toast to the long since
By Joan Hewatt
THE THREE major holidays at year's end always put me in thoughtful contemplation
of present, past, and future. Thanksgiving bids me pause amidst the noise
and the haste to give thanks for whatever blessings and grace are mine.
Christmas prompts me to gather in children and grandchild more closely,
and warms me with sincere good will toward my fellow man.
of a New Year, however, beckons me to look both forward and backward,
like the double-faced Janus, Roman god of the sun and the year, for whom
the month of January was named. Auld Lang Syne resounds as radio, television,
the print media, and we all look back at the "year that was," and if the
year ending also closes a lump of time -- a decade or, as soon to be,
a century -- a longer remembrance follows. Then, as a fresh year is heralded
in, the "old long since" is bid goodbye, the used slate is wiped clean,
and new ways are solemnly resolved.
As I look
back over the past year, I realize that, once again, pieces of me are
missing. Great chunks, in fact -- father, mother, husband, friends. Sometimes
I have to shake my head hard to dislodge the disbelief that they no longer
come and go in my daily life, aren't there when I want them, aren't there
when I need them to be.
family, which I have always considered to be an extension of my biological
one, was particularly hard-hit in 1998. Among those who left too soon
were three giants of my youth, college days, and these later years. Mary
Charlotte Faris, Karl Snyder, and Jim Corder all joined William Cullen
Bryant's "caravan that moves to that mysterious realm where each shall
take his chamber in the silent halls of death." I think I have spoken
of them before in some of my remembrances of TCU, but I would like to
claim this essay as a special salute to them, albeit brief.
I must have always known Mary Charlotte, for I can't remember not remembering
her in my life. You may recall that she worked in her student days for
Mrs. Mothershead, in the university library, and later as a librarian
there, herself. My mother and father knew her before me and admired her
pleasant, efficient ways, those same ways I came to admire first as a
student, then as colleague and friend. Mary Charlotte could find anything
in the vast resources of the library, and my father was sure she had the
entire library holdings stored in her mind -- a sort of early day computerized
catalog. She could also dredge up facts and figures about TCU that were
seemingly obscured by the past, and sometimes pulled them together in
presentations that were full of passion as well as great good humor. She
was the most purple of TCUans, and when she retired, she found no service
so satisfying as that which involved TCU.
professor emeritus of the English department at his death, and his wife,
Marion, were my parents' friends and colleagues when I was in junior high
school. Dr. Snyder (it seems blasphemy to call this former professor by
his given name, Karl) became one of my mentors when I was in college as
an English major. He was devoted to English language literature and to
that of the Bard, in particular. He was equally devoted to the proper
use of English grammar and once chided me, in no uncertain terms, about
an egregious (to him!) error in one of my published essays and was appalled
that one of his students could commit such a sin. It goes without saying
that I double-check my grammar since then! Both his wit and criticism
were rapier-sharp, but I came to know that beneath that sometimes forbidding
facade, he had a heart big enough to encompass you and break for you,
if need be.
was, for long, TCU's master rhetorician and seemingly effortless wordsmith,
whose mind's eye searched into every nook and cranny in and beyond the
world that most of us see. He believed that the unexamined life was not
worth living, so he looked at things from every angle -- on the surface,
from beneath, and around all sides -- and inspired his students to do
the same. It was he who gently urged me to write, he who approved of my
writing when I did, he who helped me find my voice. He, as did Mary Charlotte
and Karl Snyder, came early to TCU and stayed late; collectively, they
gave TCU 108 years of their professional lives.
note of all passings are inadequate -- obituaries fall far short; eulogies
make good effort, but fail; attempts at retrospective characterization,
such as the present ones, are usually woeful.
it is enough to hush and remember and be buoyed by the sure knowing that,
even though they take some part of us with them to wherever they have
gone, they leave a good part of themselves, too. They live in me and in,
perhaps, some of you, and will, I am certain, be recalled to future generations
for what they did here. As my own lang syne counts more years than in
my future, I look back down the years, long since and recent, and rejoice
in those into whose lives I happened to wander and recall how my life
was magically touched by them for a time.
acquaintance be forgot? Certainly not. In the words of the poet Burns,
I'll "tak a right guid-willie waught, For auld lang syne!"
Swaim is author of Walking TCU: A Historical Perspective. She retired
in 1995 as coordinator of bibliographic control for the Mary Couts Burnett
Library after 18 years of service. She now lives in Granbury, and works
part-time as an office manager for an oil company in order to satisfy
the Christmas demands of her 7-year-old grandson, Asher.