Thursday, August 12, 2010

dale drews

I won't be able to do this justice but wanted to get some notes down on the passing of a close family friend. Dale Drews shared many, many Thanksgivings with us at my mother's old apartment in University City. I met him in the very early 1980s when he lived around 49th and Osage, and I was lucky enough to see him a couple times recently and he even got to meet Yiyi and Xiaoli.

I learned all kinds of things from Dale over the years; topics of instruction related to sociology, history, hot sauce, pacifism, humanism, the difference between agnosticism and atheism, the University of Chicago, and how a young man from Iowa knocked on the door to gain admittance. I'm not sure I ever would have become a college instructor or tried to write a novel whose main character is an adjunct if I hadn't known Dale during my formative years. And I'm almost certain that knowing Dale and what he was about and believed in was a main reason I was so intent on devouring Marx, Rousseau, and other continental thinkers when I went off to college.

In fact, I recently chose one of Rousseau's quototations as the prefatory quote for the novel, and I know it is one that Dale would enjoy discussing and then perhaps adding a final comment in his very dry wit. It is even the case that his medical emergency in 1994 was what put me in front of a college classroom for the first time; I proctored a final exam for one of his classes at West Chester University, not knowing that within two years I'd be a teaching assistant at Temple with my own papers to grade and soon after deeply rooted to my own adjunct shuffle around town in Philly. So perhaps the way he led his life helped lead me to my own.

Almost every year we came together for Thanksgiving, Dale would say a few words before we ate; a paraphrase would include, "in reaching for these dishes, we are reaching for each other, and in reaching for each other, we are reaching for the highest."

Now Dale, world willing, has attained the highest. Peace.

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