The pelican papers

A big bird’s eye view

2017: A year of transitions

Posted by Ron George on January 3, 2018

The Christmas Eve Gathering, 2017 Back row, L-R: Kenny Brown, Shanna Brown, Joseph George, Mary Sherwood, Ron George, Elizabeth George, Geoffrey George, Matthew George, Kylie George
Front row, L-R: Joseph Brown, Jonah Brown, Sharon George, Christina George, Ethan George, Emilie Fleming, Michelle George, Paxton George

Quite a year, what?

I’ll not get into the politics of it, lest I fall afoul of many friends. Let’s just say it’s been invigorating, with which no one I know would disagree, regardless of their politics.

Let this message convey from Mary and me our prayer that all is well in your life and that hope imbues the coming year whatever may befall.

2017 was a year of transitions, big changes in the territory of our lives. Change, of course, is of the essence of life itself, day by day, minute by minute; but transitional change brings even greater challenges, as we cope with new scenery, occupations and trajectories.

For the record, here they are.

  • Our granddaughter Caitlin George commenced the rest of her life from nine months’ hard work and personal growth with AmeriCorps.
  • My beloved wife Mary Sherwood retired after 27 years’ service with the Texas A&M University System.
  • Our grandson Paxton George was baptized and thus became a living, breathing member of the Body Christ to be reared by his adoring parents, Geoffrey and Michelle.
  • Our daughter-in-law Christina George retired after 20 years’ service in the United States Air Force, having served her country with distinction at home and abroad.

Caitlin’s commencement in Sacramento, Calif., was made all the more meaningful by our journey there and back again, a delightful, 4,500-mile road trip with stops along the way to connect with family and friends. Mary and I spent hours on the road in the kind of space wrought by more than 30 years of being together in sickness and in health. The scenery wasn’t always inspiring but the company was gratifyingly comfortable. We talked. We listened. We kept silence of the sort that longtime beloveds keep. We learned long ago that we’re not in this relationship to be entertained but to appreciate each other and the world we’re inhabiting at the moment.

Paxton George: Becoming a member of the Body of Christ at All Saints Dallas, Aug. 13, 2017

We spent some time with Ron and Peg Hamm in Silver City, N.M. Ron was Mary’s first employer in higher education, who in 1990 invited her to leave the newsroom of the Caller-Times in Corpus Christi and take on the rigors of public affairs at Texas A&I University. Mary ultimately became director of the TAMU-K public affairs office, then barged off to Texas A&M University in College Station to earn a doctoral degree. Ron’s mentoring and support led to Mary’s long career in the A&M System, which eventually brought us home to Corpus Christi in 2006.

Mary had completed her doctorate by then, of course, and had years of experience working for the A&M System when she spotted an ad for a position in the president’s office at A&M-Corpus Christi. I had been in College Station, too, teaching journalism and earning a doctorate at the Presbyterian seminary in Austin. We had always hoped to return to South Texas but weren’t sure whether that ever would happen; and, then, came the call from A&M-Corpus Christi, from which Mary retired Aug. 31, 2017, as President Flavius Killebrew’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, in far North Texas – Rowlett, to be precise – Geoffrey and Michelle were preparing to take on the responsibilities not only of Christian parents but Christian parents of a Christian child. It was such a joy to be among not only kinfolk but also Geoffrey and Michelle’s dear friends in Christ. It was my first visit to All Saints Dallas, “a Christ centered, Bible teaching, Spirit filled liturgical church” and member of the Anglican Mission in America. The service was moving for its dignity and the strength of its message to the world. It was reassuring, to say the least, to find Geoffrey, Michelle and Paxton so firmly rooted in the soil of this powerful congregation.

Christina and Joseph have been the distant members of our crew for some years; indeed, they spent three of their years together in the United Kingdom. Her retirement in November prompted another road trip that enabled Mary and me to visit family and friends across the Southeast; from Lake Charles, La., where we spent a wonderful two days with Mary’s brother Edwin and his wife, Mary Frances; to Huntsville, Ala., where we stayed with Mary’s cousin Susan Pearson and her husband, Tom, and had lunch with my former colleagues at A&M-Corpus Christi, Jerry and Dee Hendrix and Bob Mead.

Christina George: Retiring from the Air Force with honors, Nov. 9, 2017

The highlight of the trip, however, was connecting with Christina, Joseph and their son, Ethan, in Evans, Ga., for Christina’s formal retirement ceremony at Fort Gordon and the very informal retirement party at home. The place was filled, as the formal ceremony had been, with people who admired and respected Christina and Joseph. They brought their kids, and they brought their good wishes and recollections of times past. We couldn’t help but admire these young people – our own, of course, but also their friends, all of whom, had committed a significant portion of their lives to national service.

The future,” I remember thinking as I stood alone – as I often do in social situations – watching that remarkable gathering of people clearly brimful of leadership and desire to be part of the solution and not part of the problems that plague the world in general and our society in particular. Frankly, I was encouraged, as I hope all parents and grandparents might be, that the next generation and the next will be led by people of this caliber – well-grounded leaders committed to leaving a world behind made better for their having lived and loved in it.

Caitlin is now engaged for a second year in AmeriCorps. She’s discovered that hard, physical work is invigorating and satisfying in a way that – well, I think it surprised her. It certainly surprised me, who has been avoiding hard, physical labor most of my adult life! We had hoped to see her for the family Christmas Eve gathering, but she came home ill from Colorado and had to miss out. Next time, for sure.

Mary says she enjoys being retired, though it’s taken some effort getting acquainted with not having to be at work 10-12 hours a day. She’s astonished at how time flies, even when you’re not going to meetings and acting as the president’s goalie seven days a week. She has a new camera, and both of us are taking a digital-photography course at Del Mar College this spring. We hope to take a long trip into the Midwest in the fall. A photographer and a writer on a trip? Could be some joint projects in the offing.

Christina says she’s going to take a year off before deciding how next to hitch her wagon. That’s smart, because she’s got a new career to figure out, young as she is; and, if you knew Christina, you’d know she doesn’t take ill-considered steps. It’s not in her nature, for one thing, and its certainly not how she was trained in the Air Force. My guess is that she’ll have it figured out by next Thanksgiving. Look out, world.

Of this year’s four great transitions, by far the one of furthest implication is that of Paxton’s baptism. Depending on how you view such things, it’s from here to eternity. At the very least, it’s from here for the rest of his life. For some of those years, his formation will be in the hands of Geoffrey, Michelle and the Body of Christi of which they’re members one of another. In retrospect, I doubt that I – even as an ordained minister – considered the magnitude of the challenge of rearing children to be Christian believers and doers of the Word in a world so instantly challenging and overbearing. I’m not sure I’d have a clue, now, as to how that should be done, but I am sure that Geoffrey and Michelle are in good hands at All Saints, and it is my hope that they will always find what they need and want for themselves and their family in the Body of Christ.

That’s the good news from this quarter this year. It’s not everything, of course, but it’s the headline over all else that makes our family what it is – interesting, engaging and fun to be with.

Love and peace to all,

Ron George & Mary Sherwood

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One Response to “2017: A year of transitions”

  1. Jim Abbott said

    Thanks for sharing this. Sounds like a good transition. I loved the part about long and loving relationships that are about appreciating each other. We got back from 10 days together. Oregon. takes a travel day on each end, really more like 3 days total – then 7 on the ground. Got a lot of stuff done. and more to do. Be in touch later.

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