Counting my blessings could take a lifetime
The receptionist at the dental office I frequent is a long-time reader of this column and an uninhibited critic. She recently complained that the columns have become too impersonal and that she missed reading about my children and grandchildren occasionally. Fortunately, we have just had an informal family reunion, an appropriate excuse to reply to her request.
The occasion for the reunion was my retirement banquet. I formally retired from teaching in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Pitt in December and am still in the process of slowly disengaging myself from an activity I have enjoyed greatly for the past 26 years. To commemorate this event and to celebrate my career, the department and my family worked together to host a dinner in the ballroom at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall.
Sara and her three children flew in from Fort Collins, Colo., and stayed with me in my house. A bit of a cultural shock for me and my cat, but one that we both enjoyed very much. John arrived on a “red-eye” flight from the West Coast Saturday morning and spent one night with us as well.
The banquet itself was a wonderful affair, a coming-together of past and present students, past and present teaching colleagues, friends and family. Entertainment was by a jazz quartet led by trombonist Jeff Bush. The quartet’s playlist for the evening was perfectly suited for the occasion, very heavy on the Swing Era.
As a contrast, the Apollo Quartet played classical music. When Rachael was in middle school, she was part of an excellent string quartet, largely because of the efforts of their music teacher. When we asked them to perform at the banquet, they were happy to have a chance to get back together. Their repertoire included “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” “The Moldau,” “Palladio” and “The Ashokan Farewell.”
Not to be left out of the action, Ian volunteered to bring his trumpet. With Jeff Bush accompanying him on keyboard, he played an outstanding version of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Ian is a high school junior, a significant part of his high school jazz band. I hope his schedule will permit him to return to Duquesne for jazz camp this summer.
A number of people who have been an important part of my life paraded to the podium and said nice things about me. I responded with a sincere summary of my gratitude for the opportunity to spend my declining years associating with a wonderful group of students and colleagues. Initially I attributed the experience to luck; I then wondered if some higher power was involved. Certainly, I feel that I was destined to spend the last 26 years at Pitt.
The celebration continued on through Sunday with an extended family brunch at Beth’s house. She invited a group of my ex-students to join us. Spending time with these young people was an extremely positive experience. They are all in their 30s and far enough along with their careers to have their priorities sorted out. What a contrast to our political leaders and the folks on the front pages of the newspapers today. There is indeed hope for the future.
By Sunday evening everyone, had left for home. It was a very exciting weekend for me, dominated by the realization that counting my blessings is a formidable task.