What a different life it would have been

I’ve been home from Illinois since Monday and am finding that once again I’m playing catch-up. As is usually the case before beginning a longer assignment, I try to go into it with everything organized--and, I most always fail. But, I’ll keep trying.

What a great week last week was in Decatur---such wonderful talent, spirit, drive, and interest. The students were very attentive and willing to try things that perhaps they hadn’t considered in the past. The faculty at Millikin University is also top notch and very supportive of those in their studios and choirs. I am always impressed by the work being done on campus---but this was a very special visit in many ways. Go Big Blue---I’m proud to be one of yours. Oh, and I also enjoyed my visit to my old fraternity house---SAE.

This trip was full of contemplation for me. I flew into Chicago and then took a short flight down to Peoria on October 5 (I then drove to Decatur). The 20-25 minute trip from Chicago took me over some of my childhood haunts including the town of Spring Valley, Illinois where I was born. I could also see the town that knew my youth, Washburn. I spent so much time in and around the backroads of Central Illinois---every visit is a blast from the past.

Of course, being on your alma mater’s campus floods one’s memories---hearing the bells each morning from Westminster Presbyterian Church (where Nancy and I were married) was heartwarming. I saw so many familiar faces and places--again, there is a memory on most corners of that small city in my mind.

Last weekend, I drove back to the Peoria area to see family before flying home on Monday. I visited my home town and saw the buildings that are the pillars of my childhood memories. I visited or drove past four cemeteries where so many relatives and friends are laid to rest and was moved by the cherished memories I have of each of them. And I enjoyed spending time with my Mom, Sister, and Brother as well. I am such a small town boy.

I guess that perhaps, since I’m nearing a “milestone” birthday, my memories are a bit more on the surface this year. I’m headed into a major engagement that totally excites me--as well as challenges my abilities. I never thought as a youth I’d be an internationally known opera singer.

In fact, I was recently contacted by “Opera News” magazine to offer information for a small blurb that will appear in the December edition of the publication. One question was “If you hadn’t become a singer, what would have become”. My interests were so wide ranging as a youth---I thought I’d be a teacher or perhaps the finest basketball player of all time. But I’ve always had a love for animals (gee, big surprise there) and can honestly say I would have liked to have been a veterinarian. The picture of this little calf was taken this spring at a nearby farm (one of our favorite places---great ice cream there, too). I guess I’ll never be a vet--but one of my sons has somewhat of an interest in the field. Maybe we’ll have even more of a zoo around here soon.

I am thankful for the talents that I have, for the people and places in my life, and for the animals that bring us such sustenance and joy. What blessings are they all!!!