Category Archives: meta

Back at Work

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post here. First, that was because the new semester was starting, but then right at the end of February I got a call from my mother saying she needed me at home. The hospice nurse had told her it was time to find a skilled nursing facility in which my father could receive the kind of care he needed for the final days of his life. So I spent the first twenty days of March arranging to fly to Texas, looking after my dad, finding a nearby nursing home, witnessing his death, arranging his funeral, writing a eulogy, and helping my mother through the first two weeks of her new life on her own.

It has been a difficult time for all of us, and I have a new comprehension of the experiences of some of the people I have studied over the past twenty years. I feel especially close right now to Maria E. Wood, whose journal was the first that I transcribed and encoded with students in a U.S. Women’s History course in fall 2004. Wood’s father died during the time she kept the journal, and she recorded her thoughts and her efforts to feel close to him after his death. Hers was a deep and wrenching grief for a father from whom she had never lived apart, and mine differs in that I have not lived with my parents for over thirty years.

I feel closer to Wood nevertheless, and like her I must now make my own way in the world, looking after my mother as well as myself. And so I return to teaching, research, and writing, ready to record here more regularly ongoing developments in the Wheaton College Digital History Project as well as my thoughts about digital humanities and liberal education.

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Ambitious Plans

When I set out to blog Eliza Baylies Wheaton’s travel journal, I planned to blog each entry in a kind of “this day in 1862” fashion.  You would think that after twenty years of teaching I would have realized that was an unreasonable goal for the final month of the spring semester.  But fools rush in.

So now that the semester has been over for a month and June is half over, I am finally ready to get back to blogging the travel journal and the parts of Wheaton’s 1862 journey that she did not record there.  Tomorrow, Liverpool.  Then London.  And in a week or two, Paris.

I wish I were going to Paris….

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Empathy for the Invalid

Recently, a friend noted that they hoped Eliza Baylies Wheaton would make landfall soon since she seemed to be having so much trouble with seasickness.  I shared that hope.  Writing about illness may not be quite as unpleasant as reading about it, but it’s not usually my first choice.

Wheaton can be frustrating in that way since her health was not always great.  And I often find myself a bit peeved with her.  Perhaps at those points I’m channeling a different side of her character, the one that noted how her friend Eliza Knight Beane often felt too ill to help with housework but well enough to go for a carriage ride.

And perhaps the cosmos was sending me a message at the end of last week when I spent a good three days on the fainting couch suffering from a migraine that steadfastly refused to respond to medication.  Not that I believe in that kind of thing.  Cosmic stuff, I mean.  Migraines don’t really care whether you believe in them or not.

At any rate, I have found new respect for Wheaton and the burdens her body placed on her.  My own has helped me discover empathy for this particular invalid.   And I am resolved to catch up with blogging her travel journal within the week.

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