The room was mostly empty when we got there, big round tables with no one sitting at them yet and two people getting ready to serve us barbecue.
Small groups of people were gathered together talking -- in low voices it seemed, although the country band playing in the dance hall on the other side of the wall would have made it difficult to hear even if they were speaking loudly.
After a while people whom Trudy knew began arriving. She introduced herself (it had been many years), and she introduced me. She would say her maiden name and then ours, but before she finished, their faces would light up and they'd hug as they said hello. And she'd introduce me,
This is my husband, and they would smile and shake my hand warmly.
As more and more people showed up, I saw a few with name tags. And then I saw a table in the middle of the room where the pens and empty tags were -- a perfect opportunity to excuse myself and leave Trudy to her fellow alumni and professors.
There was a black sharpie on the table, which I took and wrote out three tags -- one for Trudy, one for Ben, and one for me. A gray-haired man was next to me doing the same thing, and I noticed that he was writing with his left hand.
You're left handed, too! I said.
He stood up and said something to the effect of
Yes I am.
I'm a spouse, I confessed.
I don't think he heard the confessional tone in my voice. He looked at me, chuckled and said,
Most of us are!
My wife is Trudy ... and I turned to point at Trudy. Before I could even complete my sentence, he said,
Oh, yes! I remember Trudy.
He smiled. And then he turned back to me.
You are a spouse! So what do you do? he asked.
I told him about my years in aerospace engineering and how I moved into software development. His eyes lit up.
I spent many good years of my life doing that, he said.
Back in the early days, geologists had to write the software ourselves. If I had those years back, I'd be many years younger!
This was a gathering of faculty and alumni from the Trinity University Geosciences department, and he had been a professor there after years of working in industry. We stood there at the name tag table -- he telling stories about the days when geologists wrote their own software and I smiling at the tone of anguish and telling a few modest stories of my own.
He told stories about writing assembly language and Fortran for mainframes that were nowhere compatible with each other. He told stories of adapting aerospace programs to do geoscience mapping and how sometimes the output looked more like a wing than it was supposed to. He told stories about the Univacs and the IBM 650s and the CDC mainframes.
The 6600, I said.
He looked at me with an expression of surprise. "You're right!"
That must have made an impression, because as he and his wife were getting ready to leave later that evening, he came up to Trudy to say goodnight and then looked over at me, smiled broadly, shook my hand, and spent a few more minutes telling some more stories from when geologists wrote their own software.
Me, just some spouse with a name tag on my shirt.
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1. Lunchtime Commentary
We sat in the restaurant while waiters and waitresses hurried back and forth and customers came and went. It was a perfect people watching spot, positioned as it was at the crossroads of the traffic flow.
So this is how we spent our lunchtime: watching and commenting.
Look at that purse. Look at his teeth. Her hair is maroon. Hers is orange. He's got a preppy shirt but his shoes aren't preppy at all. Look -- they're thumb wrestling!
Did you see that!? I turned and asked Trudy.
That guy had a coat.
Trudy's turned to look. The temperature was cooler than the day before when it had been in the 90s. It was pleasantly warm outside, and the heat of summer was finally gone. But this guy was wearing a coat!
And then a couple came in and sat at the table across from us. They both were carrying jackets.
What's up with that? we wondered, lamenting the loss of perspective some people seem to get when they live down here long enough.
2. Afternoon Walk
Later that day, we went for a walk. We went out the door with the dog on a leash, and a gust of wind blew across the yard, kicking golden ash leaves into a swirl. It was cooler than it had been earlier in the day -- much cooler.
Barely two steps out the door, I turned around and went back in.
I'm going to get my vest, I announced.
Trudy waited for me in the yard. But when I returned, she was looking uncertainly at the wind, which was still blowing.
Here, she said.
Hold the dog. I'm going to get something warm, too.
It was in the 60s. Winter had arrived!
8:07:21 PM permalink:  feedback: comments: