Driving Through History

Each Memorial Day I visit my father’s grave marker at sunrise. It started in the year 2000, the first anniversary of my father’s passing. My three brother’s and I met to reminisce, pray, and pay some respect to a life, without which we wouldn’t have our band of brotherhood.

This morning the drive through town resurrected a collage of memories. Places that held memorable slides of personal cohesion.

I had a Free Press route on the west side when I was in pubescent transition. There was a house on Grand Pre Avenue that tested my throwing arm each pre-dawn day. Its porch was unlit, and I got freaked out every time the shadowed enclave came into my field of vision. I could pinkie swear there was a person nestled in its corner, ice-sculpture still, waiting to snatch my body and what was left of my courageous façade. I never heaved a rubber-banded paper so hard while trotting off balance. I was like Joe Namath outside the pocket, under pressure, throwing off one foot. Those deliveries fused my definition of fear tighter to my understanding. Not to mention one morning while picking up my bundle at the convenience store a 45 pistol was waved at me and the attendant before a masked man ran out with the contents of the cash drawer.

I drove past what used to be H&G Market, my first W-2 employment. I still recall the sound of snapping open paper grocery bags. The May-day in 1980 where I stood in the parking lot after loading a lady’s checked off grocery list of things in her trunk was recalled with no effort. I stood looking up at debris circling above the rooftops like the disciples watching Jesus float through the clouds. Then my conscience asked me why I was standing there. I ran back into the store in time to feel the pressure pop my ear drums while the front windows and back wall of the store simultaneously broke free. My sister, who cashiered, and other employee’s ran for safety, but the tornado went by so fast, most of us didn’t make it to the basement before the twister continued disheveling its way to downtown Kalamazoo. A handful of lives were lost, including a lady at the laundromat next to H&G, who tried to save her dog when a wall fell on her. The silver lining of it all was eating ice cream, lots of it, until my gills were swollen shut.

Then I passed the house in which I met my wife. A brick bungalow all of our children know about. Right near the top of West Main hill it stands as a talking point each time we drive by. “That’s where we met!”

The hill itself surfaced a memory of the shenanigans of my friend Dennis (The World’s Tallest Leprechaun) and me self. Well, it was one shenanigan anyway. We decided to see what would happen if a tire were rolled down the center line. It was early morning, pre-sunrise, so there was no traffic. It had to have been doing 40mph by the time it jumped the curve near the bottom. We could’ve done worser things…worser?

Funny, when I visited my mother’s resting place on Mother’s Day this year, I drove past the last house in which my father lived. This morning as I stood over my dad’s marker I was a short distance from the last place my mother lived. Lived. They lived. Because they did, I can say I live now. My mother was in assisted living her last month or so, after she spent so many years assisting me and my nine siblings. I cannot wrap my head around such mystery. All our stories melding at points, separating at other points. Now, some stories are only held together by memory. Memorial stories. Man, I could go on…I suppose I will, just like my parents do in my memory.