have a better understanding of what we need than we do. We almost always find the confidence that we need to be the person that we want to be regardless of what others may think, Our happiness comes from discovering a sense of purpose rather than pursuing a job and concerning ourselves with wealth. In the process we often find that we get exactly what we have needed all along.

I can’t help thinking about the continuum on which we all fall in a kind of curvy number line of life. As long as we are breathing the ray of hope shines ahead. There is always time for adjustments to our trajectory. I am at a far end, but still aware that unknown challenges and joys lie ahead. The young lady in the office is both ending one phase and beginning another. The student with whom I had hoped to convey some wisdom is stopping and starting and making circles as he attempts to come to the right conclusion that will work for him. None of us is a fortune teller capable of predicting exactly what will happen once we make a choice, but based on what lies behind I understand perhaps a bit better that the secret to a full and rewarding life begins with a little spark that tells us when we are heading in the right direction and when we are not. We learn to alter our course and adapt more and more quickly on our journey. We become like  race car drivers whose muscle memories react quickly to bumps and turns in the ever changing environment. Somewhere along the road we also become proficient in rejoicing in our uniqueness and gain confidence in the choices we have made. We ultimately realize that when all is said and done it is in the people we have loved and the lives that we have touched that we have found the keys to our puzzling searches. 

Success

successSuccess is defined in the dictionary as the completion of a task or assignment. On the face of it the word has a very direct and easily measured meaning, but over time we have attributed many different and personal ideas to the nature of what serves as the definitive explanation of success. More often than not, we rarely think of the achievement of ordinary goals as constituting anything worthy of being considered a success. Instead we tend to attribute a great deal more splendor to the concept, and we save it for descriptions of grand deeds or tremendous financial gains. In our minds the successful person is more often the one who wins the race, rather than those who merely participated and made it to the finish line. I suspect that in our adoration of those who reach heights that are less attainable to the vast majority, we have often overlooked and undervalued the day to day efforts of an army of nameless and faceless people who keep our world functioning.

Our competitive natures are such that we have a tendency to rank individuals as winners and losers. Someone who manages to earn vast amounts of money is sometimes viewed with more reverence than those who toil for little compensation. We suggest to our children that pursuing certain more profitable careers is somehow more laudable than doing something about which they are passionate. We are in awe of titles and degrees more so than dedication and altruism. We begin quite early to identify and reward children who learn more easily than their peers, making them appear to be a bit more worthy of our praise. By the time that our kids become adults they have been subliminally taught that survival of the fittest means scrambling for the top rather than taking care to reach a personal goal.

It is little wonder that our general focus on success as a contest to determine who ends up with the most medals, or marbles or toys or titles has so confused and even depressed our young. The quest for merit begins at younger and younger ages. Now we want our toddlers to begin the rudiments of reading. There are toys that teach them pre-Algebra skills. We enroll them in music lessons and sports and get them accustomed to competing for positions on teams. We continually send the message that their interests and efforts should be aimed toward end goals that will supply them with prestige and wealth. Rarely would any of us consider counseling our children to rejoice in the pursuit of dreams that are ordinary. We want them aiming for the stars, which means that if one of them wants to work on a job that seems homely and ordinary we will discourage them from pursuing it. All too often we make our youth feel as though they are failures simply because they choose different paths than the ones that we desire for them.

I spent a weekend with my nephew and his family and marveled at the evidence of his quite obvious success. He and his wife came from humble backgrounds and through study and hard work have achieved even beyond their own dreams. Both of them are devoted doctors who are  considered among the best in their respective fields. Their efforts have brought them both tangible and personal rewards. They enjoy the fruits of their labors and share them generously. They have managed to raise their children to be as unspoiled as they are. Virtually anyone who might meet them would readily assign the label of success and admiration to them, as it most assuredly should be, but the true extent of their achievements lies not so much in their collection of the trappings, but in the content of their character. They are truly successful because they chose to follow their own personal passions, and did so by pushing themselves to have a purpose in all that they have done.

There is a great deal of talk these days regarding who makes the best kind of leader for our country. We’ve tried scholars such as Woodrow Wilson and engineers like Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. We’ve had lawyers in the embodiment of Abraham Lincoln and Barrack Obama. We’ve tried businessmen, farmers, military generals, and even actors. It was not so much those who had scaled the heights of their respective professions who proved to be the greatest among our presidents, but individuals who brought both intellect and honor to the job. The best among them somehow understood that success was defined not by praise for themselves but wins for the people for whom they worked. So it should be for each of us who choose how we desire to live our lives. It is in focusing on the greater good that we find the sense of accomplishment that we desire, rather than in the awards that we receive.

I’ve often counseled my students to find what interests them, and then apply dedication and imagination to doing the necessary tasks of their lines of work with great love. Digging a draianage ditch to the most exacting specifications is as noble as inventing a cure for cancer. When the rains come and that hole in the ground does its intended job of preventing floods, something quite grand has been accomplished. Think of how glorious our world would be if each individual so valued his/her contribution to society that all efforts were done with great care. That is the true definition of success, and the one that we should be teaching our children.

I also have a relative who is a minister. He earns very little money and has few worldly goods, but he is as devoted to his work as the good doctors that I described earlier. He believes in the importance of his vocation and he gives his all to being a guiding light and source of comfort to his congregation. I am in awe of him because I know that he has sacrificed greatly to follow his calling. He has done so with a heart so big that he is touching the very souls of his flock.

I suspect that much of the angst that we are imposing on our children might be alleviated if we were to stress the importance of doing whatever we choose with great pride. In turn those of us watching young people make their way into life must always value their choices and provide them with the encouragement that they need. We seriously have to take care not to send messages that make them feel that what they are doing is somehow less worthy than what others do.

As an educator I have longed to find a way to develop each human at his or her own pace and without all of the numerical data that attempts to squeeze individuals into one size fits all definitions of success and failure. I love the idea that life is a continuum connected by an infinite number of points through which we flow as we accomplish tasks in a manner that takes our unique talents and difficulties into consideration. Whenever we do something well it feels glorious and serves to encourage us to keep moving forward. Sadly we all to often look up to notice that the rest of the society is focused mostly on those whose efforts appear to be more significant than our own. We become discouraged and question ourselves. We feel undervalued and lose focus.

I have seen success on a grand level and in the smallest of ways. It is something to always celebrate. I am that child who wowed my teachers academically but who frustrated them athletically. When I finally learned how to connect a baseball bat with a ball and send that orb flying over an open field I felt as accomplished as I did when I earned a college degree. Because I had teachers, mentors and guides to encourage me no matter how many failures I endured I felt the surge of success in my heart and it was so good. My hope as I travel through the twilight years of my life is that somehow I might send the message to our youth and the people who are guiding them that success is exactly as the definition describes, the completion of a task. There are no parameters of time. There are no rankings of the value of the work. Success implies a willingness to get back up even after failure to get a job done. When the ending produces something accomplished with great care, it is indeed a beautiful thing, and we all need to learn how to celebrate success as it was meant to be.

The Last Lecture

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I love to listen to the radio while I drive, but I prefer talk shows over music. I spent some time listening to conservative programs, but when I reached the point of becoming so angry that I considered shooting the bird to nobody in particular I realized that it was time to try something different. Of late I’ve been enjoying NPR where I’ve learned so many interesting and quirky things. Last week I heard about a professor at Sam Houston State University who’s offering a last lecture series. It’s based on the idea of providing one’s own elegy before death. The prof got the notion from an Oprah program that featured a guest who was dying of cancer who had given a powerful final lecture to his students. The incident was recorded and went viral after it was uploaded on YouTube. Now a number of teachers at Sam Houston are volunteering to give their own versions of final lessons for their students.

The format is interesting in that the speaker tells a brief history of his/her life and then gives advice on how to live a full and meaningful existence. Those who have agreed to lay bare their souls have found that they leave the experience feeling quite fulfilled. Their public self reflections are as helpful to them as to their listeners. They serve as reminders that we should cherish each breath that we take, and do our best to make each moment as meaningful as possible. We assume that we have miles to go before we travel down the rainbow highway, but we never really know when our time here on earth will end. It’s actually a challenging but freeing experience to look back on what we have accomplished and assess how well we have done.

The program made me wonder what I might say if I were given an opportunity to present a last lecture of sorts. What might I tell an audience that would make a difference or inspire? Where would I begin?

I’ve already written a memoir, but it focuses mostly on my mother and the trials that so defined her life. I suppose that like her my own story has a before and after all having to do with my father’s death. Literally everything in my world changed in an instant that was tragic but also hardly the end of my world. I learned that life takes twists and turns that seem impossible to overcome at the time, but in reality help us to grow and become stronger. In my own case it took a very long while for me to regain my footing. I was afraid and unsure of myself even with the amazing strength of mother to guide me. Ironically it was when I became responsible for her care after her first mental breakdown that I realized just how much courage I was capable of mustering. I was literally forced by circumstances to either sink or swim, and I chose to dog paddle my way through situations that once might have terrified me. There is strange twist in the fact that I learned how to be brave at a time when I was most afraid.

I always wanted to be a highly successful and accomplished woman, but I somehow believed that doing so meant that I needed to be rich and famous. I felt a bit ashamed that my biography was seemingly so ordinary. After all who really views a mom and a teacher as someone outstanding? I knew that I was never going to be honored as an exceptional graduate or have my name in a headline or on a marquee, but I have to admit that I made great choices that I would repeat again if I had the opportunity to live my life all over again. It felt good to quietly make a difference in my own children and my many students. There was great meaning in what I did from day to day and that has always been important to me.

If I were to share the advice that I deem to be the most important it would be to follow one’s heart. Life should be joyful, and if we are not feeling a burst of happiness and satisfaction in whatever we do, then maybe we are in the wrong place. Of course not every single day will ever be perfect, but there should at the very least be meaning and a sense of importance in whatever we choose to do. My advice for young people has been to find their passions and follow them. If they do so they will rarely go astray.

I have always attempted to be a woman of integrity. I have few secrets and most of those are things that I do not share in order to protect other people. Otherwise my life is an open book. I admit to my imperfections and do my best to improve them. I try not to judge or be self righteous. I honor and love people and accept and cherish differences. Doing so is the spice of life that makes each day more interesting. I try to be humble, but I am indeed proud of my family and my friends and the work I have done. I believe It gets one nowhere to brood over what is lacking rather than counting the blessings that are always there. Mostly I know that the key to a life well lived is found in the simple act of love. It is in giving of ourselves to the people around us that we become our very best. Being able to glance in the mirror and like what we see is a tremendous gift, but it takes hard work to achieve.

At the end of the day our possessions and our wealth mean so little. We can’t take anything with us, but we can leave behind legacies that continue to inspire long after we are gone. We never know what people will say about us as they gather to mourn but we always hope they will know and remember how much we truly cared. It is in sharing adventures and travels and learning and quiet moments that we are most likely to find our way into hearts. The best among us are always ready to listen or comfort or just laugh.

I recently answered a reference call for one of my former students. I haven’t seen him for quite some time, but when asked what kind of personality he has the words that came to my mind were sensitive and compassionate. I have forgotten his flaws and only recall his sweetness. That’s how we tend to be when someone has shown us kindness, and he always did. I suspect that every one of us would very much like to be remembered like that. I know I would.

A high school friend recently asked me what I would write about him if he were to die. He was curious to know what kind of man I perceive him to be. I was happy to be able to tell him what a positive impact he has had on this world. He possesses high principles and constantly strives to live up to the standards that he has developed as a guideline for living. He has done an excellent job in that regard so I have little doubt that if he were to deliver a last lecture it would be quite compelling just as I know he would want it to be.

It is said that each of us is forgotten within two generations, left to become dust blowing in the wind. It truly matters not whether or not we are remembered in the future, but it is important to be well regarded in the present. If we are careful to consider the needs of those that we encounter even if it only means smiling to make them feel happy, then we are on the right track. It doesn’t take much to find that little bit of heaven right here on earth so long as we simply celebrate ourselves and the people that we encounter along our way. 

Satisfaction

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Last year my high school Class of 1966 had its fiftieth reunion. It was fun seeing people who had dropped out of my life for so long. Since then I’ve tried to stay in touch with many of them via Facebook and the occasional lunches and such that our class leaders schedule. I’ve attended a few funerals as well where I have encountered the most faithful among us. Mostly those sad occasions have been for the parents of my school pals, but now and again we gather for one of our own. I have written blogs about many of those people in an effort to honor their memories and to thank them for the impact they had on my life. It’s particularly sad to see peers losing battles with disease. It is a reminder that all of us are headed in one direction, so we need to be certain that we are getting the most out of life while we have the opportunity.

Last week we received notification that yet another among us is now gone. Harry Butler did not attend our reunion which was rather in keeping with his general personality, but I often thought of him even though I never saw him again after our graduation day. Harry was in the same honors class in which I was. Since the school chose to send us from class to class as a group we were rather constant companions for four years, but I still didn’t know him as well as some of the others. Nonetheless I was fascinated with Harry because he was one of those individuals who insisted on marching to his own drumbeat. There was always something quite interesting about him. I always believed that he would have an exciting life.

It did not take long for all of us to realize that Harry was a gifted writer with an imagination and wit that was intriguing. As someone who longed to be a journalist or a story teller I watched Harry with great interest because I believed that I would learn much from him. It became sadly apparent to me that I would never be able to equal his talent. He had a way with words that set him apart from those of us who labored away at composing. He was an artist who painted stunning pictures with his sentences and paragraphs. He was able to make us all howl with uncontrollable laughter with his essays and newspaper articles. When he created much of the script for our annual Junior/Senior banquet one year the whole class saw how remarkable he truly was.

Harry went to St. Thomas University in Houston, Texas after graduation form high school and majored in English. I lost track of him except through friends who would encounter him from time to time. I learned that he eventually went to Los Angeles to try his hand at screenwriting. I heard rumors that he had actually done well out there and I often found myself scanning film and television credits to see if his name popped up. I really did expect to see him at an awards ceremony one day because I felt that he was that good at his craft. Of course I never saw such a thing but I never really forgot about him. When I traveled to that part of the country I found myself wondering where he lived and how he was doing. I tried to imagine whether or not he had worked with famous people and what scripts he may have created.

I learned from his obituary that he had been sick since January of this year. He had developed an infection of unknown origin that caused an embolism in his brain. This is how he died and it made me so very sad because he possessed a truly remarkable brain. I hoped and prayed that his final days and weeks had not been too painful and that he had been able to read the books that he always enjoyed and listen to the music that enchanted him.

Harry’s father had been a record distributor when we were in high school. Because of that Harry always seemed to have advance knowledge of what new music would be coming our way. He enjoyed regaling us with his insider information and I delighted in being privy to it.. Harry was a character in every sense of the word and his musical insights only added to an air of mystery that always seemed to surround him.

Harry was an exceptional debater, another talent of which I was a tiny bit jealous because Lord knows that I tried so very hard to master that skill. No matter how hard I worked at it I was unable to come close to being as exceptional as he was. Harry was quite simply one of those people who thought on his feet and was able to come up with just the right retorts at just the right moments. He and his debate partner and friend had quite a run as superstars. I often thought that he might become a lawyer but I suspect that such a career was just a bit too tame for him. Harry was out of the ordinary and we all seemed to sense that.

I learned that Harry spent his work life in Los Angeles but returned to Texas after he retired. He chose to settle in Galveston where he loved reading and listening to music. He brought a former ballerina with them and the two of them enjoyed a quiet life near the sea. Even in his final days Harry managed to seem a bit exotic and to have done things on his own terms.

It’s amazing how we never quite forget the people with whom we spend our teenage years. I regret that I never really got to know Harry just a bit better or to tell him how much I admired him. I suspect that I was too much in awe of his remarkable talent in areas in which I so wanted to succeed in my own right. It was as though I saw myself as little more than a hack whenever I compared my abilities with his. Eventually I found the confidence that I had lacked back then and realized that Harry and I had very different styles. I became content to have watched him from afar and to know that maybe just maybe he had found some magic out in Hollywood. At least I certainly hope that is true. I’d like to believe that he lived the kind of life of which he had dreamed so long ago.

Harry’s death signals the passing of another extraordinary member of our class. I feel confident that he is now resting in peace with the angels and cracking them up with his razor sharp sense of humor just as he shared his gift with us so long ago. I remember a time when he proclaimed that the Rolling Stones were the best rock group ever. I argued with him at the time and lost of course, but I always thought of him over the years as that group became my favorite as well. Upon hearing of his death I heard the strains of Satisfaction in my brain and thought of his grin and sarcastic humor that always made us laugh. Thank you, Harry, for some really good times.