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Winter Solstice, 2004Dear extended family,
The December 9, 2004 issue of The Wall Street Journal contained an excellent article on Reality Holiday Letters by Moving On columnist Jeffrey Zaslow. Halfway through that article, this passage appears:
H. Paul Shuch, of Williamsport, Pa., says he has been more "brutally frank" in his family's recent holiday letters. "But I de-emphasize things. I'll mention medical problems, but downplay them. I have a Jewish mother out there who'd worry."
Well, I'm pleased to say I still have a Jewish mother out there, and yes, she'll still worry. All that notwithstanding, herewith please find my "brutally frank" annual missive. The following are brief highlights of the year, as experienced by each member of our household.
After coasting through elementary school, Erin, our gifted eleven-year-old, is failing two of his strongest subjects (math and social studies), and barely passing English, at Lycoming Valley Middle School. In fact, the only subject he's doing well in is science. His laziness has finally caught up with him, and frankly, we're glad. Maybe he'll have to learn study skills before he starts High School in just (ohmygod!) three more years.
Curran is about to turn fifteen (double ohmygod!) He is in his last year at Lyco Valley, and continues to amaze us in the things at which he is good. His brain damage means he is still developmentally delayed, but we think he's well prepared for High School next year. Still fighting mobility issues, he continues to play Challenger Little League baseball, as does Jenna, his girlfriend since second grade. Curran is, even as I write this, undergoing yet another muscle-lengthening surgery, a procedure he has to endure every year or two for as long as he keeps growing. His pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Roy Nuzzo of Overlook Hospital, Summit NJ, was featured on Dateline NBC earlier this week. Dr. Nuzzo is a genius, who deserves all the publicity he can get.
Now sixteen and a Junior at Williamsport Area High School, Devin is, quite honestly, the sweetest, kindest, most lovable young man we have ever raised. Along with his two younger brothers, he remains active in Boy Scouts. He worked at a nearby scout camp all summer (for his second year in a row), and has, amazingly, actually saved his money. He is working hard in school, earning grades which, if not stellar, are certainly satisfactory, and is helpful around the house (with only a little nagging required). What more could we ask for?
Aubrey, now eighteen and in his first year at Rochester Institute of Technology (where he's studying Bioinformatics), loves college, is doing well, and hates being away from his girlfriend. He and Haley have known each other since he started High School, and their relationship is becoming quite serious (even though Aubrey tried steadfastly to deny being in love!) She expects to be joining him at RIT next year, and Muriel is already imagining what her grandchildren will look like.
At age twenty, Bryn went back to Mansfield University for his second year, over his mother's objections. On academic probation, he seems to lack direction. I'd say he is still searching for his path in life, but that would only dignify his aimlessness. We can only hope he some day discovers something that lights his fire, and have no idea what or when that might be.
On one of his frequent trips to Europe, Paul had a wonderful visit with Andrew in Berlin last March, and actually got to attend two of his Hip-Hop gigs. At 27, Andrew's musical career seems to have taken off. He even had a bit part in a music video, which Paul got to see on German MTV. We hope he'll spend some time with us in the States, but if his schedule will not permit a visit, Paul is always happy to go back to Europe once or twice a year to catch up with him.
Paul, having spent Erika's and Andrew's formative years burning a candle at three ends (teaching, running a business, and going to grad school), recently received an unexpected (and probably unintended) acknowledgment from Erika. She's now thirty, still choreographing, dancing her heart out, teaching, and is one thesis away from completing her Master's Degree at New College of San Francisco. A couple of months ago, an exhausted Erika told her grandmother, "I don't know how my Dad did it." Grandma Phyllis dutifully clips all her reviews from the papers, and sends us copies.
Muriel, who readily admits her age (she'll be 49 next month), is having quite an easy menopause. But even if it were physically difficult, she's vowed on the graves of all those female relatives who died of cancer never to assent to hormone replacement therapy. She's still taking the occasional course toward her Master's in Special Education, but is thinking the easier path toward an MA in Psych might better suit her purposes. She really sees herself as a behavioral support specialist. In her off-duty time, Muriel has achieved the highest possible rank in EverQuest, and online multi-player fantasy game, where she is mothering an expanding sphere of hurt and broken people.
At 58, Paul had the shortest retirement on record. As anticipated, after ten years The SETI League's funding finally ran out, and they did not renew his contract when it expired on August 15th. But the very next day, one of his consulting clients put him on payroll, as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. He's now Principal Investigator on research contracts for NASA and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, with additional proposals pending for the US Navy, Missile Defense Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Paul has been traveling frequently to the NASA Goddard, Ames, and Langley facilities, as well as to Washington DC. He finds he has a knack for writing proposals, which seem to win grants as long as they contain those important contemporary buzzwords, Homeland Security and National Defense.
Our biggest disappointment this year was the fraud surrounding yet another stolen presidential election. We cannot support the Iraqi invasion or our Commander-In-Thief, and are keeping our passports up-to-date, just in case.
May next year be a safer one, for us, our loved ones, and our fragile world.
Peace, love and joy,
Copyright © H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D.; Maintained by Microcomm
this page last updated 14 June 2007