Thursday, June 2, 2016
Too Many 50s in My Life, Part 2
A few days ago I wrote about how I graduated from Hiram College fifty years ago, and, a few months later, I began my teaching career--Aurora Middle School; Aurora, Ohio. I had written about these events because I'd remembered what I called in the earlier post "one of the oddest nights I ever spent." So ... here we go ...
As I wrote last time, in the summer of 1966 my parents left Hiram, Ohio, and moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where both would teach for the rest of their careers.
They sold our Hiram house--11917 Garfield Rd.--to the current occupants. David and Monica Fratus. He was about to begin teaching at the college; his wife would teach at one of the nearby elementary schools. (Coincidentally, Joyce would teach their children, years later, at Western Reserve Academy.) The Fratuses have lived in that house for a half-century, and when he retired a few years ago, I promised him I would no longer refer to it (in his presence!) and "my house." And I haven't. But it's still how I feel ...
...but ... that odd night ...
With the help of my dad I'd found a small apartment in Twinsburg, Ohio, only about five miles west of Aurora; it was actually an old barn, I think, divided into two one-floor flats. (It's long gone.) My neighbor and his wife had a new baby who cried whenever I wanted to sleep. Well-trained. He worked at the Chrysler plant in Twinsburg. My place had a living room, bedroom, kitchen, bath (no shower).
My parents had left me a few things--their old black-and-white TV set (with rabbit ears), a device that required some violence for it to work properly (a stiff left jab to its left side generally sharpened the picture); a plastic table-top radio; some lawn furniture, including a recliner; a standing lamp; a tiny table to use in my kitchen; some TV trays. Some cooking utensils. An old gas stove and fridge were there.
The owner of the apartment had provided some bedroom furniture "retired" from a local motel--bed, dresser with mirror; a night stand. All were beige and bogus.
No rugs. Softwood floors.
In order to get those few things from Hiram to Twinsburg I enlisted the help of an old friend from high school, Bob Waller (who later got a Ph.D. in chemistry from Case Western), who obligingly brought along a trailer and helped me move. It took about an hour.
But here's the odd part. The night before Bob came to pick up my stuff I spent my final night sleeping on the porch-furniture recliner in the living room of our old Hiram house, now virtually empty. My little brother had gone off to college; my older brother was off in grad school; my parents had left for Iowa. And there I was in the empty house where I'd lived my eight years of high school and college. Empty. Our old brownish carpet still on the floor. Everything else ... gone.
I must have slept. But the place was aswirl with ghosts--memories of Christmases, family breakfasts, Dad ringing a loud bell to get us up for school, surly snarly scenes from adolescence, the Amish workmen remodeling the place before we moved in (and after!), the kitchen cabinets my mother had painted pink (!!), the voices of people I loved even when I thought I didn't, the sound of our dog, Sooner, scratching at the basement door (his nighttime motel), his beastly barks down there when he found a mouse (or rat!), the smells of Mom making fresh cherry pies (we had a tree), fresh applesauce (we had trees), the roar of the lawnmower, the sight of Dad, USAF ret., standing at attention when they played the national anthem before televised ball games, Mom closing herself in their bedroom/study to do our income taxes ... I could go on, but I don't want to cry anymore than I already am.
All of that was gone now. I was trying to sleep on a stage set recently struck. Only the ghost light remained.
A light that still glows in memory, showing me all that I've loved, so much that I've lost.