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The Old Paved Road: A Moment With Bill Reflection
We moved into the house on North 18th Street in 1953 when I was a stumbling, bumbling tot of five. The street was gravel at that time, and on a hot summer’s day, after a car went by, the dust would hang in the air and make it darn near impossible to visit for a good ten minutes afterwards. My mother would hang clothes on the line out back after eight a.m. because by that time all the men would have headed off for work and the air would be reasonably clear the rest of the day.
Finally, in the summer of 1960, our street was paved. The large bulldozers and pavers spent that summer with us as a constant reminder of progress, and when the work was completed by October we sat on our porches and looked out on that black top road and could only imagine what other wonders would follow.
I simply had no idea.
Jackson Browne says it perfectly
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
Along that road I had my first crush and consequently was crushed by love the first time. Jennie Todd was her name, one year younger than me and a serious beauty with raven hair and, as I recall, budding breasts which drove me absolutely crazy. I could not have been more in love….or so I thought….for the emotions of a thirteen year old have very little in common with reality….still….
Jennie and I would lay in the tall grass, and look up at the white clouds drifting by, and talk of heavy matters with all the seriousness of clueless youth. Many a world problem was solved on those lazy afternoons, and many times I left her side at the end of the day feeling unfulfilled, frustrated and sorely lacking in the worldly skills necessary to take the relationship to the next level.
I kissed Jennie on a hot August day of my thirteenth year, and a month later she and her family moved to Oklahoma, leaving one shattered heart and thoughts of what might have been.
NEVER BACK DOWN
Along that road I learned that respect is not a birthright but rather something you earn and demand.
Twelve boys lived along that road, all between the ages of ten and fifteen, and pecking orders were quickly established, and rights of passage were experienced and paid for with bruises and blood. Friends we all were, but friends who at times tested each other in a domination dance as old as time itself.
King of the mountain was more than a game, and Red Rover was a childish event designed by, I’m sure, some sadist. Touch football resembled the landing at Normandy and tag more closely resembled the Roman Circus of old.
Humility was born there; ego died there; and through it all, companionship grew there.
How much about life did you learn during your childhood?
ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL
Along that road I learned the value of community. The neighbors became extended family, and security was not measured by the number of locks on one’s doors but rather by the number of friends who constantly had your back.
I learned that the death of any man diminishes us all, and the birth of a new child was a reason to celebrate the birth of hope for all of us.
I learned you help your neighbor because, well, that’s what neighbors do for each other, and I learned that we were all only as strong as the weakest among us. Pot lucks, neighborhood barbecues, a never-ending supply of babysitters and support during those times when you fell to your knees from the weight of it all. They were all my family, and I theirs, and many a time we were called on to tote that barge and lift that bail because our help was needed and we gave it gladly.
KIDS WILL BE KIDS
Along that road I hit my first homerun, a 300 foot drive that took out Mrs. Monroe’s front window and a drive I spent the summer mowing lawns to pay for. I learned that telling the truth for mistakes is infinitely easier than losing respect by telling lies in cover-up mode.
I learned that forgiveness is given when remorse is from the heart, and I learned that we all have to learn, at times, the hard way so that easier days will be on the horizon. Kids will, indeed, be kids, and adults will be adults, and people will be people, and to judge one based on a single action is to cast stones from a glass home.
BLESSED ARE THE MEEK
Along that road I came to realize that a man’s religion is terribly unimportant when judging the man himself, and there are no atheists in a foxhole. I watched and learned as a Catholic bled the same way as a Baptist, and a Lutheran the same as a Buddhist. Tears have no belief system, nor do smiles, and to think that life can be explained by the place of worship on a Sunday morning is to have a very limited view of life itself.
I found that whether you kneel to a god or bow to nature, the only true judge of your character is the way you treat other people. There were lengthy talks about the existence of god and life after death, but in the end it all came down to how you lived your life, and if, on your death bed, you could look over the landscape of your life with pride and satisfaction.
RICH MAN POOR MAN ALL MEN WELCOMED
Along that road I found the poor to be rich and the rich to be poor, and monetary considerations were of little importance. Bigger televisions were purchased, finer home furnishings were on display and the latest cars were parked next to rusted-out relics, and none of it made any difference. A hierarchy of sorts was established by the haves looking down on the have nots, but when sorrow, rage or death came a’callin’, the size of your bank account held no sway. Wealth could not prevent divorce, and possessions could not hold back the aging process, and when the bell tolls it does not toll only for those scraping to get by in life.
DEATH BE NOT PROUD
Along that road I learned that the true believer in equality was death. From the housewife to the millworker, the bank executive to the shell-shocked veteran, the inevitable final act awaits us all. From my father I learned that even the bravest have something to fear, and from my uncle I learned that it is possible to die with dignity, and from them all, the aunts and grandparents, neighbors and strangers, I learned that life is for the living, and mourning the dead is a futile act that has no constructive purpose.
I witnessed the remarkable truth that some are dead while living, and some die and live forever, and if you are not enjoying every second of every day then you have missed the whole damn point of living, for life is the most precious of gifts and should never, ever be wasted.
The Simple Life: A Moment With Bill Reflection
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Reflections about life (by Billybuc)
MEMORIES FOR A LIFETIME
Twenty years were spent along that road, but a lifetime of lessons were absorbed there. I awoke each day along that old road a blank slate, impressionable and willing to learn. Not all lessons were pleasant but all were necessary in order that I reach this point in life, happily in love with the simple acts of breathing in and breathing out.
I returned to that old road a couple years back, and very little had changed. The blacktop was worn to be sure, but the memories remained as fresh as if they had been poured yesterday. I saw my dad hoisting a beer while sitting on the front porch, and I saw Mr. Mertz washing and waxing his old Ford under the oak tree. I saw Sally Norlin holding her dying son and I saw Butch Lerum wondering how it was possible that his wife would leave him.
They are all gone now and yet they still remain inside of me, cheering me on as I round third and head for the home plate of my life, and I guarantee that my travels through life have been made smoother because that road was paved back in 1960.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”