Happy Birthday, Mom, and Goodbye Aughts.

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Mixed Bag Special on December 31st 2009 by Randy Reichardt

.: I will begin by wishing my dear Mother, Loretta D Reichardt, the happiest of birthdays.  She came into the world on 31 Dec 1932, and it’s been damn good to have her around for 77 years.  So Mom, Happy Birthday, and may you have many more!

More than a few of those who follow this blog have noted that I do not post as regularly as I used to do.  I’ve given that a lot of thought in the past few months, and realized that the emergence of Facebook and Twitter had a lot, if not most to do with that.  I recall when Facebook was limited to educational institutions.  At that time, I had five or six FB friends, all but one from MPOW, the University of Alberta Libraries (UAL).  When Facebook exploded in the fall of 2006, the numbers began to rise.  When I began using Facebook in my work with engineering students, the number continued rising.  A few months ago, I started grouping my 840+ “friends” into categories.  At the moment, the number of categories I created stands at 26.  Facebook has been a fascinating ride – I have connected with people in entertainment, for example, who I never in a zillion years ever thought I would “meet” or interact with on any level whatsoever.  In that sense, it has been incredibly rewarding.  On a recent trip to Boston, I met seven people with whom I had become FB friends, and it was so satisfying to spend time with each of them, however briefly in some cases.

On the downside, Facebook can be overwhelming and overpowering.  I have “hidden” many people with whom I have friended (will this become a new word in the Teens?), as I do not know them well, and as such am not interested in their status updates.  At times I find myself turning away from the screen in the literal sense, choosing not to look at my Facebook page for short periods of time, just to get a break from the info overload.

But back on the plus side, like countless others, I’ve reconnected with friends with whom I had lost touch over the years, and in some cases, over three decades.  It has been rewarding on many levels to catch up with them after such long periods of time.  When the “reconnect” leads to an in-person reunion, it is truly a priceless moment in life.

.: I traveled more this year than any other in my life.  Most of the trips were initiated because of meetings or conferences related to my work as an engineering librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries.  In the following order, I went to these cities in 2009: 1) San Diego, 2) Boca Raton, 3) Winnipeg, 4) San Francisco, 5) Deerfield Beach FL, 6) New York, 7) Washington DC, 8) New York, 9) Winnipeg,  and 10) Minneapolis-Boston-Providence RI.  The trip to San Diego happened at the end of January, and was the first time in my life I’d been somewhere warm during winter.  It was surreal to step from the plane into 15C weather, with a light ocean breeze.  The trips to Boca Raton and Deerfield Beach were work-related; I had never been to Florida, and the first trip was in March, also when it was still snowy and cold in Edmonton, but quite the opposite in Boca Raton.  Next year I expect to return to Deerfield Beach, NYC twice, San Francisco, and hope to do the Mpls-Boston-Providence trip again as well.  If I attend my annual professional conference in June, I’ll be in New Orleans for the first time.

.: For the first time, my parents were here in Edmonton for Christmas.  They arrived on Dec 22, and it was great to have them here.  In addition to visiting various friends, we were joined by my brother Chris, who drove up on Dec 25 for the day.  That evening, we went to the Delta Inn for Christmas dinner.  Chris brought with him his new Gibson guitar, and on Boxing Day (Dec 26) we played a few tunes together for my folks.  We recorded these with my Flip camcorder, and I may upload one or two of them if the spirit moves me (and if Chris agrees!)  I am very, very grateful that my parents are still with us.  As noted earlier, Mom turned 77 today, and Dad had his 83rd birthday in September.  Both are doing well.

My father, Michael, has been painting on pieces of birchbark for a while now, and when I was in Winnipeg in November,  gave me a painting called Three Knots on Birch. I returned to Edmonton with it, and had it framed by Galatea Galleries on campus. On Dec 23, we picked up the framed painting, and Dad mounted it on the wall in my office at work.

.: Now we are at the end of another decade.  (Yes, the decade actually ends on 31 Dec 2010, but no one follows that rule.)  It was a decade that most may want to forget, one that may be remembered mostly for terrorism, a global economic meltdown created by greed and corporate fraud, and natural disasters.  I don’t know what we can expect in this decade (will we call it The Teens?), but my hope is that we will, as individuals, work hard to treat each other, and the planet, with respect and dignity.

In 1968, when I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, I did a quick calculation and realized that I would be 47 when we reached that year on the calendar.  It’s now nine years later, and I’m still kicking it at 56.  One of my over-used expressions of the past few years has been “I want my youth back”, and all too often I do wish I was young again and could do things all over, but differently.  We make choices, and we have to live with them.  In 1968 I did not believe that in 2009, let alone 1979, I would still be single and living alone, having never married.  I look around and I see many friends from my generation in the same situation, so I’m not alone, but that necessarily isn’t a comfort.  I wonder, will I die alone, without family around me?  But if so, will that matter in the end?

In June 2008, I crossed the line of eligibility to retire with full pension.  I know of some who, when they reach that point in their career, choose to bolt and do other things.  That was never my plan when I reached that point in my working life.  My job, my career, has been very rewarding for the most part, and I continue as an engineering librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries.  Recently all eligible staff (55 or older, 10 or more years of service) at the U of A were offered buy-out packages, which include 12-15 months salary.  It is very tempting, and I have been giving it some thought since it was announced.  But there are other issues to consider, and I hope to continue at the U of A for some time to come.  In six months, I will have completed payments on my mortgage, and am looking forward to the purchase of a new(er) car, and contracting renovations to my home when the mortgage is history.

As the year and the decade end together, I choose to focus on the positives.  I am grateful and blessed to be working and living in a great city in perhaps the best and safest country in the world (yes, despite the frigid winter temperatures and the snow!).  My career at the UAL is great for so many reasons, not the least of which is having a Starbucks and a satellite branch of Edmonton Public Library across the floor from my office!  I work with great colleagues, some of whom are also good friends, and the atmosphere in mpow is always positive and inspiring.  I have a large extended family that care about me and with whom I am always in touch, and I have the best group of friends anyone could want at any time, a blessing that is truly priceless.

So I’m glad you had a nice birthday Mom, and 2009 – shut the door on the way out, ok?  Good riddance.

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