Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ponderings of the Aging

Oh, I had a good post as I sat on the toilet last night. Now, however, I will be doing well indeed to approach the quality of reason and thought that shined so brilliantly in the light reflected from the white bead board and mirror of my bathroom just a few hours ago.

Recently, I was visiting my mother and took the opportunity to re-visit her photograph collection on the odd chance that she would remember the unlabeled people and/or places which seem to populate every old collection of photos. Once upon a time, when we weren't so inundated with varied entertainments, people looked at family photos and recited the the information about each one as though it was a catechism. Unfortunately the last time I did that was some 30 or more years ago and so I was making the effort, if late, to catch up my knowledge.

Somehow the fates intervened and the first photos I pulled from the cabinet's deep drawer were of myself, my ex-wife, our children, and our friends in Korea in 1975 and 1978. I hadn't seen these in a long time and these photos made quite an impression. It is hard to believe that I looked like that 35 years ago. Harder to believe are the choices I made vis-a-vis my personal relationships during those years. Things certainly were different then.

You see, I'd mailed these photos to my parents by way of, at first, introducing them to my friends and my fiancee. There was no e-mail, phone calls from overseas were expensive, MARS calls hard to schedule and so mail, actual written letters, hand written (hard to get a typewriter), were the method of communication. It would often take 2 weeks for a letter to wend its way from the ROK to Virginia and an answer might not be seen for 6 weeks or longer. So, I'd taken the photos, had them developed and written short descriptive explanations on the reverse before sending them to my parents.

When I saw them again the only thing that came to mind was, "just how stupid could I be?" While my handwriting (actually printing) was much better then than now, the content was inane. Particularly offensive, and soon abandoned, was the attempt by my Korean fiancee to use an "American" (i.e. English) name. In her case it was "Anne" and our mutual friend and my supervisor's fiancee's choice was "Julie". Thankfully those self-demeaning and inappropriate names were soon dropped but they were recorded for posterity on my photos.

What has happened to some of those depicted in the photos isn't all mystery. I do know what followed for certain. Verne H________ went on to retire as a 1st Sergeant and presumably still works in our old field or one related. His fiancee did become his wife and then 'ex' and his children are probably successful. He's remarried, happily I think, but I never hear from him. Verne was sort of an older brother and probably prevented my making of more stupid mistakes than I had done. Of his fiancee I don't know a thing. I think that ChongAe returned to Korea but I'm not certain of this.

I don't even know if any of this is important, but I can't help but think about it...

One of my fonder friends from this period was Janet Loar Morgan. Shown here in the first photo (third from the viewers left) in her final year at Grinnell College (1974). Janet was a fun person, up for anything (heck, she was living on the economy, non-command sponsored in rural Korea in 1975!). I think I got a letter from her about the time I re-married but I've misplaced it (arrrrgghhh). If I remember correctly she and Tom are divorced. This is one of those letters to which I inadequately responded. I think I must have left the impression that I wasn't interested in maintaining contact since she's never written again. Interestingly, I've never heard from her husband, my co-worker and fellow student of Chinese (Mandarin) Tom...

I have another photo. Janet is on the left in this second photo and on the right, to Janet's left, is my now ex-wife (but then fiancee) outside the apartment Janet and her husband Tom had in AnJong-ni. I am fairly certain that the photo was taken in late October or early November of 1975. I left Korea in December 1975 for Fort Ord, California and retraining. In the time since then we've both been divorced and I have been remarried for nearly 23 years. I've no idea what happened to her but I pray that she has had a good life.

I don't have a photo of my buddy through language school (Defense Language Institute-West Coast, Monterey, California) Perry Fuller, but he's on the net. I have some fond memories including one of hunting quail just outside of San Angelo, Texas and his lovely and gracious wife cooking up the one and only bird we brought to bag. Good folks there.

I thought, I'd best pause for now, too many memories at one time...

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