On Monday (Jan. 20), Joyce and I spent the afternoon with our two grandsons (both are nearing birthdays: Logan will be 9; Carson, 5). Steve and Melissa had some errands to run, so they dropped the kids with us a little after 2.
Oddly, it was the first time we'd had both of them for any lengthy period at all. Although they live close (in Green, Ohio, just twenty-four miles away--about a half-hour south of us), and although we see them often, we're not really close enough that we're convenient for quick babysitting needs. But Steve and Melissa were heading north anyway, so it worked out for everyone.
We decided to drive them over to Kent--where Joyce and I met (summer 1969), where Steve and Melissa met (about fifteen years ago), where we had several houses during Steve's boyhood, where Joyce and I received our graduate degrees, where ... well, where a lot of other crucial things happened in our lives.
But our first stop was to see my dear former colleague and friend, Andy Kmetz, who's now living in an assisted living unit south of town. Andy taught art in the Aurora Schools for many years, and during his time at Harmon (Middle) School, I worked with him on about thirty play productions. He was an artist, a superior dancer, so he worked on the sets, choreographed the numbers, and generally did whatever needed to be done to make the shows successful. Some of the most beautiful and memorable moments in those shows were Andy's, and I was supremely grateful for his friendship.
During the weeks of rehearsal, Andy and I would drive early Wednesday evening over to the Wendy's in nearby Streetsboro, where we would have supper and talk about that evening's practice. Joyce and little Steve would often join us, driving over from Hudson.. Later, Steve would perform in seven shows at Harmon, and he and Andy were great friends. (Andy had known Steve since our son's birth.) Later, Andy attended Steve's wedding--danced with his bride (and with mine, reminding Joyce, once again, how clumsy is her husband!). Those Wednesday evenings at Wendy's became a tradition, and we met Andy there for years. Until retirements and new jobs changed so many things.
We would occasionally stop by and see Andy in his apartment in Kent, but then even those visits became unspeakably rare, and we would see him only at various gatherings of "old" teachers--but he didn't always (often) go to those. Neither did I.
And then he had a stroke that knocked him down and changed his life. I learned from a former colleague that he was now in assisted living in Kent, and my conscience began flogging me relentlessly--as it should have been doing all along. So Joyce and I started going to see him on Wednesday evenings--and I write him a letter each week, too, sending him our puny news.
Andy had never met our grandsons, so we thought it was time. I called him shortly before we left and got a typical Kmetzian grumpy reply (Yeah, I'm here. Bye.), and off we went to see him. They took to one another immediately, and before you could say "Andrew Kmetz," he had them drawing and laughing and talking about themselves. It was all I could do to keep my tears in their ducts.
|Carson, Logan, Andy Kmetz|
|See the door?|
That's where Joyce
1st spoke to me!
We used to walk east on Main--all the way down to Friendly's Ice Cream (a convenient stop!). Sometimes we'd go across the street to the Kent Free Library to take half of their books home (his bed bore more weight in books than in boy). And we came up with a very odd tradition. One day on our walk we picked up an interesting piece of bark (about the size of a folded penknife). Steve would carry it in his stroller until we reached the long brick wall in front of the old Kent Masonic Lodge there on the corner of Main and Mantua. One day--for a reason only a toddler could comprehend--Steve asked us to stop, and he placed the piece of bark in the wall where some of the mortar had cracked and broken away. We walked on to Friendly's, to the library, and then on the way home we stopped and retrieved the piece of bark, which Steve then deposited on our front porch, ready for the next trip.
This became a solemn and nearly mythical ritual for a long time. Take the bark, put it in the wall, retrieve it, place it on the porch. Then Steve hit upon an inspiration. He would leave it in the wall. And so we did. And every trip we would pick it up, take it to Friendly's, to the library, then return it to the wall.
Until the day it was no longer in the wall.
Much sorrow. Many questions. No answers--no good ones, anyway. It was just gone.
Anyway, we showed our grandsons the brick wall, and Carson practiced asking his dad to tell him about the "little piece of bark."
By then the boys had had enough--we were all getting hungry--so home we rolled, where we made sourdough waffles and waited for Mom and Dad to arrive. But on the way, of course, I had to point out the apartment building on Fishcreek Rd, where I'd lived during the 1967-68 school year, a place where I was so poor that I could not even afford a telephone. A place where I dreamed of the Joyce I'd not yet met.
Soon enough, Steve and Melissa and her father, Bill, arrived, and we had a good time chatting with them before the darkening skies and the looming thought of school tomorrow sent them out to the car--and away.
And Joyce and I slumped on the couch, agreeing both that that had been a lot of fun and that it was time (6:30 or so) to go upstairs to bed ...
|114 Forest Dr., Kent, OH|
Our home from 1974-1978