Thursday, August 25, 2011

It Is I, Yaro, On Beginnings and Endings.

It is I, Yaro, returned and remedied by a sojourn to our cabin in the Beehive State. We love it there, the long casualness of days and evenings, Mrs. Yaro and I, a stray cat or two, a coyote who howls from a distant mesa.

And I am in my office, a place I've not seen for months. It is suddenly a light shade of green, and I had completely forgotten the work orders and such - in the manner - that helped us all arrive at the color decision.

The desk is clean and tidy, the books back in their rightful spots, yet someone - in haste, no doubt, not out of malice - has dripped tiny droplets of green paint on a row of oft-read and loved books on a top shelf. This is no disaster. The pages turn still, the contents remain unchanged, open, ready for unlocking.

And I am in my office just moments past a visit to Spiros, my favorite Dean, a man of infinite good humor and friendship, someone who - I must say - has been to my home to tip lager and discuss his attempts at fishing. Spiros took a meeting with me in this week before class at my request, a request to discuss a major matter that I have ruminated on over the summer, in our cabin, Mrs. Yaro at my side - both literally and figuratively.

It will be my last year at the university, and despite my long and intense preparations for the discussion, I felt unnerved and shocked as the words left my mouth.

I am not a young man as I, Yaro, once was. It is not the sort of news that will turn the college populace on its end. There will not be a cry or havoc over it. I am of the age when this sort of thing likely crosses one's mind, as in, "That so-and-so Yaro, he must be nearing the end of his string, do you think?"

But Spiros and I hashed out the details, and I have agreed to consult with a search committee for a position in my stead for next year. We - and I must confess this was not the usual end of a Dean's meeting - poured a finger or two of a fine, aged amber into heavy glasses in Spiros's office and we toasted our years together, my teaching and service, and I confess it brought a small tear to my eye - and to Spiros's - so much so that when we shook hands, Spiros pulled me into a bear hug - for what other animal would so capture our manner or body shapes at that time.

I walked across the quiet campus to my office with a mixture of such desperately clashing emotions.

I love this place, despite some angers and dismays from years past. But it has been my college, and the notion - suddenly realized and made formalized - that I am on the last slope of my teaching career has rocked me some, more so than I had imagined, more so than the same notion which Mrs. Yaro and I hatched struck me during our summer respite from the world.

I am not sad about the future. I, Yaro, have long reckoned on an escape from the academy, and thankfully our preparations for retirement are established and reasonable. Yet it has freighted this semester's new beginning with such stout cargo.

My new charges will wander into classrooms next week, and I will endeavour to bring them into my world for a time, imparting what I hope will excite and interest them, and - above all else - ready them for future challenges in the academic and real worlds - although I tend to believe my lessons are better suited for the former.

I remember my own college days now, and the images of past professors, many now dead, but still alive in resplendence and passion in my mind's eye, old characters in jackets and ties. They seemed older than the rocks themselves, taller than the giant trees. I am, of course, as old as they were, older than some were then. And that is how - of course - my own students will see me in this last year, an old character, a rotund and bald-pated figure from another age, another time, roughly trying to keep up with them.

There is no smell in this room. How can one have a freshly painted office with no leftover odor of the industry? Splendid.

I have set aside today for copying, messing about, unlocking the cabinets of my memory for the preparations of next Monday's classes. I have several sheets - our wonderful departmental assistant has left them for me - showing me the names of my new charges. Each name is fresh, new, unknown to me. For these years I've been blessed to watch rooms fill and empty, fill and empty, in the manner.

One more year. Mrs. Yaro wrote this on the side of my brown-bag lunch this morning. I, as is often the case, cheated around 10:45, opening the bag early to extract a splendid and hearty oatmeal raisin cookie. (One must keep one's blood sugar up.) And I saw her careful handwriting. One more year. And she had drawn a heart next to it; I did not need to tell you that, did I? Yet I did.

You are all my friends. I send you all a gesture of welcome and good fortune to a great year, a first year for some, a straining climb for others, a gentle pass through the words and ideas and young people that have been the great consecration of my working life.

Your friend,


  1. You have surely been a blessing to your students over the years, and this latest post of yours brings me such amazing sadness and yet happiness at the same time.

    Bless you, Yaro.

  2. Without question, many of my favorite moments on CM have come from reading Yaro's posts.

    He is indeed a giving and generous soul, and I share Darla's reaction to his news.

    I hope that this last year is a grand one for a grand gentleman. I only hope that by bestowing a Professor Emeritus title on the good professor will convince him to stay around.

    Best to you and your wife, kind Yaro.

    Fab Sun

  3. Had CM not existed, would we have ever gotten to meet Yaro?

    I am grateful for his presence and his words, and hope he will check in often during his "one more year."

    Compound Cal

  4. What I wouldn't give
    to have the poetic gifts
    of kind, wondrous Yaro.

  5. I don't know if I want to live in a world (bloggy or otherwise) where Yaro is not a part of it.

    I send you a chaste and much-affectioned kiss across the sphere, dear, dear Yaro.

  6. For 72 years we denied Him, demolished His churches, shot His priests, made His nuns into tractor can no longer be denied:

    There is a Christ and one of His avatars is named Yaro Foodie.

    May the church bells ring again.

  7. I'm a longtime RYS/CM lurker, and I wanted to add my voice to this list.

    My colleagues think of CM as a sort of wasteland of grumpy and malformed dolts. And I don't trust people with that poor of judgment.

    I've found CM to be a remarkable place where a wide variety of academics spit and piss and occasionally sing about their academic worlds.

    I've been enthralled by Yaro since the beginning, noted his development as a persona/character, whatever.

    And each post just seems so magically wrought, so carefully and cleverly delivered.

    He's a colleague I wish I'd had at any time in my career, and the professor I wish I would have had as an undergrad.

    Those lucky bastards who get to see him day to day; those lucky students - who will likely not understand for years - who get to see him in his last year.

    Bravo, Yaro.

  8. Yaro,
    As I struggle in my office with the 'straining climb' that is coming up for me next week as well, I am moved to tears by your words. You have reminded me why I do this year after year, despite all the whining and complaining from my students (and from me). I know that in a few short weeks, I will be praying for retirement (which is still about 30 years away) but for now, I am happy to be where I am.

  9. So beautifully written, Yaro. Thank you for sharing. I'm not ashamed to say that it brought a tear to my eye as well.

    Congratulations on your long and successful career and your looming and well-deserved retirement. Savor your final classes and keep us posted.

  10. Oh, my. Please say you'll grace us with your presence now and again in retirement. What would this place be but a grumpy gaggle of curmudgeons without Yaro Foodie?

  11. I would give anything to be in one of Yaro's final classes.

    Congratulations, Yaro. Have a splendid last year!

  12. While I occasionally become morose over the blogworld's representation of academics, I have felt truly lucky to have been among the communities of Rate Your Students and College Misery.

    It's been 6 years now, of course, a lifetime in some ways, and certainly a substantial chunk of my career. What I have learned from all of you has been remarkable, and I believe these two blogs have created the most useful, most hilarious, most thought provoking, and (at times) the most heartwarming community of academics I've ever been fortunate to be a part of.

    Although my activity has waned considerably since the move to CM, I continue to be a reader.

    And it is Yaro (how could it not be) whose name I most look forward to seeing on this page. That avatar, surely from Fab or Cal, although I may be wrong, captures Yaro just as I imagine him, just as his words portray him.

    To call him dear and kind and generous can't possibly be enough of a tribute. But it's how I think of him.

    Much much happiness,

  13. When I was an undergraduate, the "hug" doctor Leo Buscaglia was a popular fixture on PBS. The creator of the "Love 1A" course at USC. I read several of his books and watched many of his PBS specials and marveled at the warmth of his demeanor and depth of his spirit.

    I went so far as to write to him asking him how one could grow to embrace life as he had. Much to my shock and delight, he wrote back. Simple and gracious, he exhorted me to keep trying as the journey was nearly as important as the arrival at the destination.

    Many years have passed, and Dr. Busgalgia left us in 1998, but upon my arrival at RYS/CM, I felt he, Yaro was a kindred soul. I too understood the anguish and frustration of my peers -- I often felt bogged own in my own. But, he, Yaro, always could be trusted to insert a modicum of calm, a twist of perspective, a dash of inspiration.

    Much like Dr. Buscaglia, I often wondered how you were able to accomplish your gentle and generous persona, but appreciated it nonetheless.

    Thank you and godspeed, dear Yaro.

  14. Dear Yaro,

    I can't improve on my colleagues' expressions of warmth and gratitude. Your wise, wry perspectives have given me many quiet laughs in the middle of difficult days.

    While you're still 9 months from retirement and far (I hope) from the need for a memorial, you do have a legacy: whenever I'm ready to pull out my hair because of a student, I think:

    "What Would Yaro Do?"

    Thank you.

  15. I only have to see Yaro's name as the contributor of a post, and I immediately smile, knowing that whatever the content, I will be treated to a gentle, compassionate, poetic revelation.

    Your students and colleagues are better off having experienced your presence.

  16. Three cheers for Yaro!
    Hip, Hip!

    Wishing you a most splendid year and the makings of happy travel plans with Mrs. Yaro. If you should ever be in the presence of our temperate state, I'd love to buy you a libation. Or a confection.

    You are dear to us!!

  17. Dear Yaro, I have nothing to say that hadn't already been said. Blessings, health and joy to you.

  18. Dear Yaro,

    You make those of us just entering our academic careers better with the sharing of your stories. It's nice to know that good can be found. Many thanks and enjoy the cookies of life.

  19. Once again, a post from Yaro brings a tear to my eye. I wish I were one of Yaro's students in the classroom, but I feel that all of us here on CM have been his students in an important way. Blessings to you, Yaro!

  20. Oh, Yaro.
    I am happy for you, and a bit sad for us.
    I hope you do not retire from CM.
    You are sorely needed.

  21. Yaro, I have no words to express the joy I feel when I see your avatar on CM. I read every word with a smile. While your retirement saddens me--only because future students will be denied the opportunity to learn from such a fine person--I am glad for you and Mrs. Yaro.

  22. Oh Yaro. Would that everyone retired with such grace and charm. You are like the handful of my retiring colleagues whom I beg, in my head, not to go just yet.

    Perhaps you'll write in with thoughts on the end, and after?

  23. I propose that we make Yaro the first professor emeritus of College Misery upon his retirement.

    Though for students' sake, I would wish he'd pick up a class now and then, I can understand why true, full retirement and a wonderful, well-deserved rest would be preferable. Many of my excellent colleagues have done the same, and my college is a lesser place without their talents.

  24. Ah, Yaro, your students are lucky to have you, and so are we. Please do keep us abreast of the progress of your final (and, I'm sure, triumphal) year. And perhaps when you do retire, you might consider writing your memoirs -- maybe in installment form on a certain blog? Or heck, even for a real press; I'd pay money for them (and keep duplicate copies on my school desk and nightstand, to help ward off those dark nights of the soul).

    In the meantime, Eskarina is right: when things seem dark, we could do far, far worse than think WWYD? (All the more so because I'm pretty sure that Yaro, though well-padded on the outside, has a core of steel down the middle that will not yield when the true good of the students or the university is at stake).

  25. I just revisited Yaro's posting on the adjunct from September of 2010. Whatever became of that? Did Schimmel get his money back? Did he quit?

  26. I second English Doc's proposal! Wishing you a wonderful year, Yaro. <3


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.