I am the fourth of seven children from a traditional Catholic Irish family. This family was far from ideal, but the deeper we go into our progressive-ideological-belief in self world, the better my flawed family looks. The only distinguishing parenting practice that rubbed off on us was this: get over yourself. Still a good parenting practice, though rarely enforced.
Given that our unsanitized brood was mostly boys, I always wanted girls and am grateful that I have three daughters. Still, as I get older I am starting to miss not having had boys. I haven't got the nerve to tell the girls--and Cara my wife for that matter--but I've decided I really need to have four baby boys, just to round things off to seven. I hope they don't read this until I get my strategy down. Could take some stealth and planning. Also might be tough to keep a secret from Cara for long.
The Irish Catholic contribution to this story is suffering. My brother Mike and I were drawn to the loneliness of the long distance runner; that is, running for me, and cycling for Mike. The self-flagellation of several decades competing has pathetically morphed into a 6:30 a.m. jaunt with my Portuguese Water Dog Zigo, who I am fairly certain is not covered under Human Rights legislation. I like to think Zigo accompanies me as a devoted friend; he likes to think its a hell of an indignity to endure for a cheesy piece of cheese at the end of the run.
I've worked at Carleton since the 1920's, and am Director of the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities. When people comment on my longevity using words such as 'continuity' or 'consistency,' I always nod my head in agreement, knowing full well that the truth is no one else would have me. Serious thought (it had to happen): I've had the privilege of working with the people I admire most these 30 or so years. By the way, in the 1920's I was only a teenager.
My undergrad degree was in English Literature, so I should say Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dickens were my inspiration for, first reading, followed by a burning desire to write. Sadly no, my mentor, muse and magic came from the Hardy Boys. Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dickens just didn't seem to have the depth and insight of Franklin W. Dixon.
Stripped down, life seems to be about what happens between humans, human-centric beast that I am. Art, literature, love, hate, sex, resentment, forgiveness; it all comes down to an exchange, sent and received, understood or misunderstood. Today's tumble under the sheets, insightful words from Shakespeare 500 years old, and what we might leave for others down the road; we sail through time in dialogue, that is our life.
In between all the obligation, distraction and procrastination of my life, I've always been pulled back to the written word. If life is what happens when we're not paying attention, I want to grab and distill a few frames from life while I'm paying attention, and hopefully earn your attention too, many times divided as it may be. We all desire an audience. Writers are simply the most pathetic creatures trying to draw your attention and catch your breath. Though the attention seeking impulse seems to increase with age, my excuse begins in childhood, as the middle little shiit in a big Irish, Catholic brood.
Thanks for your paying attention.