A Time of Transition

This weekend, Jon closed one chapter of his professional life and prepared to start another. After more than seven years with the Department of Radiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, he will introduce the role of Communications Coordinator in the Department of Internal Medicine on Monday. His new department is more than three times the size of Radiology, with over 700 faculty that includes three Nobel Prize winners, six members of the National Academy of Sciences, and seven members of the National Academy of Medicine.

His last day in Radiology on Friday was bittersweet, especially after he was summoned to campus for a hastily arranged farewell luncheon. He maintained his melancholy mood as we arrived at camp and began decorating Cloud 9 for the holidays. But as the reality of all that he left behind settled in, he soon began to look ahead. With only the weekend between jobs, we decided to distract ourselves with some serious TV bingeing, including a few of our perennial favorites.

We followed our Date Night dinner with a viewing of “White Christmas,” one of our favorite holiday films. The 1954 classic, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, was the first feature film to be released in VistaVision, a widescreen process that holds up remarkably well on today’s high-definition screens.

We wouldn’t know until the next morning that the volatile weather occurring across the nation’s midsection would result in so much death and destruction, particularly in southern Illinois, near Jon’s mother’s home, and in western Kentucky, where generations of his father’s family eked out a hardscrabble life, primarily as farmers.

By mid-afternoon on Saturday, we turned away from the grim coverage of the search and rescue efforts to watch “And Just Like That,” a limited series on HBOMax that follows the “Sex and the City” characters of Carrie, Charotte and Miranda as they contend with the complexities of life and friendship. If you’re a fan of the old series and you haven’t seen the reboot, we won’t spoil it for you (although the internet is abuzz with spoilers). Let’s just say it did little to distract us from the sadness of the storm’s aftermath.

After watching the Grand Ole’ Opry’s tribute to Randy Travis on the occasion of his 35th anniversary of becoming a member, we watched “The Trouble with Angels,” a 1966 comedy about two girls in an all-girls Catholic boarding school run by nuns. Directed by Ida Lupino, it stars Hayley Mills and June Harding as Mary Clancy and Rachel Devry (the girls) and Rosalind Russell as Mother Superior. Other nuns are portrayed by Marge Redmond, Mary Wickes and Portia Nelson, all of whom went on to play nuns in more films and TV shows. Jon’s mom, who attended the all-girls Academy of Notre Dame, says the film accurately portrays life at a Catholic girls high school at the time. We look forward to seeing the film every year at holiday time.

We followed it with “Mass Appeal,” a 1984 comedy-drama based on a stage play of the same name by Bill C. Davis. It stars Jack Lemmon as the pastor of an affluent suburb who goes out of his way to avoid controversy, and Željko Ivanek as an idealistic seminarian who isn’t afraid of making waves. Having navigated the seminary system, we can both attest to the film’s authenticity, despite some of its inaccuracies.

Sunday found us reading The New York Times, watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” enjoying morning cocktails, brunching, napping and, finally, packing up to head home for a hot bowl of authentic chili-mac (Steak-n-Shake style) on a cold night. Come Monday, Jon returns to campus, at least for the short-term — something he’s only done a few brief times since the pandemic sent him home in March 2020.

Of our many transitions, that may be the most challenging of all.