Living on Dugway Road , part four.
A walk down memory lane
.As I walk through the old and now empty farm house ,grey monochrome memories come slowly alive , I walk to the window now missing its swirling , liquid like glass panes , the broken sash of the weather worn frame now falling to dusty pieces on the floor as I touch them , I think back in time ......to other old memories...........
How many hours that I had stood at this very window as a kid and counted the hours of slow wintery months , how many wishes I had made in the immaturity of a young boy , how many times I might have stood here in a childlike attempt to pray to a god that my only slight religiously trained imagination had conjured up . Yet I didn't pray for the things you might imagine either . No , I seldom would pray for a new bicycle or a b-b gun , I didn't ask or beg for new toys or a horse all for my own . There are times even now , that the shame and humiliation of growing up in that poverty , in a household full of addictions , alcohol and drugs , emotional and even physical abuse still float to the surface of my visions .My only prayers were for a "normal" home life . One without a father who drank himself into a stupor almost every night , who ignored the bill paying , the problems of family , the fact that his home ,his children and his wife who was trying to raise a family on her own ,even existed .
I look up at the old stairway to the dark hallway at the head of the stairs and think of nights that seamed endless . I remember back to a bare lightbulb in the cieling light , the smells of the old kerosene stove that most nights , simply kept away the cold ghosts of winter , that only slightly warmed the edges of reality and kept the wolves of winter just outside the door . And yet there are certain memories that were just bright enough to offer up a memory or two from the past . I remember standing right here and watching my big brother Al walk down these same stairs in a crispy new dress blue Marine corp uniform , blue slacks , dark blue coat , a red stripe up the outside of each pant leg , and the most highly polished black dress shoes I had ever seen . He stands towering over my five foot ten by another seven inches . Man did I ever feel proud !And I still do !
" So Al , what and where is this place again ? Viet Nam ? " ........
" I don't really know ,...........somewhere on the other side of the earth I guess "
"Well, when are you coming back anyways ?"
" Don't worry Ed ........I'll see you in thirteen months " as he ruffled my hair .
As we said our goodbyes , I looked briefly at my mother crying silently at the dining room table , my father waiting by the door with the car keys in his hand , his head diverted to the front door and silent . And then outside later as the tail lights dissapear down Dugway road on the way to some airport ! And then at the dinner table that evening as we talked quietly about the day , and my Father talking about his own wartime experiences years before . For two tours of my brothers duty to country , we would all sit at the sofa or in my fathers "easy chair " as Walter Cronkite and his "anchor man " Dan Rather , showed footage of soldiers firing M-16 "assault rifles " over sand bagged walls at the "VC'......,each friday night we would watch and listen intently to the weekly "death tolls" of our soldiers and enemy kills . Silently in my own mind, hoping to catch a glimps of my brother throwing a grenade or firing a fifty cal. machine gun . And deathly afraid of seeing his name in the paper too , like his partner in the Marine Corp ,"Buddy system " ....who died there in Viet Nam . A 19 year old boy by the name of Peanut Garrard .that my brother went through school with and joined the Marine Corp as buddies .
I can't tell you how we all felt when "Alsie " finally came home unscathed from that bloody place called Viet nam , as least physically . And yet I can tell you how frustrating it was to go through high school in the sixties and early seventies and observe both sides of the cultural revolution , one ...the anti- war movement spilling over this country from big city to small towns , and how it was such a part of who we all were , and then on the other hand knowing that my brother was "over there " defending every idiot with a microphone and a flag to burn .
Sometimes , I think that , that life , those years far away ,there on Dugway road were but a distant dream and yet they did happen of course , it seems strange now to think back on all the memories , some tragic and others yet as good as any memories can be . And to remember .....
To remember where we came from , and today when me and my siblings sit around and reminisce of old . Occasionally one of us will remember something and another will say ......
"Man , I had forgotten all about that " or,
"Do you remember when so and so............ ?"
And then we might laugh briefly and talk about our life on dugway road . And yet as I stand at the door and watch one of my family members drive away after a visit , I wonder ....if I could would I go back and change anything about those years , and then I answer my own question ,
No ! I would not , not one . Last Sunday afternoon my cell phone rang ........." Heey ! what are ya doin "! ......It was Al himself , he was out riding around and was within a few miles of our house , Al, now sixty three walks in to my house , always the same with him a firm shake of the hand and a Look of admiration that only brothers understand ..............And lately in the last couple of years a chest hug ! From a 'Marine' too !........I wonder if they know that old Marines give hugs now !
After we had a few beers and talked of old times , what's going on at work ? and how the rest of the families are doing ? ........ , we sat down to a well cooked dinner by my lovely wife , laughed and then chatted for a few hours before he left ........And yet , each time he drives away , I wonder ..........after a year like this with so much up in the air with life ,happiness , and family , I always find myself thinking ........" I hope it's not the last time I see him !"..........In truth , I have lost enough of my family that I often think secretly that . If anyone has to go on to the other side of our worlds again , given tragedy and that satan like cringe of death ........I hope it's me ! And that those that I love , honor and cherish beyond all else live forever !