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Memorial for a Bygone Times
Jim and I spent yesterday morning at a memorial service for Bob B, who died at 87 — Jim's boss at the university for something like 40 years, my boss for 6. It seems strange to lose my father and 2 of my kindest, most influential bosses over the course of 9 months.
The service yesterday left me feeling churned up. Bob was a marvel — a small-town boy who made it to Harvard, a man of incredible social stamina, and an idea man, whose enthusiasm fueled many innovations in health care and medical education. But yesterday's speakers reminded me that he presided over a man's world. He was above-average gracious to everyone, but if you were a fair-haired young man with brains, he took you into his family — his inner circle of dinner parties, squash games, long lunches over backgammon, and weekends at his cabin in the Adirondacks. The professional doors swung open for you.
I sat in the chapel, hoping I didn't have to hear one more man talk about how much fun he had at the cabin with Bob. "I was privileged to know Bob" started sounding like "Look how privileged I am (and you're not)."
But it reminded me that women need that kind of mentoring too.
My old grad school buddy Roy flew in from San Francisco for the service. Seeing him also left me feeling uneasy. When he moved away, our friendship flickered then somehow died. I wanted to feel the old spark again, but didn't particularly want to get swept back to who I was in the early 1970s. Our greeting at the chapel was warm but at the reception he was clearly more excited by the presence of other old (gay and gay-ish) acquaintances, so I took my darling Jim by the arm and we scooted out into the afternoon heat and back into our cozy lives together — the past behind us.
Another lesson remembered: when you're having a wonderful time, seize the moment. Appreciate what you have. Few things last.
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