I think one of the reasons I put off answering letters and emails from friends is that I always feel like I have to start them with an explanapology for the length of time it has been since the last time I wrote. Frankly, I feel that part of the problem is that I have been privileged to travel and live in a number of different places in my nearly four decades, and in so doing have been blessed with a large number of really wonderful people with whom I would like to remain in touch. I just don’t manage my time well enough to write that many letters. My mom is quick to point out that I have four young children, and certainly my family takes up the lion’s share of my time, but the bottom line is that I just don’t get around to it.
This blog is already starting to fall into a similar pattern. Some days it just seems more important to go to the gym, do laundry, or even sleep instead of writing during what little time I have without interruptions. I’m not intending any judgments here on the relative merits of these activities. I have noticed, however, that in a few short weeks blogging has become one of the things I miss when I don’t get to it. I find the writing itself satisfying, but in a way that is very different from the journaling I’ve done in the past. The fact that these words are written to be hung out in cyberspace for anyone to read, even if not many actually bother, makes each post feel a little like a letter to the many friends to whom I so rarely manage even an email update, but of whom I think frequently and often miss fiercely.
The above paragraphs, for what it’s worth, have nothing whatsoever to do with anything I was planning to write when I sat down, or with the number of entries I have composed in my head over the course of the last few days but have not yet managed to commit to electrons. But suddenly I can’t stop. And I have to add here that the pair of eyes that today I feel reading over my shoulder belong to one correspondent with whom I have had pathetically few exchanges in the ten years since he left this mortal existence. I thought of him quite a bit this afternoon as I sat in a college classroom for the first time in years, wondering what this veteran of some thirty-three Ph.D. defenses would have thought of my husband’s performance today as he successfully presented his case for the completion of his own. Dad never got to meet my husband—I found him just weeks too late for that—though I’ve always been sure they’d have liked each other. Quite aside from the shared penchant for bad puns and the hard-luck Cleveland Indians (makes me feel sympathy for Ron Weasley’s loyalty to the Chudley Cannons), they also had in common a passion for music that runs deeply. My last conversation with Dad, the evening after our first date, featured a fair amount of gushing about my new cellist beau’s musical talent. When I went home for Dad’s funeral four days later, I found in his CD changer a two-disc set of Pablo Casals playing the Bach cello suites.
My mother and in-laws have always been awesome and attentive grandparents, and over the eight years since I became a mother the moments of poignancy when I regret that my dad has never gotten to play and sing with my daughters have gotten a little rarer. Today has been the first time in a while that it hit me again how much I miss getting to share my husband with him as well. All three parents remaining here with us were lavish with their praise when we called this afternoon with the news that the dissertation was accepted, the five-year journey almost over. Mom was quick to add that she was sure Dad was bragging to all the angels about the accomplishment of his hardworking son-in-law, who managed this feat while working full-time as a high-school administrator and busy father. I know that she’s right. When the Doc’s advisor commented on how quickly he always turned around requests for revisions (eight hours after the defense ended, he is already done with the few changes the committee told him to make before final submission), I could just hear Dad muttering under his breath about some of the students he’d advised who were, shall we say, less prompt. Dad would understand on every level the blood and sweat that went into this unrelenting document. As someone for whom teaching was a true vocation, I know Dad would have been incredibly proud of my husband, as I am, and would probably by now have been well underway to memorializing the occasion in doggerel verse. I wish that the Doc could hear him, as I do, chuckling under his breath as he composes it.
To those friends I never write: I haven’t forgotten you guys either.