Life is that fine line mix of memories and moving on. We are made of our stories, which once they occur, become memories. We sometimes wear them as a backpack that can become quite laden, so we have to reorganize, regroup and put some memories into storage.
That is what I will be doing in the coming days and weeks.
It is time.
Time to move on.
But, before I do that, I would love to share with you some wonderful memories of this past weekend when I was in Cincinnati to attend the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame tribute.
We were to arrive at NHS at 9 or so.
Nick and I had time to go to where most anyone who has lived in Norwood goes … Frisch’s, prior to going to the school. I needed tea and Nick needed coffee.
I made a paper airplane and Nick paper-clipped a dollar bill inside.
We were seated next to a group of people that I didn’t recognize, but midway through breakfast, it dawned on me, by what they were saying, (as you know, restaurant eaves-dropping is one of my hobbies), that the people at that table might be headed to NHS, too.
I asked the white-haired, distinguished looking gentleman if they, by chance, were headed to NHS.
Yes, they were.
And that was when I met Fredd Snell, a 1968 Norwood grad and fellow inductee.
A connection was made and it was seconds before we were bantering back and forth. It relaxed me to meet someone prior to going to the school.
Fredd Snell is a retired Senior Operation Officer for the CIA.
Of course I asked him about Jason Bourne, as if he probably hasn’t been asked that 900 times.
It was no time before Fredd and I mentioned names from our past, that would be coming that evening. It was a fun conversation and then we were off to the thigh school.
We were to speak to grades 10-12. I mentioned to you how long I had been thinking and working on what to say, but it wasn’t until 4:30 in the morning when it came to me.
I picture my opening, sat up in bed and typed it into my iPad so that I could, hopefully, get it stuck in my head. Then wrote a few more things, too. Not as a speech, but mental notes.
As has happened to me in the past, when I have been asked to speak, I have prepared “speeches.” I write and write … just to get the story in my head and down on paper.
But what I have learned, is that, at least in the kind of “speeches” that I give, a speech delivered via a piece of paper, is flat.
So, I thought to myself, who am I kidding? No speech DeBow. Do what you do … get up there and talk to the students like they are your friends and readers of your blog.
Whenever I have done that, and focused not on just “delivering,” but “engaging” my audience, it has worked much better, and was fun.
All of the recipients of the tribute gathered in the fabulous Alumni Room at NHS. That room has been put together with love and pride.
I met three of the other inductees, Bill Dugle, Class of 1960, who graduated from the Wharton School of Business and excelled in his career in human resources.
Glenn V Whitaker is from the Class of 1965 and is a partner in the Vorys, Seymour and Pease LLP in Cincinnati. He is one of 100 Super Lawyers in Ohio.
Fredd Snell, is the gentleman I met at Frisch’s, and had a very distinguished 28-year career with the CIA and after retirement, had a second successful career in the private sector.
Then, moi …
A very wonderful and talented woman, Diane D Degaro Cundiff, was also inducted. Diane was an exemplary human being and leader who worked for Tri Health Hospital.
Sadly, Ms. Degaro passed away in 2011. She was such an integral part of Tri Health, that when she passed, Tri Health honored her by lowering its flag to half-staff in her honor.
At 9:45, we were seated on the stage of one of the most exquisite auditoriums that I have been in, New York playhouses, included.
My mind was still sorting and on adrenaline as each person was introduced and spoke.
When my name was called, I walked to the podium and looked out over the audience of teenagers. What I saw was, me, sitting there 47 years earlier.
I told the students of my road to my “speech,” what my daughters said, including the paper airplane remark. Then, I took my five drafts of speeches and ripped them up and ditched them on a table next to me.
They paid attention when I told them I would talk to them as if I were talking to my friends and readers.
I didn’t blow smoke. I told them I wasn’t a scholar … that I was average, and had my struggles.
My job was not to boast about anything I have done, but to connect with them, eyeball-to-eyeball. That is all I ever want to do.
There were some good laughs, especially when I accidentally said, “And fortunately, my mother-in-law died.”
“That didn’t sound good,” I said.
They cracked up.
I built on the subject of them being the authors of their own life story … sentence, paragraph, page, chapter … and by the time they were 54, they’d have a book of their life made up of stories.
I mentioned the fact that each one of them has the ability to change the world … one person at a time.
Instead of telling them to study hard, I wished them all well in life. I hoped they got the point to find their passion and purpose and don’t let others make their life decisions for them. I told them there was always hope and there was always help.
At the end, I took my paper airplane I made at Frisch’s and sailed it out into the audience. Thank goodness it flew well! They all wanted to catch it, especially after I told them it carried a dollar bill.
After I finished, I looked at Nick, who was in the front row. He gave me a thumbs-up. I returned to my seat, hoping that maybe, just maybe, a seed was planted, not necessarily that one of them would want to be a writer, but that one day, if one of them felt hopeless, they might remember the day when a 64-year old woman with a big nose, big feet and big heart, said, keep going … there is always hope and there is always help.
And then, I breathed.