Wednesday, April 28, 2010

School is out

Summer is coming and with it comes the end of school. Yup! At 67, I am still in school. I audit classes and write papers on the subjects I think I might enjoy writing about-mostly in the philosophy area. Test and major research can be a bit stressful so I pass on most of those. Lucky for me Minnesota does not charge tuition for folks over 62. I pay a technology fee and parking. Comes out to about $10 a credit and what a bargain that is. In the past four years since I have retired, I have taken twenty-one classes.

I take my classes at the North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, about 20 minutes north of my home. NHCC is a community college with about 3000 students, ages 16 on up. The younger folks are still in high school earning credit for college classes. They come to the college for part of their day and spend the rest at their high school. We have a sprinkling of older folks looking to improve their education so they can increase their earning at their jobs and, of course; we have the college aged youngsters. There are only two of me-retired old folks.

Attending NHCC has changed my opinion about community colleges. My first reaction was the college was for kids who could not hack it at a "real" college and the teachers were just better educated high school teachers. Boy was I wrong! The teachers are excellent. Most with PhDs and many of them teach at NHCC because they are teachers first. You deliver a first class education.

I enjoy History so I have burned through the history department - at least the European history part. Now I am going to take some American history classes.

Taking classes as a senior citizen it really nice. You don’t have the stress the kids do as they study for classes and write papers and everyone thinks you’re a lot smarter then you really are. White hair and old age does that to you I guess.

A few observations: some of the young people at NHCC are really intelligent. On the most part many of the kids in my classes have excellent minds. They could compete at any four year college they chose to go to. What they lack is life experience and cultural literary. Things I take for granted, they have no knowledge of.

A good number of them are also so very conservative. They think government is bad and are believers in just about any conspiracy theory you can think of. The internet is a where they seem to get most of their knowledge I guess.

The college has international students and many students who recently arrived in the USA. I was talking to a young man from Syria who was here on a student visa. Who would have thought a little school like ours would attract a foreign student? What is nice is that student will be given as many remedial classes as he needs to succeed.

Being retired is great and having the time to relearn stuff you missed as an undergraduate makes my winters go quickly. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Momentous Week to Come

As I write this, my sister Linda has arrived from Virginia, Mary from Switzerland this morning, my nephew, Dirk, flies in from San Francisco tomorrow morning, Eric, Mike/Jess and the grandkids drive in from Elmhurst, Il. on Friday afternoon and Scott flies in from Salt Lake City on Friday night.

So what's the big deal? My mother celebrates her 98th birthday on Friday! This is a woman who has published her memoirs, fought colon and uterine cancers, heart disease, Paget's bone disease and crippling arthritis. She is truly amazing! I cannot believe her tenacity and her engagement with Life. One rarely hears complaints or criticisms from her - she just can't be bothered.

Last Sunday I joined her for Sunday dinner at Millstream Commons, her assisted living facility. Afterwards I gave her a manicure, while she watched the Twins and took an afternoon nap. Bored with the Twins (they were losing), she consented to a ride down to her townhome at Pheasantwood (we still hold out hope that she can return there with a full-time caregiver, to spend her last months (years?). I bundled her up in her wheelchair and then pushed, pulled and bumped over the wood chipped trails of her garden so that she could once again enjoy the lush promise of Spring. We sat together near her small pond (yes, it was full of recent rainwater) as she marvelled at the peonies, lilacs, hosta, May flowers and glorious tulips - what had come up, what hadn't survived the winter -and wondering if the family of ducks would return this year.

So, Friday, April 30th, we will invite her friends in for cake and ice cream at 2:30 and Saturday we will be all together for a large family dinner at my sister Sue's - roast leg of lamb, Mom's favorite. She is so excited and can't quite believe this is happening.

I cherish these special times, alone with my Mom. There are changes in her every time I visit...but why not? The gnarly fingers, the bent over walk, and the struggles to get up from her chair - she doesn't give up. She reminds us kids - what do I owe you, as we pick up toiletries for her. She will ask how did Eric's interview go, how is Scott doing at Questar, and loves the tales of Mike representing a multi-millionaire at a big auction of Florida condos.

Can one imagine the changes that she has witnessed over her 98 years? I remember as a kid sitting next to her as we picked feathers off of scalding hot chicken carcasses - she was so fast - OR washing chicken poop off of eggs, one by one, getting them ready for a grocer in St. Paul. I remember washing four loads of clothes with her (whites first, Dad's patched striped overalls last) in the Maytag wringer washer and hanging them in long, swaying lines of laundry outside by the crabapple tree. The cistern by the back door (if you shouted down it, you could hear an echo, but watch out for any snakes!), the Watkins salesman with the big jolly belly (Mr. Koester), the wonderful kettle closet that was such a jumbled mess and her frustration with me doing projects at the last minute (I haven't changed a bit, ask Bob). I remember when it was too cold to move the baby chickens into the brooder house and we had to place the crate of these cheeping little yellow fuzz balls into our oven on low heat! Oh, Mom, can't we hold them?

She has given me more that I can ever give back to her - happy birthday, Mom!