Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Endings, travels, birthdays

by J J Cohen

Due to the lateness of the scheduled final exam, and exacerbated by the number of plagiarism cases I've had to sort (and one of them was particularly thorny -- in fact, emotionally wrenching), this fall semester has lingered far longer than I would have liked. I've posted tongue in cheek Facebook updates like
Die semester die!
and (last night)
The semester that would not die is now on life support. I'm pulling the plug tomorrow and sitting shiva in New Hampshire and then Florida.
Truthfully, I've been ready to end the semester ever since I gave my last Tempest lecture at the beginning of December. Our revels now have ended ... except that the reveling went on for three more weeks. Winter break will not be long enough.

Robert Cohen, Moody Beach, Maine, August 2010
My FB jokes are rather morbid, I admit. Mortality has been on mind lately. The solstice inspires such things, I suppose, but so does the fact that several students in my "Myths of Britain" class suffered the loss of loved ones during the semester. One young woman has been coping with health worries of her own. And my dad turns 80 tomorrow. He's fortunate: in good health, of sound mind. Yet he knows that one doesn't enter the ninth decade of life with an expectation of leaving it with the same vigor. He hasn't been keen to celebrate this milestone birthday, but I convinced him that a family lunch at a favorite restaurant and cake at my sister's house thereafter would give us all a chance to enjoy the day with him. Still, his distress at this looming number is palpable.

When I was Alex's age, my dad and I were taking a drive to the hardware store: an ordinary Saturday, an insignificant errand, but one of the few times he'd asked me to accompany him. He admitted to me how distressing he found it to have lived his life so quickly, to have to wonder where the years have gone because of their rapidity. "Time stretches forever when you're young," he stated, "but then suddenly you're an adult. Its speed leaves you dizzy." Doing the math, he must have been about my age now when we were in the car together on that Saturday. I'm guessing that he doesn't feel any better about time's pace many decades on.

We depart this evening on a short trip that brings us to my siblings in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. On Saturday we then fly from Manchester to Jacksonville, and enjoy three nights on Amelia Island, our winter family vacation. I am going to resist the temptation on some Atlantic beach, Maine or Florida, to confide to Alex that time will betray him as he grows older. That's a family inheritance I don't want to pass along.


Anonymous said...

On the other hand you have less and less to risk/lose at 80. My f-i-l through caution to the winds at 80 and stayed out all night eating, drinking and laughing far too much for his age. I am pretty sure that is why he is still full of beans 5 years later.

Others have taken a more cautious and solemn approach and fared much less well.

Of course I am adding 2+2 to make 5. But suppose the over-indulgence had killed him at 80 - he would have died very happy and left great memories behind.

Anonymous said...

I am also a college instructor (English comp adjunct) and I felt as if this semester was the absolute worst one in 12 years-- in two schools, too. Why why why? I had plagiarism as well, students who thought they were entitled to the world on a silver platter, and could honestly say there wasn't one of them whose writing I actually looked forward to reading. Usually there's one!! Granted, a few accrued enough points to get an A but there was no soul, no heart, in their scribblings!

Anonymous said...

I mean this with all possible compliments, Jeffrey: your father has the wizened and wise face of a Samuel Beckett.