The old Neighborhood is gone.
Dickie Hall’s house was torn down. And across the street Duane and Rick and Ron’s disappeared, long ago, into the foundation of another house. The huge, primitive yard where we slept-out in summer is covered by a third, unauthorized modern dwelling that desecrates that sacred site. I’m sure the people who live there have no appreciation for the conversations or our wondering pre-teen dreams of what the world contained.
I can’t visit the basement of Nicky Crosetti’s old house to stand again in the room where we had Cub Scouts and I first viewed the Three Stooges, or crawl into the closet under the stairs we all exited, screaming, from the scary story illustrated by cut vegetables and raw meat representing body parts in the pitch dark.
I drove through the parking lot of what once was Watson Groen Christian School where my father taught and I attended in 1959. Same there. Totally remodeled. Even the name is gone though the work continues. With the new children.
The significant events of my childhood are not only memories, they now have no real place to have occurred at all. The towns, the neighborhoods, the schools are gone. And yet the events, themselves, are vibrantly alive, in vivid, stark contrast to the fading irrelevancies of last week and next month. I can recall the expressions on the faces, the pain and awe and embarrassment and the misery and the hope of those personal moments and milestones. The elderly couple that stared at me through their jammed window before they died in the smoke…
Richard Wurmbrand wrote compellingly of life lawlessly detained, interrogated, confined, and tortured, for years on end, in Communist prisons, an innocent man among many other innocent men. I cannot say exactly where, among his books and letters, but he said that many dying in the camps, surrounded by some of the greatest evils of history, would be reduced to tears remembering — events of their childhood — a time they had been cruel to another child… had propagated some injustice long ago they could never un-do… and were tormented more by the memory of their own behavior than by the medieval tortures they had to endure at the hands of the Socialists who had conquered them (with the same political objectives as Barack Obama).
And so the hard tines of political conquest or suburban growth or economic hardship or urban renewal rake through our lives overturning the earth, erasing the evidence and the scenes of the crimes, but cannot wash away the guilt.
Rather, the reverse.
Our lives, our acts, are laid bare before us. They beset the eyes of our minds indelibly. They endure long after the scenes and circumstances have been raked away and vanished.
And so, as the winnowing blades of temporal tragedy sift through General Motors or New Orleans or the Japanese coastline, it is evident that the “victims” of those losses are only confronting judgment day more “visibly” than the rest of us in a media sense. We all will lose “everything” in one way or another. As we age we see it in lives around us. The theme is echoed, ad infinitum, in the News. No one here gets out alive. Uh, as it were.
This means something
Seeing, then, that we are beset about with so enduring a record of the out-workings of our character, let us set aside every obstacle and dedicate ourselves to the greatness of the task before us.
For in our hands rest the last hopes of the Republic.