July 25, 2010
My flight to Toronto from Los Angeles was uneventful. I slept all the way. Once in Toronto I cleared customs and immigration and took a taxi to my parent’s home. I now find myself sitting in the room that I once called home and even in the old bed that I used to sleep in almost 40 years ago. It is all here, every piece of furniture, every book on my shelf, even the window blinds are the same. In this changing world, how many people get to experience this? But I am disturbed. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. I have not seen my parents in 15 years so I see how they have aged. Time is weighing heavily on their bodies. If another 15 years passes before I return they may not be living in this home. They will likely not even be alive. I have mixed feelings about coming here. It is a joy to see my parents, yet I see the huge contrast between how they looked 15 years ago and how they look now. It feels as if I am looking at a car wreck. Everyone knows that feeling driving along when up ahead one sees an accident. There may be injuries or even death. Suddenly you sober up, put two hands on the wheel and drive with more caution. As one drives by one is confronted by disaster, which forces reflection on the fleeting nature of life. So being here at my childhood home gives me this feeling. I am melancholy. I am seeing my own future, especially as I look at my father. The weight of time is awesome, and no one is spared. The fleeting nature of life just shows more when there is less of it to go around.
This evening I took a walk through my old neighborhood and I retraced my steps to my elementary school. I walked to this school four times a day for eight years, a distance of 3 kilometers each way; there was no question of being driven to school in those days. I went to the spot where I fell on my face and knocked out my teeth. I have suffered with teeth issues since that day. I saw where I was standing when I received the news that president Kennedy had been shot dead. I remember vividly the date, November 22, 1962, for I also received a Gideon’s Bible at school on that day. One could never receive a Bible from a public school these days! I passed
the homes of my two closest friends, Gordy Causwell and Paul Hoffman, and the homes of so many other of my childhood friends. Gone they all are! My friends houses are there, but my friends have all vanished. My school is there, but the teachers and students I knew so well are gone. The streets and parks where I played are all there, but not one of the souls I knew are there. I asked my mother who is still living on our street that I might remember. The answer was not a soul. This place where I grew up, even though the buildings and streets are still there, has no meaning for me anymore, for it is living people, the souls with whom we have created relationships that gives life its value and its juice. I now understand why social networking sites like Facebook are so popular. People are trying to inject meaning into their lives by keeping their past alive. That is why they try to reconnect with the souls they once knew.
But even though nobody from my childhood still lives here, the houses are filled with new faces, the lawns are trim, the flowers are in bloom and life is progressing. There is a new generation of children playing in the park behind my parent’s home. In fact my old neighborhood looks prosperous and it is obvious a lot of positive development has taken place. New homes have been built on the vacant land up the street, and new business have been opened. The neighborhood looks good, but other than my parents still being here, I no longer have a relationship with this place. True life exists with living beings, not with mere buildings and places.