This piece will be the final chapter in my third book “Notes To My Kids”. It closes the story and repeats some of the themes I write about in the book. I did something similar in “Days Remembered” with “Do You Remember?”. The notes in this book are written to my kids “Roger” and “Jane” – I use these names for them in the other books you may recall. Photo courtesy of www.imdb.com.
To Roger and Jane…
When you two were small children the movie “Always” came out. It still is one of my personal favorites. In it Pete, an air tanker pilot, played by Richard Dreyfus , gets killed in an accident. In the afterlife the guardian angel “Hap”, played by Audrey Hepburn, tries to guide him to final peace and acceptance of his fate.
In one scene he and Hap travel back and forth in time where he sees his past. While they sit in some forest Hap tells the temporally confused Pete “…time’s a funny thing…”. Indeed it is. I think you’ll see.
Jane, Roger came over to see me the day you went back to Galveston. On New Year’s Eve day we went to eat at a Russian restaurant in Arlington. On the way we went through east Fort Worth where we used to live. And in a short time we went back and forth in time like Pete did in the movie.
After going down Loop 820 we exited at Brentwood Stair Road. We drove down Brentwood past the Kolache Shop, Little Tykes day care, and the bank building where your mom once worked. As we drove down Brentwood we talked about Best Mart, the convenience store we always used for gas, beer, and snacks when we went to the New Park a little north of there. We spent a lot of time at the playground or looking at the horses which were in the pasture next to it. The horses are no longer there; the pasture that they once grazed in is now a field of houses.
We turned down Sandy Lane and around us were the 1960’s era brick veneer homes surrounded by oak trees which looked much like they did when we lived there. We took a left onto Monterrey Drive to see the old house itself. Similar to what we saw on Sandy, the houses seemed to be the same. Memories surfaced as we drove past the homes of our former neighbors like the Simpsons, the Jeffries – whose kids you played with, or Mrs. Shaw who was always in a bad mood.
And then we were in front of the old house itself. The big trees were still there, bigger than before, but the house was mostly the same. . The dormers still looked out over the front yard from your old rooms upstairs and the big tree in the middle of the back still cast its branches over the yard. The big bay window by the front door also looked the same: how many times did we peer out its frames to see what was outside? The owners had painted the red brick a medium gray but that was the only obvious change. And next to it there was Jess and Madge’s old house which really did look unchanged. At that moment I could see us there with Jess on a warm summer day. A grandfather, he would smile at you two and ask what you had been doing at school. Such things happened over 20 years ago but it seemed we were still there, as if time had stood still.
Coming back to the present we turned around and went further down Sandy and there was the Old Park. The playground equipment that you two once scurried over was replaced with newer stuff. But the trees remained along with the ball field, and at the north end of the park was our old backyard fence. The second story of the house and the big tree on the back property line still looked above its top. The year could have been 1985 or 1995 and it would have looked the same.
Next, we continued south on Sandy and drove past the cemetery, where Lee Harvey Oswald lies in his unmarked grave. Nothing much had changed, the same houses, buildings, and trees still stood guard along the street where they had always been.
We drove on to Arlington and turned on to Lancaster to the east beside the railroad tracks, past unchanged areas of trees and pastures.. About the only new things were the gas wells in the fields. The leafless but timeless post oaks were still there, reaching quietly upward around the new wellheads and tanks.
When we got into Arlington we drove past the Campo Verde restaurant where we used to eat. I wondered if the food was as good as it was in the past. On the outside it looked the same as if nearly twenty years hadn’t passed. And as we neared the Russian place I saw another restaurant we’d frequented: Jo-Ed’s Bomber which made northeastern style sub sandwiches. It, too, was seemingly unchanged.
After we ate at the Russian place, we went by a house on Bowen Road that your mom and I considered buying. We didn’t because it had a foundation leak in the garage. The neighborhood around it, like the old east side, hadn’t changed much. Time had passed but you could not tell that just by driving through the area. That day was a trip down the Memory Lane seeing what once was the fabric of our lives. On the way to eat lunch we saw a big slice of our past in a couple of hours. Just as Pete saw his life go back and forth before his eyes in that short scene in “Always”, we saw a big part of our lives go by as we drove down those once frequently travelled roads.
So Hap was right you see, time is a funny thing. Things and places change and sometimes they don’t, even though decades have flown past. What was, still is even though the world and time has moved on, at least in our memories. Hence, they should not be forgotten, they should be tucked away in our hearts and minds to be revisited from time to time. When we go back to seeing our old haunts seeing where we came from and recalling important events from our lives one more time.
Maybe that is why I write my books. Recording the past helps me make drives like we did that day. In that way, the memory of our time together as a family will go down time’s own long road and be remembered by you, and hopefully one day by your own family and kids. Then you can tell them time’s a funny thing too just like Hap told Pete.