GHD-1981

(And now that I have your attention, let’s start over and I’ll see if I can control my exuberance):

Since I last wrote, I have become a sexagenarian. It is, of course, a distinction which is highly dependent upon the fact that we express our numbers to the base 10. For example, if ours was an octal civilization, I would be a venerable but not particularly memorable 74, whereas to a hexadecimalist, I am only an insignificant 30. However, conventional though it may be, there is one area where my new-found status pays a real dividend. In December I ran the Fiesta Bowl Marathon in Phoenix and finished 4th in the category “Men–60–65,” an accomplishment for which I received a bronze medal. All this despite the fact that over 1400 men (and lots of women) including 40 or so over 50 finished ahead of me. So take heart, all you immature competitors. You, too, may someday grow old and win a medal!

A less specific, but far more important use of milestones such as achieving sexagenarianism is that they remind us to reflect on the events and the people which led up to them. And I regard myself as particularly fortunate in my choice of ancestors and descendents. Grandparents and a father who lived well into their 80s and were healthy to the end. My Mother who was nn when I was born and is still going strong.   At the other extreme, let me express my condolences to all of you who only have 1 grandchild. Yes, since last I wrote (on September 16, 1980, to be specific), Miriam Hodge Greenberg joined the family. And a wonderful addition she is, too. I believe I mentioned earlier what an unbelievably perfect person her sister April was (and at 3-going-on-4 she is even more lovely, intelligent, and precocious than she was last year at 2-going-on-3). Well, one can’t and shouldn’t make comparisons so let’s just put it that as of right now there is no infant who is sweeter, cuddlier, and prettier than Miriam — and if any grandmother or grandfather* wants to challenge that statement I invite him or her to enter the Manitoba Marathon next June!

* Challenge does not apply to grandfathers under fifty. 

M and A’s parents, Sue and David, are discovering for themselves the previously unknown fact that it is more difficult, complicated, and time-consuming to carry on two professional careers and raise two children than it was with only one child. But they are doing real well at it. Sue is an Assistant Professor of Biomathematics at the UCLA medical school with an imposing list of publications and beginning to get offers from elsewhere, and David is an Assistant Geneticist in Pediatrics at the UCLA Harbor Medical Center. They have rented a house in Los Angeles and needless to say, we visit them every chance we get.

Son Philip is once again a bachelor in fact as well as in name. Things never did quite work out with Cindy, and Philip now owns a house in Lombard, Illinois, which is 10 minutes from where he works instead of the earlier 90. Last July we had the excitement of watching him supervise a full-scale test on a shopping-center structure he had designed. After the basic structure was built, it was discovered that he had not followed the current code specifications. To satisfy the customer, he designed a test and appeared confident that the structure would support the test load without damage. Thea and I were there with hard hats and cameras as the loads were slowly raised from ground level — and we heard the ominous crack as a slender member suddenly buckled and the loads settled back on the ground leaving a permanent deformation easily visible from a distance. And we heard Philip’s one quiet, heart-felt, expletive and then saw him immediately face the problem of was it the structure that failed or the test. We weren’t there three weeks later when he demonstrated with a new, better designed, and totally uneventful test that the structure was, in fact, safe. We were impressed not only by the calm way that he faced and solved what could have been a multi-million dollar mistake, but with the way his company stood by him.

A year ago our younger daughter Lisa was an almost total invalid with a slipped disk which had forced her to drop out of graduate school at UCLA. I am happy to report that she is now almost fully recovered, that she has gone back to work for Control Data Corp. but in a new job. It’s out of their Los Angeles office, but it involves travelling all over Southern California. We are lucky in that it also included a recent two week assignment back here in Minneapolis.

Let’s see. Parent, grandchildren, children. What else is there to explain why I feel so fortunate in my sixty-year tenure on earth? Oh, yes, a wife. A wife who has grown lovelier every one of the 38 years we’ve been married. A wife who played a not unimportant role in the production of these three children of whom we’re so fond. A wife whose professional career has grown and keeps her so busy that she didn’t have time to send Christmas cards this year. Just to give you an indication, she’s on the Executive Committees of a couple of Twin Cities Chapters: the Association for Computing Machinery, of which she’s also ex-treasurer, and the Association for Women in Computing, of which she’s a founding member. She’s also Secretary-Treasurer of a national subset of ACM with the intriguing name of SIGUCC of which the UCC stands for University Computer Centers. And she’s part of the Steering Committee of a users group sponsored by the American Math Society on using computers for technical text processing. All of which involves evening meetings in Minneapolis and travel all over the country. I’m getting a good taste of what it’s like to be a stay-at-home spouse!

Having told you more than you want to know about my family (the alternative was two closely-written pages of detail about the road races I ran last year), let me close with a song whose tune you Gilbert & Sullivan fans should have no trouble recognizing:

I am the very pattern of a modern sexagenarian.
I love my carbohydrates, but I’m not a vegetarian.  

I can run a race in metric; I eschew the scale of Fahrenheit.
I love to climb a mountain and to rest upon its barren height.  

I’m very well acquainted with techniques of finite element.
If someone said “plasticity,” then I’d know what the hell he meant.  

But when the party’s over I’ll be glad to hear siesta toll.
(But still I’ve run the marathon that people call Fiesta Bowl.)  

I’m not a deep philosopher. In fact, I’m elementary
Although my years are three-score which is more than half a century.  

But still I’ve got a ways to go before I’m antiquarian,
Til then I am the model of a modern sexagenarian.