Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday the 13th - February 2015

      Friday the 13th of February. It was a day of lovely highs sandwiched between the parts of life we are not so fond of experiencing.  It reminded me of another such day thirteen years ago.  
     I knew it was Friday the 13th but I had not even given the superstitious interpretation of the day a thought. It was to be a busy day leading into a busy weekend there was no time for superstition. It was to be a full day.
  • 8 - 9:30 am: Emcee a networking breakfast at the Greater Waukegan Develop Council (GWDC)
    My friend Dave Roberts and
    Marian Hoskins were to speak about a sailing event, Scoop the Lake, that started a few years ago with the expressed mission to bring the boating community and City of Waukegan closer together.
  • 9:30 - 12:30: Meeting of the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management Excellent Emerging Organization Judging committee
  • 1 - 3:30: Teach Operations Management and Microeconomics courses
  • 3:30 - 4:30 Office Hours
  • 6 - 11: Perform at the All Saints Armenian Churuch Poon Pari Genton (Mardi Gras) Party.
     This was to be a prelude to a weekend with my son, daughter in-law,and 7 month old grandson visiting from Washington DC. Amid all this other activity this is what I was looking forward to. 
     The day started our kind of scary. Just before they were to serve breakfast at the GWDC event. Dave Roberts had some kind of seizure. It was quite scary.  Minutes before we were chatting and jaoking with each other. He was unconscious and it looked like a heart attack. Immediately 911 was called and Linda Keith, another attendee with some EMT skills, jumped in and took over the immediate care. By the time the real EMT arrived Dave was conscious and talking. They put him on a gurney and took him to the hospital. On his way out the door, he was joking that he could not leave as he had to give his presentation. We were all feeling good about his prospects and continued on with our meeting.  Marian did a wonderful job.
       After the presentation, I hit the road for North Park University.  The Axelson meeting and my classes went well and as expected.  When my last class ended at 3:30, I went to my office and organized a few things for the next day.  About 4:30, when I was sure the traffic had intensified, I left to get to All Saints Armenian Church in Glenview for the Poon Pari Gentan.
      It turned out to be a wonderful event. In recent years, our church has a adopted a very tradition for Poon Pari Gentan. The various church groups each cooked old time Armenian meals. There were kebabs, meatballs in yogurt soup, lamb stew, and fish and pilaf. One was better than the other. It costs $5 at the door and each of the dinners cost $5.  Many had more than one dinner.
     As they had old time Armenian food, the committee asked us to play some old time Armenian music. Jim Hardy was in charge of the band and assembled a unique group. He played clarinet, I was on oud and vocals, and Shahan Alexanian was our keyboardist. Jim had a great idea to ask 18 year old Alek Surenian to play the dumbeg. It was a brilliant idea on two counts. First, we have heard Alek play a bit. He shows a lot of promise. He loves the music and was way cool that we offered him his first official gig. It felt great to support and nurture the next generation of musicians. Secondly, Alek is well known and well liked in the church community. People would come out just to see his debut. It did not hurt that his mother is an Alexanian, first cousin to Shahan, and that, seemingly, every other person in the community is either an Alexanian or related to one.  The event was well attended by family and fans of Alek as we were.
     It was to Alek’s debut. It was his night and his gig. We were delighted to be part of it. 
     It ended up being a lovely evening. As the foods were from all different regions of historical Armenia, we played a variety of folk songs from the same regions. It was not a real dancing crowd but they stayed and listened. It was really really nice. I left the church feeling pretty good about things.  I left the church feeling on top of the world. The band was great, the food even better, and everyone in attendance enjoyed the evening. I like that feeling. It is a mixture of happiness, contentment, feeling quite Armenian, and something else, that je ne sais quoi, there might not even be a word for. 
     By the time I got home it was about 12:30 am. I want to check on Dave’s status which was to be updated on the GWDC Facebook page. I learned that Dave had a brain aneurysm and was air evacuated down to the University of Chicago where he had surgery. (As of this writing, two weeks after the fact, he discharged from the hospital.  On Saturday the 28th, his wife posted photos of the two of them out for dinner.  What great news.) 
            Since I had my phone out, I decided to check my email before turning in for the night.  When I was checking my North Park mail, there was an email from the Dean of the School of Business and Nonprofit Management with the ominous title:  very sad news.  I hate to open emails with such subjects... but I did.  I learned that, Crendalyn McMath Fitzgerald, my colleague and fellow professor in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management had suddenly passed away earlier that day.  Click here for the North Park announcement of Cren's passing.
     I just sat there.  I read the email again.  I was in disbelief.  I was stunned.  The shock began to slowly subside only to be replaced with grief.
     This all reminded me of another day:  Sunday, September 29, 2002.  I will never forget that day.  I was living in Connecticut at the time and had played at a church in New Jersey that day.  It was a spectacular, perfect, kind of early fall day.  The sky clear and blue.  The weather was perfect.  The food was delicious and the people were all in a great mood.  We had a great time playing the music we loved.  We felt like we were on fire and as group played above our individual capabilities.  
      On the way home, crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge, I recall thinking "This was a pretty perfect day."  I am not sure what made me think that except that
it was that same "mixture of happiness, contentment, feeling quite Armenian, and something else, that je ne sais quoi, there might not even be a word for."  But it was not only this feeling that will link these two days.  
     When I got home that lovely September Sunday in 2002, I sat down and was basking in what I thought was a perfect day.  Then the phone rang.  It was my mother.  She said they were at the hospital.  I assumed it was my grandmother who was  97 at the time.  Nope.  It was my sister Laura Ani.  She had been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.  They were to do a procedure the next morning.  
     The procedure did not work.  Laura passed away in the early hours of October 1, 2002.
      When one is at the North Pole, any step front, back, left, or right is south.  When you think a day or a portion of it is perfect, the next moment or next day has to be something not so perfect.  Sunday September 29, 2002 was quite perfect.  The step south?  It was surreal and a deep dive into grief and loss.  The opposites were extreme.  The contrast taught me, out of some kind of superstition, to never really feel any day or moment as perfect.  Because of this experience, I tempered my feelings of the very nice night on Friday, February 13.  I even thought NOT to use the word perfect on my basking riding home.  I get home to news of an aneurysm and a passing of someone I knew.  It was not the same and yet there were similarities that might be called eerie.  
      There is probably nothing to change or manage.  The highs come with the lows.  There is no way to predict when.  There is no way to predict how high or how low.  Sometimes they come at extremes on the same day.  Thankfully, those are rare occurrences.

1 comment:

  1. From FB friend Owen Marks:
    Love your writing, Mark, and you know me well enough to know that I have a sincere appreciation for a well-written piece like this. It was a lucid example of why I can never get upset about being cut off in traffic or being at a restaurant where my order is taken wrong or any of the many other "problems" that the folks you mentioned probably wish they could have. I'm looking forward to your next piece.