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Flashback Friday - Iliff - Part 4

When does a boy become a man?  Well now, there's a question for the ages.  Some do it in fits and starts.  Some too late.  Some, of course, never do.  It's generally not a single event, but a process, like so many things are.  Its not a single day or a weekend, as much as we'd like to remember that special night in the back seat of the folks' Buick.  No, it's a progression for most of us, a kind of layering of clothes like our mothers did when they sent us out to play in the snow.  An armor and shield made of woolen socks and heavy boots, of coats so thick they made movement almost impossible.  Stocking caps that blinded and gloves that bound.   A layering of sights, thoughts and imaginings that progress us through a tunnel of exasperation - culminating in a juggernaut toward a light that brings us to an awareness called manhood.  Often we enter it unaware, only to recognize its visage when looking back.  At its heart, we are propelled by a combination of loneliness, an out-of-body self awareness, adversity, acute knowing, empathy for another's suffering and a knowledge of goals or motivation toward a goal.  If we survive our moment of night, then at this moment we know we can pretty much handle the howling winds of misfortune and the onslaught of life's devastating days of darkness.  

(I think girls become women much the same way only faster and more class and awareness than we poor mopes.)  

And so it was that if I have any semblance of manhood at all it was the confluence of several events that streamed into my consciousness during my two Iliff years.  This is the final entry of Iliff and my time in Denver, Colorado. 

The Studies

As an undergraduate at Iowa Wesleyan College, now University, I had a double major (Philosophy/Theology) and a minor in History.  For me it was a perfect storm of fields that I most enjoyed.  Originally I signed up for Political Science as a major but they hired a new guy to head the academic program and he was quite unimpressive.  That class was a letdown.  It just so happened that all freshman have to also take some required courses and one was with the renowned Dr. George LaMore and it was love at first listen.  He gets any credit for any academic success I may have had in college.  he was simply the best.  Dynamic speaker, he could, if he wanted, make a light switch the most interesting thing you had ever seen.  He was locally famous and a campus god and deservedly so.  After graduation I had the opportunity to continue my studies so I chose a small school on the campus of the University of Denver that had a Master's program in the delicious stuff I had been studying at IWC.  

At Iliff the studies weren't as much fun, primarily because they didn't have George LaMore around, or anyone like him.  Stodgy  would best describe these professors - seemingly 120 years old and robotically going through their notes they had written and been unchanged since the previous century,  the work became less fun and more demanding.  While there was plenty of time for socializing at IWC, all of a sudden studies began soaking up most of the time necessary, but weekends were still available for fun.  

I persevered through a couple years of classes and a thesis (I'll still get that for you Neighbor Tim) and learned that like a student- based Peter Principle, that I had run my course academically.  I toyed with going for a Doctorate but it got to the point where classes were becoming a drudge and I wanted to get to work doing something other than staring at blackboards.  The end of school had arrived.  Graduation was held, I had survived and attained a B-level GPA and at the last hour of the last class I soon got in my car and drove, without stopping, from Denver, Colorado to Seaton, Illinois.  The sense of relief was overwhelming.  I was heading home to work for Uncle Ed and spend the summer like I had the previous ones; baling hay, cultivating, shelling corn and laughing with Ed and the gang.  I couldn't stand the thought of spending any more time there and graduating with the pomp that I enjoyed at IWC.  It was over.  They sent my diploma and Master's robe to me in a week or so.  

The last page of my graduate school transcript. It may be full of numbers, grades and such but all it says to me is it was over. 

The People 

This was the place I dated a lesbian,  then a Filipino.  I was buddies with Eddie, a cool dude Hispanic, and palled around with a couple redneck brothers from Mississippi, The Calhouns.  Other kids from small towns have awakened to the vastness of the world, both in size and people, so I certainly wasn't unique.  Military service will open your eyes, too, but for me it was a small school nestled in a big one, centered in a city that opened mine.  After I met Jan we began to explore not only Denver but the surrounding environs as well.  Wyoming is a relatively short trip and I thought I'd gone to a different planet when I saw some of that land.  

What seems rather intriguing as I look back is that, besides Jan, I left Denver and school and never kept up with any of my fellow students.  It's like we all used each other to help us get through the days and weekends of the time, but once it was over, we hurried home.  To this day i have contact with high school friends and college, in both the fraternity and out.  But the grad school experience was business.  Serious business that required our minds, our study and our attention, but did not lend itself to making lasting friends.  It seems add as I write this, but perhaps it shouldn't.  The difference between 4 years of college and 2 years of grad school marks a wide differential as well in the area of fun and games and adult responsibilities.  

The Growing Up 

So, did I want the continued fun with friends like college or the continued personal study of subjects that sated my thirst?  As I look back, I can honestly say I wanted both.  College was an amazing time for me, a true awakening.  I wanted more.  I wasn't ready to begin the drudge of work.  In reality, my time in Denver was fulfilling both needs:  I learned more and I also had more fun - pushing away the encroaching adult world that consumes us all.  The area that most enthralled me: the psychology of why we are what we are was continued with solid professors with a wealth of knowledge.  That was worth the extra years alone. Pikes peak, the sub going down in the Colorado River story Eddie and I cooked up, Wyoming, Colorado Springs starting to paint, and Jan were all worth the extra years as well.  

Marj and Herb sent a kid for further education and while I can't comment on any degrees of increased maturation or manhood, I came back a kid who was ready to embrace the adult responsibilities I had attempted to keep at bay.  I was more educated and more aware of a world that included all manner of things and people. 

This ends the Iliff years posts and I see no further reason to revisit.  But it still revisits me.

I still wake up from nightmarish dreams all these years later, occasionally,  sweaty and in a panic over classes I missed or assignments I failed to hand in.   

(This is the last post until May 1st.)


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