Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Childermas Reconsidered: My Important Year

“You’re beginning something pretty important, and it will be forever.”

On this day in 1954, actor Denzel Washington, professional wrestler Lanny Poffo, and magazine editor and morning news anchor Gayle King, were born -- as was yours truly. Shortly after seven in the morning, at Saint Ann's Infant and Maternity Home on Cleveland's east side, I came into the world. About two weeks later, already settled into the second floor of a modest duplex apartment, I received my first letter.

Saint Susanna Rectory
500 Reading Road
Mason, Ohio

January 8, 1955

Master David Lawrence Alexander
875 Helmsdale Road
Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Davie,

Before this letter arrives, you will have been welcomed many times. I wish to add my voice to the chorus of welcome however.

You're beginning something pretty important, and it will be forever. You've got a big job to do, and that is to save your immortal soul that the Good God has given you. Dad and mother will help you in that, and will consider it their most important duty and privilege, which of course, it is.

But God will likely expect more then usual from you. You see, you have very good stuff in you, and that makes His investment pretty heavy and serious. So you'll have to do more than most others because of your rich endowment.

But despite the fact that you mommie and pop are pretty high class folks, even they have their shortcomings. Take dad for instance. Somehow or other, dads have a way of wishing their sons were big guys before they are. And so they treat them kinda rough some times. If he gets to throwing you up in the air and catching you, just to make you rough, you better explain to him that you do not approve. The first way to do that is to cry real loud. Sometimes that does the trick; but not always. Then you have to use stronger measures. For instance, sometime when he has a nice clean shirt on, and he gets a bit rough, just throw up on that nice clean shirt. That, Davie, will do it! If even that doesn't cure him, I guess you'll have to write me for further suggestions.

And now, Davie, if there is any time that I can help you to straighten out either dad or mom, just drop me a line, and I'll be glad to do what I can for you. And be sure to give them my best regards, and congratulations too on your safe arrival.

Faithfully yours,

[Father] Charles J Murphy

I still have the letter somewhere, amidst a host of memorabilia, papers, magazines, pamphlets, photographs -- things that seem worthless to anyone but whomever collected them. They are the things that trigger the memories, that tell the story, somewhere between the lines that are their pages, and the dust that collects thereupon.

My Favorite Year

Life has its own challenges at the age of sixty and beyond. One is past the point of building a life, and the focus is on how to spend its last years gracefully. This year, at the age of sixty-two, I am officially eligible to collect Social Security. However, I'd have to quit working full time in order to do that, and my benefits would be reduced.

But there will be no retirement at the end of this year. In fact, 2016 has probably been the best year of my career. After more than thirty years as a professional graphic designer, I made the decision seven years ago to switch to videography. One condition was to also serve as a photographer. Another was to risk failure, but that was less certain than the risk of mediocrity. Three and a half years ago, I was officially reclassified, from being a "Visual Information Specialist GS-1084" to an "Audiovisual Production Specialist GS-1071." And with the most recent evaluation, I went beyond a "Satisfactory" rating of "3" to a "Highly Satisfactory" rating of "4" on a five-point scale. When I was in college, I wanted my graphic design career to specialize in multimedia. The only problem was, the thing that I wanted to do hadn't even been invented yet. The merger of art and technology took nearly four decades for me. Far from slouching into obsolescence, I am at the very height of my career. A prediction of two years ago is continuing into fruition.

While the year has seen discoveries, and rediscoveries, there were sacrifices that had to be made, disappointments endured. They will be the subject of a piece to be released as the year draws to a close.

And so it goes.

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