On Turning Eighty

I turned eighty the day before yesterday. My older daughter Jennifer, who brought the helium balloons to the restaurant where we celebrated, had heard that I recently started yoga classes. So she sent me a birthday card that asked whether I do yoga to “burn off the crazy.” Now that I think of it, I do if you understand by “crazy” the effects of living in a country of people more mutually disrespectful than I ever expected and by “burning off” the search for occasional peace of mind in the midst of all that craziness.

My younger daughter Margie picked the restaurant where we celebrated my 80th, which was back in the neighborhood where she and her sister were raised. Margie, like Jennifer a little girl then, said she remembered me setting off from our house to catch the bus for work carrying a briefcase with student papers crammed into them. That was in the nineteen seventies, way before the arrival of backpacks and laptop bags, and the briefcase she remembers was the one my father, who was a heating salesman, had carried to show brochures to his customers. I took that briefcase to work until it was almost in shreds when my wife Mary finally insisted on buying me a new one. My most recent briefcase–the one I used until I retired from teaching–was the laptop carrier you see below. That added up to three work bags in almost fifty years of teaching college English. My favorite one, though, was that first one.

Published by ronwendlingoutlookcom

My life has had three phases: one as a Jesuit seminarian, recorded in my 2015 memoir (Unsuitable Treasure: An Ex-Jesuit Makes Peace with the Past, Oak Tree Press); another as a college teacher and scholar of 19th century British Literature, best recorded in Coleridge's Progress to Christianity: Experience and Authority in Religious Faith (Associated University Presses, 1995); and finally my current phase as a retiree given to social media posts and photo commentary on my travels with my wife, Mary.

4 thoughts on “On Turning Eighty

  1. You … 80 ??? Doesn’t seem possible Ron. In my opinion, your greatest life accomplishment is you have retained your kindness, great sense of wisdom, and lived according to the higher values. To live counter culturally is a tremendous challenge, but one you met. Happy Birthday.


    1. Thanks so much, Cathy. I have an inner critic that is forever making me wonder if I did the best I could. At such moments I often remember the article you wrote about me in The Hawk way back when I was fortunate enough to have you as a student. What you said about me then–in part that I encouraged student creativity–has stayed with me. I also still have the book of Robert Frost poems you gave me, and of course there was your very complimentary review of my memoir. All that has meant a great deal to me at times of self-doubt, and I don’t have the words to express my gratitude to have you as a friend and supporter. Take care,


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