Not the Barbra Streisand kind, the kind that plague us all our lives.
I’ve been reading a mystery novel by John Dickson Carr called The Dead Man’s Knock, which is set at a fictitious college near Washington, DC, in 1948. It prompted me to wonder what has happened at my own Alma Mater, Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. I wondered, do they still teach science there? So I went looking; and, indeed, they do still teach science. But not my branch of science, Geology; at least, not as a major.
That brought up memories of my disastrous college career at Capital, and my even more disastrous career at ELTS, the seminary across College Avenue from Cap. I thought I would take a Google Maps (R) bird’s eye tour of Cap’s campus to see what is still there. I found the campus, easily enough, but a lot of things have changed since I was a student there. Lehman Hall, the dorm in which I lived my freshman year, is completely gone without a trace and nothing in its place but a lawn and a few trees. Renner is still there, but now it’s the Nursing School, a change that was taking place while I was still at school there. Schaaf is still there, greatly expanded; the Campus Center, built while I was a sophomore, is still there, but Cap’s website informs me that it has been extensively renovated. Troutman, Mees, Saylor-Ackermann, all are still there, but Leonard Hall is gone. They’re knocking down Loy Gym, the women’s athletic facility, to build something else. So much of Capital’s history is becoming the rubble on which a new level is being built.
But what of Science Hall and Recitation Hall? Yes, Cap did have buildings with those names. Recitation was a towering two-story classroom building constructed in the 1800’s, with a steep stairway running to the second floor, and above that a huge attic and bell tower. I watched Recitation being razed while I still lived in Columbus as a young adult; I no longer remember exactly what was happening in my life, but I wasn’t a student there at the time. As the walls came down, the classrooms revealed hidden blackboards with things still written on them. Memories of Science Hall came up because the novel I’m reading placed a Science Hall on the campus of fictitious Queen’s College at also fictitious Queensboro, Virginia. This most likely triggered the train of thought that has brought me to this particular station. The Science Hall at Capital has been expanded and is part of a building complex that includes a huge library that grew up on the spot where Recitation once stood. But these things are from years ago.
I spent a lot of time in Science Hall. I had classes there with Professor Ralph Bond and Dr. Wendelin Frantz. I went in the evenings sometimes to visit a chemistry lab where a girl I was interested in was doing lab experiments for a class. My sojourn in the Science Hall was not one I remember with pleasure. I was a lonely, unhappy misfit. After all, why would a pre-sem student want to take geology? I barely passed my classes, and some I didn’t pass. I think, particularly, that Professor Bond was frustrated with me. I remember one time, in a geology lab, he came into class in a particularly bad mood. He ticked off another student for a reason I don’t remember. I was enjoying it (God forgive me!) and had a smile on my face, Bond looked at me, said, “What are you laughing at?”, and hurled a lab stool over the head of Ron Jefferson onto the floor at my feet. I was stunned. I almost got up and left the class.
Our class did get back at Professor Bond, though. I remember a field trip with a couple of other guys, to examine fossils in situ in southern Ohio. At the place we stopped, someone, not I, was softly singing, “What’s it all about, Ralphie? Is it just for the moment we dig?” Another classmate, at another time, referred to him as an old fossil, which made him grimace. (Sorry, Wendel.)
And there are many more memories; not just of Science Hall, but of other areas of my college life, both academic and social. I was unhappy, so my work suffered. I was on probation and nearly got sent down. I suffered clinical depression. I spent hours in solitary prayer in the seminary chapel, where probably the Holy Spirit was groaning His head off because I sure didn’t have the words.
So what’s the point in all of this? My memories, now that I’m in the last third of my life, return to torment me. I wish there were a “delete” button I could click on to erase my bad memories so that I never recall them again, like God does when He forgives my sins. I wish…but it doesn’t work that way. Those bad memories crop up when they’re most inconvenient. My hardest task in life is to forgive myself.
If only I could.