Thursday, September 27, 2007

adiós querido amigo

As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate lovingly, our own.
Margaret Mead (1901-1978), anthropologist

yesterday afternoon an email was waiting for me simply entitled 'andy' I knew it would contain some very sad news. it was from andy's wife and it simply stated: "andy passed away september 25. he was at home surrounded by love." as I said I knew it was going to contain sad news. a couple days earlier, I had just mentioned andy and his wife in an email to a mutual friend, I brought her up to date about how good things were, andy and tina had just moved back to their spiritual home of santa fe, in august their first grandchild was born and earlier this month they went out to south carolina to 'welcome the little guy into the world' and shower him with all the love and attention that only grandparents are capable of displaying. my mention of andy to cw reminded me that I hadn't checked andy's blog in a couple weeks, I popped over to get an update. the post which greeted me took my breath away, broke my heart and filled me with the knowledge that my world was going to be diminished and soon people I love were going to face a future without - without a light, without a center, without the presence of a much loved one.

when I was in college andy was my first true mentor. of course I had plenty of professors who influenced me and stoked the flames of my intellect and curiosity, but no one had ever 'taken me on' as andy. under andy's tutelage I found the confidence that until then had been missing yet necessary. andy was fresh out of graduate school and not that much older than myself. he had recently completed his field work among the aymara in boliva and had successfully negotiated the completion of his Ph.D. andy came to the university in texas that I was attending filled with passion and ethnusiasm for teaching
that few others exhibit. he was accessible, patient and grounded. even though his academic pedigree was impressive - he went to princeton as an undergraduate and in graduate school he studied under marvin harris and other anthropological superstars - andy did not possess any pretensions. andy was in a wonderful 'happy marriage' (something I observed seemed incredibly rare among many of the other faculty in the social sciences); he and tina had two adorable small children who I doted on and they in turn occasionally trusted me with their 'care and feeding.' not only was andy an intellectual mentor, andy and tina became 'role models' of a happy couple. the year was 1976 and I had just met f - who went on to become my life partner. it's really good to have good role models. thank you tina and andy!

after I graduated from college I was 'recruited' into a new graduate program the university had developed. the lure was free tuition, a stipend, and interesting work. it was an interdisciplinary program in the social sciences which was perfect as I had yet settled down into any one field (some things never change). during my master's program andy became my advisor and I became his research assistant. from my point of view it was a perfect pairing. I was afforded all sorts of opportunities; andy and I collaborated on all sorts of interesting research projects, we gave presentations and wrote papers as a team - for me, this relationship was the perfect launching pad for all the things that lie ahead. I left texas in 1981, although our academic 'collaborations' ended we never lost touch.

as fate would have it f & I moved to cleveland on the very same weekend in 1997 that andy and tina did. however, it was a year before we discovered the fact we were neighbors (quite literally - we lived less than two miles apart). the discovery was wonderful and it was a few years before the lure of sun and warmer weather pulled them away, we got together periodically and the ties of our friendship were renewed and strengthened.
andy left his position in cleveland around 2001 to became a dean or something quite impressive at a university in miami. we maintained contact and communication, in fact the best contact since leaving texas twenty years earlier. I even had the good fortune to visit andy and tina while they were living in miami.

in july of 2004 the bottom of andy and tina's world fell out. andy suffered a major stroke. here was a man at the peak of fitness, good health and youth (I consider people in their 50s as youthful) - geez, the guy routinely took 100 mile bike trips and didn't have an ounce of fat on him, ate good, didn't smoke, and from what I could see always had excellent stress management skills. the stroke was massive. andy spent more time in the i.c.u. than anyone I had ever heard of. but love and determination pulled him through. once andy was released from being in intensive care he took on his recovery as passionately and determinately as humanly possible. for these past three years andy has lived a life full of hope, optimism, and love. although the stroke he suffered in 2004 left andy with a new body and a new set of abilities, andy never quit being a teacher and a mentor. he turned his training as a passionate observer and researcher on to himself and he never stopped taking on new things. andy kept a blog of his travels into the strange new land of living after a catastrophic health event. for those of us who had the good fortune to have had our lives cross with his, andy will always live in our hearts and our memories. if only he could send dispatches from this next place he's journeying into.

my heart goes out to tina and their kids and the newest member of the miracle tribe, - it is so sad that little fletcher will only know his grandpa through pictures and the memories of others. I hope they will find comfort in knowing that their grief is shared and in such I pray it is lessened.

pictures: top: andy and tina in austin 2005; inserts at mi pueblo with andy and tina in cleveland right before they left for miami); in south beach miami november 2002.

8 comments:

Colette Amelia said...

So sorry to hear of your mentor and friend's death. As I read your post I thought that this man led a most charmed life, I hope it was so and I hope that his passing was likewise. You were indeed blessed to know him.

I don't know how these things happen...but it seems there is connections across the distance, ,my post today is about Emo Morales the Bolivian President who is of the indeginous people that your friend and mentor studied.

L.M.Noonan said...

I can only but second Colette Amelia's condolances and sentiments.

Gary said...

It seems that Andy was a wonderful man and, nearer to my heart, embodies the best qualities of a teacher. I wish I had known him.

Thanks for sharing a bit of his story with us. I hope that those who knew him can find peace knowing that he graced their lives.

Dumdad said...

This is a moving and touching tribute to a man who was obviously admired and well loved by those who knew him.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, Kimy. Your tribute to Andy was beautiful, thoughtful and moving. You were blessed to know one another.
Take comfort in the fact that those we have loved never die - love does endure forever and that which separates us is merely a veil. We are never really parted.

kimy said...

thanks friends - writing it helped me process some of my emotions and grief.

andy's wife sent the following:

"Yesterday the community here had a drum circle for Andy and an eagle flew overhead. Finally he is out of the wheelchair and once again soaring through the sky."

beautiful

Len said...

I'm very sorry to hear this, even though it is the passing of one I did not know. I always think of Mark Twain in this situations. He wrote, in Puddinhead Wilson, "Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved."

while looking for that quote, I came across another that is probably more apt, though: "To die one's self is a thing that must be easy, & light of consequence; but to lose a part of one's self--well, we know how deep that pang goes, we who have suffered that disaster, received that wound which cannot heal."

My condolences to you and to Andy's family.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

A flying eagle - what a powerful symbol - what a wonderful gift.