A Life Renewed, 1983-1998

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Overview

A Life Renewed, 1983-1998 continues the personal story begun in Roderick Stackelberg's earlier autobiographical volumes, Out of Hitler's Shadow and Memory and History. The basic themes stressed in the prefaces to the first two volumes of his autobiography-the desire to honestly share his experiences in an aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable way retain their relevance for this later volume as well.

This third volume covers his happiest and most generative years, including his ...

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A Life Renewed, 1983-1998

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Overview

A Life Renewed, 1983-1998 continues the personal story begun in Roderick Stackelberg's earlier autobiographical volumes, Out of Hitler's Shadow and Memory and History. The basic themes stressed in the prefaces to the first two volumes of his autobiography-the desire to honestly share his experiences in an aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable way retain their relevance for this later volume as well.

This third volume covers his happiest and most generative years, including his new marriage to Sally Winkle and his work as a professor of history at Gonzaga University. His richly illustrated personal and professional stories are interspersed with a running commentary on the extraordinary political changes in the closing years of the twentieth century.

The title of this volume, A Life Renewed, 1983-1998, refers to both his new marriage to Sally and to the birth of their son, Emmet, in 1991. The fifteen years covered in this volume are infused with the joys of a happy marriage, a gifted late-born off spring, and some limited but satisfying professional success. He also chronicles the successes of his older children as they pursue college and careers. Stackelberg considers this period to be the "high noon" of his life, before the onset of old age and ill health at the turn of the century.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781475930399
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/19/2012
  • Pages: 174
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Read an Excerpt

A Life Renewed 1983–1998


By Roderick Stackelberg

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Roderick Stackelberg
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-3037-5


Chapter One

A New Beginning with Sally, 1983–1985

In late October, 1983, I first met Sally Winkle at the home of Olivia Caulliez, still married to my former Gonzaga colleague John Shideler at the time. Sally had just begun teaching German language and literature at Eastern Washington University. We had both attended the annual German Studies Association conference held that year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where Sally was completing her PhD in German language and literature. We had not met at the conference, but it gave us plenty to talk about. My visit to Madison had indeed been a memorable occasion for me, my only visit to one of the major sites of the student rebellion and anti-war movement of the 1960s, with which I sympathized so greatly. The balmy weather drew hundreds of students into the streets to enjoy the "Indian summer." The student union, the Rathskeller, still served beer at the time, and the atmosphere of the city and especially the campus struck me as marvelously liberal and inviting. For Sally, who had already lived in Madison for six years, the weekend was probably nothing special, but we found in our conversation at Olivia's that we were on the same wavelength in our political views and intellectual interests—so much so that for all practical purposes we were "computer-matched." Sally had been an active member of the graduate teaching assistants' union at the University of Wisconsin and had participated in a strike for higher wages and better working conditions a year or two before. Within a week we became an inseparable couple. Our sixteen-year age difference was no problem, at least not at the time. "It turns me on," Sally told me, "that you think I am young." And I was turned on by her slim figure and excellent mind.

I had been searching for a mate for more than a year, ever since my final separation from Steffi at the end of 1982. I was particularly attracted to two of my young female colleagues at Gonzaga, but they were each other's best friends, and in my clumsy efforts at courtship I only managed to antagonize both of them! When one of them threw a tenure party for the other one in April 1983 and I was one of the few faculty members who were not invited, I knew I had ruined whatever chances I might have had with either of them. In my journal I recorded my reaction to this rebuff:

The war between the sexes: the effort to grow beyond the natural attraction to the opposite sex. Hence one competes for the superior psychological vantage point that confers autonomy. Make the other side want you more than you want them.—Insight derived from not being invited to [the] tenure party. Nice to have the insight, but wouldn't it have been more fun to have been invited?

I took a mordant view of my motives:

Irony: in students as potential lovers I look for the parent-less, because they are more likely to defy convention (Kaye!). In older women as potential mates I look for those with close ties to their parents because they are more likely to have internalized the conventional goals of marriage and children (besides carrying the genes of longevity). They are less likely to give in to Lesbian temptations.

Obviously, my own inhibitions played a part in my problematic post-divorce relations with women:

It is easy to say, why not call her; the worst that can happen is that she'll say no. For one thing, it isn't the worst. She may say yes and not mean it. But what is even worse is that she says yes and you do not mean it. You mean it only if she reacts in a certain way. One inhibition, then, is fear of becoming a fraud, of being revealed as a fraud, because your phone call may promise something you can't deliver.

Another inhibiting factor was the note of desperation that I seemed to convey. Martha Chrisman, an attractive young pianist in the music department who in June, 1986, moved to a higher position at Purdue University, gave me some good advice: "You go too fast. You seem desperate. It takes all the romance out of it. A romance needs a little mystery, a little teasing." Martha told her mother that I seemed very lonely. I asked her what her mother's response had been. "She said she thought you'd better get your act together before you go out." But Martha and I were too different ever to have made a harmonious and integrated couple. She was a bit of a born-again Christian who dragged me to Sunday services at a number of churches.

At the Plymouth Congregational Church with Martha. The minister with the ingratiating gestures and self-admiring public speaking style of Bob Carriker. Martha applying the lessons of the sermon to her problems with Fr. Leedale [chair of the music department], who gave her a bad evaluation after a sneak visit to her class: "I'll get him through love," and "I'm going to think of my problems as challenges from now on." About the minister: "He doesn't play it safe like other ministers. He disturbs people. He has the courage to speak of faith and love instead of how to save the world."

Martha was quite aware of our basic incompatibility. Of a romantic rival, a young executive at a local credit union with whom she was going out, she said: "I don't want him, but I want to want him; I want you, but I don't want to want you." To my plaint that she got sexually aroused with me but then transferred it to him, she responded, "Maybe it's the other way round."

When I met Sally, my son Nick was quite relieved. He had become quite worried that if my relationship with Martha developed any further, he would have to go to church every Sunday!

Twelve-year-old Nick was a bit wary of Sally, too, at first, for fear that our relationship was getting too close, as Sally frequently came over for supper. "When I see three pork chops on the counter," he admonished me, "I get really mad." "I should sue you for waste of gas," he said at another time. "Have you and Sally ever thought about how much gas you are wasting when she comes over here?" But when Sally finally moved in with us two years later in September 1985, they got along very well.

Sally was very much affected by the second wave of the feminist movement, sometimes referred to as the Women's Liberation Movement, reaching its crest in those years. I sympathized with the movement as well for its emphasis on equality, even if it seemed to make courtship more complicated than it had been when I grew up in the 1950s (not that the more rigid gender roles of an earlier era made it any easier for me). Several months before, on May 6, 1983, I had written in my journal:

Feminism only elevates courtship to a higher level; it does not change its dynamics. If anything, it reinforces the age-old dynamic: men must really be men: must act independently and courageously: must be prepared to court even the formidable new woman: must not sit on their asses: must not be afraid to act just because women, too, are autonomous, career-oriented, and equal. Another way of putting it is that the war between the sexes did not start with feminism: it only took a more honest, less devious form.

Sally herself was somewhat torn by conflicting emotions, as recorded in my journal on November 23, 1983:

Sally telling me how Miles, her bisexual boyfriend, had analyzed her two personalities and called them "Anna Mae" and "Beatrix," respectively. "Anna Mae" wants to be taken care of by a man, "Beatrix" is the liberated independent woman. The United Nations Association meeting in Cheney the day before yesterday had distressed "Beatrix," because Sally had behaved so much like "Anna Mae". Instead of sitting in a comfortable unclaimed armchair (on which we had placed her coat), from where she could have conversed comfortably with other visitors, she sat down in a corner of the sofa next to me. From there she was virtually excluded from the conversation both because I blocked her line of discourse, and she didn't know any of the people there, except [her colleague in government] Ernie Gohlert , who was giving a talk on his trip to Malaysia. Ernie's presence only made her feel more inadequate, since she had, in effect, chosen to retreat behind me.—The question in my mind was, do I force her, by my behavior, into the role of "Anna Mae"? I had thought that her self-doubts had a different source: that "Anna Mae" felt neglected by my lack of a firmer commitment than our present practice of sleeping together on weekends. The fact that it is "Beatrix" who is aggrieved does not entirely reassure me. For "Beatrix" is angry at "Anna Mae" for wanting what "Anna Mae" wants.

Sally herself was not happy with this artificial distinction between the traditionalist "Anna Mae" and the feminist "Beatrix", and by the time I met her she had fully embraced a feminism that explained gender not as biologically given but as a social and cultural construct. This did lead to some animated discussions in which Sally criticized my more traditional views, as recorded on January 22, 1984:

Argument yesterday with Sally: she took issue with my explanation of promiscuity among young male homosexuals, which was that young men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five have a powerful sex drive for which there is no socially acceptable outlet. Sally objected to this notion, because the powerful male sex drive is sometimes cited as an excuse to meliorate the blame attached to rapists. When I said it was not my intention to provide such an excuse, she nonetheless objected to the notion that men had a more powerful sex drive than women, because that argument could be used to rationalize rape. This frustrated me.: "You deny reality and truth because it is not convenient to the feminist cause."—"What you call reality and truth may not be truth from a different perspective," she responded. "The whole notion of 'objective reality' has been used to perpetuate an androcentric point of view." I tried another tack: "All I'm doing is providing an explanation for male homosexual promiscuity, an explanation designed to counter the biased view that homosexuals are by nature promiscuous. What you are saying about the application of this explanation to rape is irrelevant."—"You are trivializing my argument by calling it irrelevant. It is typical of the male inability or refusal to see any other point of view."—"I, too, object to using the notion of male hyper-sexuality to justify rape," I retorted. "But that doesn't allow me to close my eyes to the truth."—"What may be true for you may not be true for me."—"But your truth has no bearing on the statement I am making. It is an entirely separate issue."—"From my perspective it isn't. Your failure to see and make the connection is precisely the limited vision I challenge."—"If our perception of truth is so different, we will never be able to close the chasm between us."—"All I want you to do is make the effort to see my side and not to trivialize my side by calling it 'irrelevant,' or 'irrational,' or 'subjective,' or 'illogical,' while validating your own side as 'objective.'"

The argument made me acutely aware of how real the conflict between the sexes is, how unbridgeable the chasm may well be. For it seems that what I am being asked to do is no less than to give up my objective view of reality—a view that has served male interests and does not take "subjective" feminine perspectives sufficiently into account. The argument helped me to understand the genealogy of [my ex-wife] Steffi's dictum, "Sex ist alles (sex is everything)." For if the interests and perspectives of the sexes are so different, the sexual attraction is ultimately the only sure bond. It also seemed to clarify the origins of the old saw, to wit that women do not think as logically as men. Thus a feminist attack on sexism reinforces a sexist prejudice.

On December 6, 1983, we attended a firebrand talk by the ex-Mormon feminist Sonia Johnson on the theme epitomized by her militant dictum, "To be born female is to be born behind enemy lines." Her most damning indictment of men was her assertion, "They say, 'if you do not meet our demands, we will not love you.'" More valid, in my judgment, was her starkly expressed insight, "Human beings love human beings. They don't love doormats." After the talk I confessed to Sally that I felt thoroughly chastened, to which Sally replied, "good!" But Sally credited me with a "maternal streak:"

"I like it when you warm up my feet, but I don't like it when you tell me how to teach. I don't like it when you seem to do everything that I do better. It does not help my low self-esteem." John Wagner of the philosophy department went so far as to say (as reported to me by Martha): "The only reason women like Rod so much is because he's a feminist."

My seventeen-year-old daughter Trina came home to Spokane at Christmas, 1983, with some very exciting news: she had just been admitted to Harvard on early decision, an admissions practice that Harvard ended a few years later to enlarge its pool of candidates and to equalize the opportunities for low-income and minority groups. At the annual Spokane Harvard Club luncheon between Christmas and New Year's in 1983, Trina announced: "My greatest fear about going to Harvard is that I think of it as so perfect, such a pillar, that I'm afraid this image will crumble when I go there." She needn't have feared disillusionment, however. Indeed she ended up marrying a fellow Harvard graduate, Garth Jonson, in 1995 and remained a resident of Cambridge or Boston from 1984 on. She completed a doctorate at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2006 and continues to conduct research there on epidemiological risk assessment to the present day. In the spring of her senior year at Kent School, however, her rebellious streak surfaced with a few unhappy ramifications. Trina had taken her mother's VW bug (my ex-wife Steffi did not drive) with her to Kent, where she parked it at the home of Olaf's mother-in-law Mrs. Sleighter, as Kent School did not permit its students to have automobiles on campus. However, Trina made the mistake of lending her car to some fellow students who were involved in a minor accident, thus bringing this violation of Kent School's rules against students' use of automobiles to light. Although Trina was allowed to graduate in June, 1984, she had to forfeit all of the many honors and awards she had earned for her scholarly achievements. Fortunately, these disciplinary actions did not affect her admission to Harvard

Signs of teen-age rebellion continued at least for a while at Harvard. At Christmas time 1984, Trina came home to Spokane with a blue streak in her hair. This even merited a mention in the "Undergraduate" column of Harvard Magazine which noted the presence in the Yard of a freshman girl known simply as "Blue."

Although as a child Trina had been highly critical of her mother's smoking habit, provocatively posting "No Smoking" signs all over the house, now she came home with a carton of cigarettes, which she proceeded to smoke in her upstairs bedroom over the course of her two-week stay.

Aunt Temple died of cancer in Florida on February 24, 1984, the first of her generation of our immediate family (our cousin, Olaf's benefactor Pauline Emmet, had died the year before). Despite her illness Aunt Temple had stopped off to see me in Spokane on her way to her daughter Liz and son-in-law Robie Rosenthal's home in Seattle in July, 1983. Perhaps she anticipated the approaching end of her life, because she brought Christmas presents for my family, as if she sensed that she might not be around to send them at the end of the year.

She is exemplary in her grittiness, in her strength in the face of old age and ill health, her total lack of self-pity. But it is precisely this hardness, manifested in rather gruff attitudes, opinions, and even language, this determination not to let the world get to her, this invulnerability, that makes conversation with her, not a bore, but a chore. I was hoping to get some information and insight into Mama's life in the 1930s. But Aunt Temple could no longer remember when Mama had come to America [on vacations] or for how long. She could not even remember the last year she, Aunt Temple, had been in Germany herself. None of that particularly interested her. To the explanation of Mama's psyche she did contribute the hypothesis that Mama had had things too easy! She should not have been supported as much as she had been by Granny. There is an unconscious economy in Aunt Temple's outlook; all her sensibilities have become mobilized in the fight to assert herself against disease, weakness, self-doubt, loss of will. A courageous old lady, but tedious. It is the same quality that years ago I called "impersonal," though Mama objected and insisted she was "too personal."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Life Renewed 1983–1998 by Roderick Stackelberg Copyright © 2012 by Roderick Stackelberg. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................vii
Introduction....................ix
1 A New Beginning with Sally, 1983–1985....................1
2 A Productive Period of Scholarship, 1986-1988....................25
3 Making It, 1988-1990....................49
4 Years of Momentous Change, 1990-1991....................68
5 The New Arrival, 1991-1992....................87
6 Another Year, 1993-1994....................102
7 Endings and Beginnings, 1994-1995....................118
8 Early Deaths, but Life Goes On, 1996-1997....................128
9 The End of an Era, 1998....................148
Epilogue....................163
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