Today, I delivered a paper to everyone on my route. Regardless of normal delivery schedule. Then, I worked my other job for an extra hour. Not where I wanted to be.
Did I want to be home? To enjoy a cookout with friends and fam? That’s a given any other day.
No. I had somewhere else I wish I could’ve been. I wanted to go to Alger.
Alger, Ohio. The center that draws my family back again. A small town you may never have heard of.
I wanted to go to Preston, to walk the stones. Too many for a man my age. I’d recall the military first, then the civilians. My grandfathers, grandmother, great relations, my father, and uncles. One in a grave far too small. I never knew him, but would’ve liked to.
Onward into town, I’d pass my great aunt’s old place. I’d hang a right and pass ‘tween the funeral home and the church. I would not see the school you see. I would see the school that was. With a playground that never closed, full of swings and slides. Of merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters. Monkey bars and balance beams round out the set. I’d see myself and my sisters, rolling in the grass, down the hill out front.
I’d turn left, onto the red brick main street, and pass the old Shadley place, Grandma’s former dwelling, the Waughs, and so on. I’d soon reach the memorial of those from the town who had served. I’d park at the general store next door and walk to the decommissioned cannon holding it’s eternal vigil over the village. I’d sign the guest book and search for a grandfather’s name etched into the stone.
Soon, I’d come to the strange gravel path that leads beyond sight in either direction and remember the tracks that once lay here. I’d turn around before I reached where my other grandmother lived. She’s since moved, and will move again soon. She will be close to mom.
Did I ever mention that as a child, my imagination was once so vivid, that it bordered on hallucination? I remember dreaming of a circus, only to wake to the nightmare of a tiger in my room! He wasn’t there, of course, but I saw him all the same. I could point to him in the room. These days my imagination pulls no such trick, but it would come close as I slowly cruise my way back. Scenes of what was, memories of the past. They would impose themselves over the scenery as I drive by places from my youngest days.
I would turn left down the alley, though the next street was only a house away down the empty streets. Old habits, I guess. As I pass grandma’s garage, I remember the Smurf face that was once painted on the faded and peeling orange paint. Right at the next and last street. I’d go until I saw the single-story place where my uncle lives. I’d pull in the drive, and as I got out of my car, I’d not see what you would see. For a briefest moment, I’d see the two-story green place that burned down. I’d see the treehouse too.
In I would enter, welcome and unannounced. I’d sit and I’d talk with my aunt and my uncle. He never served in the military, but he is the last surviving member of the original local EMS. He was the oldest of his siblings, and as such would remember grandpa better. Grandpa was in WWII.
If you thought I’d have I dry eye, or if I would cry, the truth I will not deny. I would choke up, I would tear, as I remembered yesteryear.