10/14/2016 § 7 Comments
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10/08/2016 § 5 Comments
See links at bottom for the previous letters.
When a 93-year-old correspondence student, Estella Barbella from Seville, flies in for commencement, Lyle has more than his hands full!
I’ve often mentioned that one of the drawbacks of working with a correspondence-course program is that we don’t get to meet our students. Some on-campus students use our courses if they get closed out of the classroom versions, but by far the majority of our students are elsewhere in the state, in the nation, and around the world. Most of the students who use our courses to complete a degree never set foot on campus. Once in a great while one of “our” students will come to campus to take part in the commencement exercises.
Estella Barbella from Seville flew in for commencement last week. At 93 she is the oldest person ever to complete a degree using our courses. She is also the sturdiest 90-year-old I have ever met. I was assigned to be her escort while she was here for commencement week.
When I picked her up from the airport, she gave me a huge bear hug, saying that she brought greetings from Spain. I’m glad she didn’t convey greetings from Europe, or I’d be in traction. I always picture people in their nineties as skinny. The best adjective for Estella is “hefty.” The soil in her part of Seville must provide 100% of the recommended daily doses of vitamins A-Z plus zinc, because Estella had more vim than a speedboat and more vigor than a training camp for wilderness guides. She spoke enough English that we didn’t need a translator.
My first premonition of trouble was when she announced that she had packed a sturdy pair of walking shoes for each day of her visit.
We had made arrangements for Estella to stay with our region’s most famous resident from Europe, the Contessa Maria Nervosa, a frail woman a few years younger than Estella. When I saw that Estella was going to hug the contessa, I feared involuntary manslaughter, so I distracted both of them by saying, “Oh, would you look at THAT!” This gave me about 1.5 seconds to find a THAT important enough to interrupt a hug.
Fortunately, during that 1.5 seconds a unicorn emerged from the bushes to the wonderment of Estella and the contessa. It was really a deer with a branch caught on its head, but it filled a need.
Once Estella was installed at the contessa’s, I had to take both of them on a tour of town. Estella had me stop the car about every block so we could get a picture of her in front of an American pharmacy or an American war memorial or an American shoe store. She ducked into the latter, convinced she was going to need more walking shoes.
Finally, we just gave up the driving tour and set out on foot.
The contessa was about one-twenty-third as sturdy as Estella and had the vim of a dish drainer and the vigor of sand. After about 5 blocks she was winded and begged to go back to the car. Estella would have none of it, so she carried the contessa the rest of the day. The sight of a robust 93-year- old woman carrying a frail octogenarian around town resulted in more than one fender bender.
When we got back to the contessa’s house, she refused to let Estella carry her across the threshold, saying that European women should never do such a thing. Evidently, it had nothing to do with a marriage ritual. It would have made them sorority sisters.
The only other noteworthy event of Estella’s graduation experience was when the freshly graduated students threw their mortarboards into the air during the outdoor ceremony. Estella’s traveled four times farther than anyone else’s, striking and killing a large migratory bird.
When Estella went to hug me after I dropped her off at the airport, I said, “Oh, would you look at THAT,” but could spot no unicorns inside the perimeter fence. I think she caught on, because she shook my hand instead.
I will never again be able to use a hand tool that requires any kind of torque.
[Excerpt from: More Later: Lyle’s Letters from the University, Red Axe Books, UK, 2015. The book contains 42 letters.]
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10/07/2016 § 15 Comments