A Life Well Lived

Lydia_posed_3 sized

Good early morning,

As I write this it is early morning, and even though I went to bed pretty exhausted, it is a little after 3:00 and I am awake. I think I actually woke up because of a dream. I think that I was dreaming about Lydia. Perhaps it is a combination of the phone calls received and that I was dreaming of her. It is hard to believe I have been in her life for 10 years now. She has probably influenced my life as much as anyone in my adult life. Little did I know when I was first told about by Elaine, our mutual neighbor, what sort of consequence she would have. I still remember clearly our first meeting. She was tiny, yet with a commanding presence. She had a sweet and somewhat vulnerable tone to her voice along with one of the strongest German accents I had ever heard. After a single sentence I asked, Lydia, sprechen Sie Deutsch? Sie hat geantwortet, “Natürlich , ich bin Österreicher.” Dann habe ich zu Ihren in Deutsch gesprochen. Am Ende unseres Gesprächs über meine Miete ihrem Wagen Haus, lächelte sie und sagte, “Michael, können Sie Tür an Tür mit mir zu leben.” Das war die erste Nacht, was andere Art von Familienbeziehung begonnen. Ich würde schließlich das Kind, das sie nicht geboren geworden war und sie die Eltern hatte ich nicht mehr geworden ist. Me gustaría poder componer en medio español lo más rápido y correctamente como lo hago en alemán. Yes, along with this sentence there are three languages in the last five or six sentences.

I am completely fascinated with languages, speaking and comprehending them, at this point. I want to soak them up I want them to permeate every molecule of my existence. When I can speak and comprehend, I begin to understand and truly know someone and something. I would to go away and just study language about 8-10 hours a day, perhaps learning a different language on alternate days. MWF Spanish and TR another language, Polish or Russian or I don’t know, perhaps French. I want to be fluent in at least 5 languages. Lydia spoke four so I know it can be done. I loved listening to her speak both Polish and German.

If you have been reading my blog over time (including previous blogs on blogsome, which are no longer available), you know that Lydia has been a part of my life for quite some time; I am realizing it is 10 years. That was actually a bit shocking to me. Even more so that half of it had been from a distance, and a significant distance at that. What I have learned is that Lydia became a central person and a parent to me. She was the person for whom I cooked, I chauffeured, I shopped with or for, and I provided a sense of security for. She had, in many ways, chased many people away. In addition, her reclusiveness created a barrier for many and her accent only seemed to accentuate her unreachable aura. What I learned one the first times I was in her house was how incredible her heart cared and deep her compassion actually ran. She found an ant on her kitchen counter. If I found said insect, it would be toast. She instead picked it up by letting it walk on a napkin and then took it outside. I was in awe of what I witnessed that day. On the other hand, she had little tolerance for stupidity. While she was frugal, for the most part, she was also generous.

As I am writing, it is now Wednesday evening. I am terrifically tired. I had two of my favorite students over for dinner. They have been friends since the first summer I had them in Foundations. It was actually Composition I then. They came for dinner last week and we have decided this will be a standing Wednesday night get together. The two of them together are bend-over-and-hold-your-stomach hilarious. They had me laughing almost continuously, and they are so gracious. It is enjoyable to be with them. I am helping one with grad school applications and the other will probably doing similar things soon. It is a frightening time. Even though It has been a while, I remember sitting on the grad committee for the RTC program at Michigan Tech. I think of even now when we have to rank people in the department for temporary positions. I actually hurt when we have to do that. We are deciding peoples’ lives. I think seriously about people we do not rank in a certain order. These are people I am around every day. I think about my own experience with evaluations and if there were ever a real life Tail of Two Cities in this realm, my time at Stout and the difference here would be such a tale.

I am headed out to a conference tomorrow early and I am fortunate to be going to a conference I thoroughly enjoy. The presentation has come together remarkably well with the help of my co-presenter and the extended family so to speak. I have not seen the final product, but I am waiting on it as I write this. I am not fearful as I was about two weeks ago. It has been an unbelievable process and I think I have put more effort into this presentation than any other (with the exception of my comprehensive exams or my dissertation). I have been more analytical in considering data and method because I am committed to publishing everything I do now. That is necessary for me to get promoted and that is my next significant goal. There is the immediate goal of being as healthy as I can and I am working pretty diligently on that, though the last couple weeks have kicked me a little. I have too much on my plate, but I am not sure what I can jettison. I am stepping back on a couple things at school, but a couple of bigger things have been added. The next couple of weeks will need to be productive to about the 5th power. I need to get some programmatic things out and I need to get some things off to Utah. I think I will be in my hotel room working a lot during this conference.

The last couple days have been spent with an intentional focus on Lydia’s needs and the larger picture of her life. Again, as my title offers, her life has been a life well lived. It is hard to believe that she has been on her own in some fashion for 19 years. She is an interesting oxymoron. She was profoundly independent and yet unbelievably dependent. She appreciated her solitude but always wanted someone around. She could be unbelievably tough and exceptionally caring. I think I brought something positive into her life. Maybe it was getting her on the back of my Harley. Maybe it was knowing that she could depend on the breakfast every morning. Maybe it was because I got the bats out of her house, though not quick enough for back for Becky. I remember the first thunderstorm and she told me we had to move George. I did not understand. What I soon learned was that George was in an urn in the sitting room and in case of storm we moved him to a more protected space. Of course then there was Lydia and her fear of storms was unequaled. She would hide in the basement with your weather radio shaking like a leaf. And her Austrian accent she would exclaim, “Michael, it’s going to be a catastrophe!” I would reply, “Lydia, you are
catastrophe.” I also knew you would have the weather scoped out before even the weatherperson did.

One thing I regret is that I never could get you to travel. I think about that as I am once again on a plane, but flying completely across the country to present at a conference. I wonder what you would been like doing such a thing. I know that I struggled getting you to go even to Hudson let alone consider a flight to your homeland. You lived in multiple countries and various states (I guess only two states). I wonder what you were like when you lived in England? I wonder what you were like as a doctoral student? I wonder if you knew more than I did that when you started at Northwestern that you would become a professor. I do not think I even had it completely figured out when I began that second masters at Michigan Tech. What I know is while your amazing eyes do not blaze quite so vibrantly, you had a keen brain and your read your WSJ every day. You listened to the news and NPR and you were always thinking. Now I think of you continuously and love you more deeply. Lydia, Sie haben mein Leben geändert. Sie haben es möglich für mich gemacht, anderen zu helfen, wie Sie mir halfen. Wegen Ihrer habe ich auf Arten gegeben, wie von ich nur geträumt haben könnte. Sie erinnerten mich daran, wie wichtige Sprache und Kultur sind und deswegen ich an einer anderen Sprache arbeite. Sie sind die Mutter, die ich nicht mehr hatte, und ich wurde der Sohn, den du außerste Stande waren zu haben. Gott arbeitet auf mysteriöse Weisen. Ich werde von dich gesegnet, und ich weiß, dass wir einander wieder sehen werden. Ich liebe dich mit meinem ganzen Herzen.

To the rest reading, I have simply told Lydia how much she changed my life and because of her help, I could help others. She has embodied the “pay it forward” concept for me. I love her deeply.

Thanks for reading

Michael

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