Michael K. Shaub, April 21st, 2011
Today I sat across the picnic table from a gorgeous, blue-eyed girl who had fixed me a fancy sandwich and snicker doodles. She proceeded to recite the second chapter of I Peter from memory, pausing only for one conjunction. Impressive. All that, and good-looking, too.
She memorized that because it is important to her, the way she knows the birthday of every living human being who has come into contact with us in the last 33 years. She knows what gift she gave you, and she rightly expects that I ought to remember what gifts others gave me.
I, on the other hand, remember Jim Gentile’s important batting statistics from 1961. No one else remembers Jim Gentile. I remember where I was sitting, and who I was sitting with, and how cold I was at the 1974 A&M-Texas game. I remember K.C. and the Sunshine Band. But I also remember the anniversary of my first date with the World’s Most Beautiful Woman. And I remember being 22 and staring through the glass at the most glorious sight I had ever seen, my baby girl, as I left the hospital at 2 a.m. with my last two dollars in my pocket.
My office is gradually transitioning from a place of pictures and gifts from my children into a shrine to grandkids. But there are still important memories in this place. Behind my desk is a small plaque from one of my first students that says, “A Loving Teacher Makes Learning a Joy.” There is a picture taken by a photographer of me on another campus walking across the street with my two youngest children when they were small. I have an aquarium hanging up made out of two paper plates, and a picture of all five kids in the backyard in Michigan. The class of 1998 at Hillsdale College, one of whom just made partner at a major accounting firm, is on my file cabinet. I even have the radio I listened to in high school.
There is a significant need within each of us to remember the things that matter. It seems that this longing only grows as our capacity for it diminishes. I find that my wife is generally a superior judge of what ought to be remembered, because she has a better sense of what are truly the permanent things. But we both have to work harder than we used to at remembering.
I have also found that it is very important to people to be remembered. I think I underestimated early in my career how important it was to my students that I know who they were. When you teach 250-300 students a year, and when those students love to come back to campus to remember, and to recruit people to their firms, it is a challenge to always have names on the tip of your tongue. But it would be naïve of me to think that it doesn’t matter whether or not I try.
The traditions at Texas A&M are centered around remembering. We remember E. King Gill as the 12th Man stands ready to take the field, if necessary, on fall Saturdays. Every month we remember the current students we have lost at Silver Taps. Elephant Walk, Final Review, and, in former days, Bonfire, have evoked emotions in Aggies as accumulated history washes over each person’s personal experience with this place. And its graduates wear a ring like no other, proudly earned and warmly extended to others, as the ultimate sign of a common bond of memories.
I say all this because tonight I will attend what is perhaps the finest of Aggie traditions, Muster. It seems ironic that it falls on Holy Thursday: “Do this in remembrance of me.” I will go to remember, and to celebrate the lives of those who have gone on before us. I may not feel the need to call out “Here!” as I have in another year. But I will be there. And I will remember.