They Tore The Old Place Down

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Each year for the past 3 or 4 years, I have taken a day to just be alone. I usually pick a place to go that I used to live. I started doing this after my mother died. A close friend told me that I needed to process my feelings, to go somewhere and be still, unaffected by deadlines or other things. And so that’s what I do each year.

This year wasn’t a planned trip. My daughter had come to stay with us for a few days and  I took her to the airport to fly home. I had taken the full day off from work, and she was safely at the airport by early afternoon and I had most of the day left to do whatever I wanted. The airport is only about 45 minutes from a small town that I lived in when I was a kid, one of my many stops along the way, so I decided to head there.

I lived in the tiny town of Castile roughly three years, including 1st and 2nd grade. My dad taught at a small college there. We came to Castile because my dad had contracted a disease that was debilitating him. Formerly a pastor, he didn’t have the energy to be a full time minister anymore. We moved into a small apartment that the college offered, in the building seen at the top of this post. We were upstairs and there were apartments in the down stairs.

I have fond memories of my life there. I had two close friends, Pat and Terry, and we enjoyed the small town and the freedom to roam the village. I especially remember going to a local store after school with Terry and getting a cup of cider. I developed a love of reading there at the town library, and sometimes I can still picture Tarzan in my mind the way I saw him when reading.

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The thing I remember the most is the time I spent with my dad. He would be home, physically worn out, basically bed ridden. We would play catch with a beanbag in his bedroom, a simple thing, but to me it was wonderful. He would tell me years later that he felt so bad that he couldn’t do more with me than catch. But I loved those times, I didn’t think of it as being cheated. Those moments are sacred to me.

I went back to Castile two years ago, walked the town, took pictures, talked with people that I probably went to school with, but didn’t remember. And I visited the old building that we had lived in. It was empty, condemned and leaning dangerously to one side, seemingly held up only by one large tree. I talked to some locals and they said the building was owned by an out of towner who hadn’t been there for years.

So now in 2018, I came back to town. I drove by the library, which looks very much as it did when I was 10. I drove past the cider mill and Pat and Terry’s old homes. I drove by the old school I went to, closed for many years and very rundown. And finally I drove to see the old apartment building. A block away I could see something was different, and as I pulled up I realized the old place was gone. A gaping space where the building once stood. It was a funny feeling, like my memories had been whisked away. Bittersweet. They had torn the old place down.

I’m still processing my feelings. The building itself was nothing. But the memories it represented, of the times with my folks, my dad, my early friends, the beginning of the journey, they are very real. It was a simple life, a bygone time. I miss the place.

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Baby Violet

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A pretty special event happened over the weekend for my family. My first grand child was born. Baby Violet, mother Eve and father Tyler, my son, are all doing very well. My wife and I are thrilled and Violet’s Aunt Alicia and Uncle Kyle are excited about her arrival. She’s beautiful and tiny and perfect.

I wish my parents had been here to see her. My dad died when I was 25. He died of cancer, and we were all shocked because we believed he would beat death, because he had beaten it twice before. When we heard he had cancer he told me he would beat it because he wanted to be there to see who I married and to see my kids. We were all wrong, the cancer was too far into his body, and he died two months later. My mother on the other hand lived to 94, and saw and lived with and loved my kids. She would have been giddy over little Violet, I can almost hear her excited squeal, the one she would make when she was really excited about something. Like a great meal or family visiting, the things she lived for.

I don’t know about the hereafter. I used to believe I did. But I like the thought that Mom and Dad are aware of little Violet, that they can somehow share in the joy. So even though I don’t know if they can or not, I’m going to go with the hopeful idea that they can, especially dad, who missed so much because his body let him down.

So we’ll go forward, as a family, and do our best to shower Violet with the love and care that my parents would have. I’ll tell her someday about her great grandparents, and the extraordinary lives they lived, simple people who were filled with love. Welcome to the world little Violet!