Friday, May 15, 2015


“O, blest retirement! friend to life's decline -

How blest is he who crowns, in shades like these,

A youth of labor with an age of ease!”

Oliver Goldsmith
Jacqueline Neal; Post-Tribune photo by Kyle Telechan

One of the 790 IUN graduates at Thursday’s commencement was 74 year-old Jacqueline Neal.    According to Chancellor Lowe, 75 percent of the graduates were women, more than a third over 30, and nearly half the first in their family to earn a college degree.  At the Genesis Center Post-Trib freelance reporter Michelle L. Quinn interviewed Social Work major Miram Rivera, who will be starting on a master’s degree in the fall and said: “My kids are all here, so this is definitely a teaching moment for them.”

At the University of Minnesota 74 year-old Bobby Bell graduated 53 years after starring as a defensive lineman for the 1960 national champion Gophers football team.  A year ago, Bell contacted university officials to inquire about completing his degree.  He was 9 credit-hours short so enrolled in online courses, which required that he improve his computer skills as well as learn the subject matter. After the ceremony Bell vowed to go on for a masters degree.  The Pro Football Hall of Famer played for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs under Coach Hank Stram, a Gary native.
 Maestro Kirk Muspratt before 2013 Halloween show

With Dick Hagelberg in the chorus, Toni and I received complimentary tickets for the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra Gershwin concert, featuring “An American in Paris,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” and “Porgy and Bess.”  The percentage of elderlies in the crowd was significant but less than at Memorial Opera House productions.  At my last symphony concert Ken Schoon was with his now deceased 100 year-old father.  Wife Peg noted not seeing me in the Archives earlier and inquired, “Were you at graduation?”  “No, taking a nap,” I replied.  Master of ceremonies John Cain, taking the stage wearing an outfit emblazed with an Eiffel Tower that lit up when plugged in, requested that a male assistant turn him on.   The personable maestro, Kirk Muspratt, who bears a resemblance to “Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage except for his long blond mane, mentioned that Gershwin died at age 38 of a brain tumor and that “Porgy and Bess” was a financial flop and panned both by traditional critics and NAACP officials who believed it racially insensitive.  Indeed I was surprised by the vernacular lyrics in songs such as “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’” and “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’.”

Not only were the orchestra and chorus at top form, Muspratt enlisted awesome pianist Clipper Erickson for “Rhapsody in Blue” and opera singers Kimberley Eileen Jones and Bill McMurray for “Porgy and Bess.”  McMurray was especially charismatic as Sportin’ Life singing “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”  Another highlight was 15 year-old Hope Johansen singing a beautiful rendition of Gershwin’s 1930 standard “Embraceable You” backed by the full orchestra.  From St, John, Johansen also dances and plays piano and guitar.
above, Hope Johansen; below, Stormie Schilling

Stormie Schilling, a 21 year-old IUN Education major, has a boyfriend Jeremy and a kitten named Lily.  She works at Meijers and for the past year has been power-lifting and can bench press 135 pounds.  An influential fourth grade teacher made school exciting and was someone she could talk to after her parents divorced.  During the month Stormie kept a journal she saw her dying grandfather almost every day.  He was on so many drugs he called her Megan, the name of her cousin.
  March 26: My grandpa died last night.  I am so extremely upset.  I feel like my heart is completely breaking.  I feel so bad for my aunt.  She let him stay with her until he died and was the one who found him this morning.  I couldn’t imagine that.  My cousin Megan is with her, and I’m going there tomorrow to help with the planning.  They need me and I need them.
  March 31: Jeremy and I have been together almost two years.  This is the first death we have been through.  He helped me get through the wake today and let me cry on him more times than I can count this past week.  My grandpa was a huge part of my life.  He helped take care of me when my parents got divorced.  The vacations he took us on were the only ones my brother and I had.  He’d take my brother and me to Renaissance Fair.  One time at Wisconsin Dells I was able to feed a baby tiger.  When he got a camcorder, he started filming us and would send videos to my dad.  You could hear him talking on them, and sometimes he’d turn the camcorder around to show himself.  At his house one Christmas I fell down the stairs and busted open my chin.  He held a wash cloth to my chin to stop the bleeding  on the way to the hospital.  He was a great Christmas gift giver.  While others gave me Barbie dolls, he’d give me game boys or, once, a pen with a laser light on one end that could turn into a flash drive.  He spent a lot of money on us because he knew my parents couldn’t afford it.  I will remember him as the guy who tried so hard to keep up with the ‘in’ crowd.  He listened to all the new music and knew more about today’s technology than I ever will.  He’s the one who got me liking the band Styx and didn’t make fun of me for listening to older music. I will never forget him; he will always be in my heart.

I can’t recall the funeral of my grandfather, C. Elwood Metzgar.  Why is that, I wonder?  I was in grad school, and the death of my father the year before had been quite traumatic.  Maybe I blocked it out or perhaps he’d given my mother orders not to have any services.  That would have been like him.  Two other grandparents died before I was born and the third when I was about four.  My great-aunt Ida, who lived with us, died when I was away at Bucknell, and I have no recollection of her funeral either.  Dating Toni, I attended Polish wakes that featured a meal and reminiscing about the recently departed, in contrast to the gloom I associated with saying good-bye to loved ones. 

Like Stormie’s grandfather, I try to keep up with the “in” crowd – at least in terms of music.  Hopefully grandson James will never forget his first concert - seeing The Shoes with me, Dave and Phil.  It’s always a shock to realize some codger is probably younger than me.  As a joke, I used to point to elderlies and ask Phil or Dave whether they thought the guy was older or younger than I.  I’ve ceased doing it.

Trevor Bradtke loves “The Office” and the baseball video game “MLB: The Show” and has a younger brother with muscular dystrophy.  Here are excerpts from his journal:
  March 2: At work a lady was giving a young kid dating advice.  He was clearly shy and nervous about asking a girl out.  Sitting next to them, I started laughing quietly and then joined in the conversation.
  March 10: Today my grandma had one of her knees replaced.  I know it will help with her pain management, but I really struggle with an 84 year-old having a surgery like this.  Everybody says recovery will be quick and that she’ll be home by Friday, which I find hard to believe.  I can picture the rocky road ahead and do not envy her.
  March 12: I visited my grandma, and it was worse than I thought.  She was loopy from pain medicine and anesthesia, yet still is in visible pain most of the time.  The doctor said she’ll be staying in the hospital at least over the weekend.  She can barely have a conversation, so I just chill with her and we watch “Seinfeld” because it is her favorite.  I also find it amazing how much she is enjoying Mountain Dew from the vending machine.  She usually doesn’t drink pop, but that’s the only thing I can get her to drink.  My hatred for hospitals is growing exponentially by the hour.
  March 14: My brother and I went to the Smoke Shop in St. John to buy cigars.  I don’t know why I enjoy seeing shocked looks on people’s faces when a dude in a wheelchair does things like buy cigars, but it never gets old.  My brother is 18 and has been getting looks his entire life.  What once seemed rude now is becoming hilarious.
  March 17: I hate to cook but spent the better part of three and a half hours making dumplings for chicken dumpling soup.  After dinner I baked about five dozen chocolate chip cookies.  As soon as I’d take them out of the oven, people were eating them.
  March 22: I was bringing garbage downstairs when I tripped on the top step and began sliding down 14 steps, after which I slammed into the wall.  I’m a pretty big man and wasn’t hurt, but the garbage spilled out of the bag.  It was humiliating to have to pick myself up, clean myself off, and then collect the garbage strewn over the floor.  Fortunately, nobody saw me, but I still felt dumb.
  March 24: My brother and cousin are on spring break and have been hanging around for four days.    I love them both, but, holy cow, enough already.
March 28: As a fourth grade counselor, I had a training day at Camp Tecumseh where students will be going on an overnight trip to learn about pioneer life. I learned about trapping and animal furs, but most interesting was learning about Indian sign language.
  March 31: The new MLB video game looks amazing.  The only problem is that, moving into the final month of the semester, with all my school work, I’ll have to juggle my play time carefully.  It will be difficult.

Trevor Bradke discussing an 84 year-old grandmother’s knee replacement operation brought to mind that, a decade after getting an artificial knee, it has starting aching more and more.  I’m debating whether to visit Dr. K and what I’d say if he recommended another operation.  Stepfather Howard got a new set of teeth at age 90 even though his daughters thought it was foolish.  He’d go on to enjoy life (and food) for nine more years.

There was a large turnout at the retired IUN faculty luncheon, including octogenarians Angie Komenich and John Ban.  John is speaking on World War II era comedians at Hobart’s Reiner Center.  Dick Sheffer told me he was a medic in Vietnam 50 years ago.  Chancellor Lowe, who informed the 20 attendees that he is an historian, reported on the impending groundbreaking ceremony for the new Arts and Sciences building.  As for the fate of Lindenwood, it will go (unlamented) the way of Sycamore, razed to provide parking spaces.  Lowe also announced that three IUN faculty – Dorothy Ige, Zoran Kilibarda, and Subir Bandyopadhay – won all-university distinguished teaching awards.  He pronounced heir names perfectly.  John Ban had a question about two worrisome trends: the proliferation of online courses and college credit for high school courses.  Lowe forcefully defended IUN’s effort to insure quality control in these programs.

I passed out my new Shavings issue to most everyone at the luncheon who is in it.  Everyone was enthusiastic except Mary Russell, who claimed she was getting rid of stuff at home.  Perhaps her former English Department colleagues warned her about it being favorable to Anne Balay’s tenure case.  Searching the Internet for photos of yesterday’s graduation, I came upon a year-old photo of Amanda Board, who had tried to present IU President McRobbie with my previous issue, which featured Balay’s “Steel Closets” on the cover.

The Cubs won their fifth straight, 11-10 in a five-hour, twelve-inning thriller.  In the tenth Matt Szczur hit a fly ball to short rightfield with the bases loaded and Castro got thrown out trying to score.  The exact same scenario – bases loaded, one out -  presented itself two innings later.  Szczur hit an identical ball, but this time the rightfielder fell down.  Unbelievable.  Cubs announcer Len Kasper said he’d never seen anything like it.

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