We went to see my parents in Armour last week. We’d just been there a couple of weeks earlier, but they were having a mother-daughter tea at the nursing home. My mom did not have any daughters, just sons, so Wanda, as her daughter-in-law, accompanied her there. It sounds like they had a good time.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
There’s a rural cemetery south of Delmont where my grandmother, one set of great-grandparents, and a couple of uncles are buried. There are several other people there who are related to me, although in some cases it’s a distant relationship. Because we were going to Armour anyway, Wanda and I decided to go a few extra miles and decorate the graves of my relatives. It was some extra driving, but I’m glad we did it.
But that’s not what I want to talk about, either.
To get to that rural cemetery, you can, if you so choose, go past the farm on which I grew up. You can also go around the edge of Delmont, which is where I went to school and played ball and which is my original home town. And, if you so choose, you can take a few minutes and drive on into town and look around. We did so choose.
That’s what I want to talk about.
I had not been that way in a couple of years, since immediately after the tornado that hit Delmont. No reason why not, really, I just had never had any occasion to go that way. I wondered how I would feel, seeing the old farm and the old town again. I knew the farm had changed--my parents sold it nearly eleven years ago, and the new owner had made quite a few changes, as is his right. I imagined that the town had changed, too, although I did not know how much. So I wondered. Would I be sad that things were no longer as they had been? Would I be happy that things were being kept up and made better? How would I feel?
Well, the fact is that I really did not feel much of anything. The farm has changed significantly. So has Delmont. So much so, in fact, that neither really has much relationship to the way it was when I grew up. As such, it really has no relationship to me. I don’t feel connected to either the farm or the town any more. It was not my farm. It was not my town. I felt like a stranger there.
I do feel a connection to the farm, but it’s the farm that still exists in my memory. The farm where, in my memory, my Mom and Dad still live, where Mom still bakes chocolate chip cookies and where Dad still takes time to play ball with me and my brothers. I feel a connection to Delmont, too, but it’s the Delmont that still exists in my memory. The Delmont where, in my memory, the United Methodist church still stands and holds services and where the ball park still hosts several nights of games each week in the summer. That where the connection exists. Not in the way things are now. In my memory.
Memory is a funny thing. The fact is that a lot of the time, I was not all that happy growing up. The reasons for that are not relevant here. I’ll just say that my unhappiness had nothing to do with my family--in fact, my family is one of the things that helped me get through those years. But the point is that, when I think about those years, I don’t think about being unhappy. I can, when I choose to. And once in a while, a bad memory comes back at my unbidden. But most of the time, the things I remember are the happy ones. If I’m honest with myself, I realize that my memories of those years are better than those years actually were.
But that’s the thing about memories. While we can enjoy our memories, we should not try to live in them. It’s good to remember the past, but we should not try to live in the past. Because the past that we remember no longer exists, and it probably never really did. We can feel a connection to it, but the world that exists now is the world in which we live.
Life goes on. Everything has its time and everything ends. When something ends, that can be sad. But then, something begins again, and that’s happy. We need to let go of the sadness and hold on to the happiness.
So the farm is different. That’s okay. In some ways, it’s been improved and looks better than it did before. So Delmont is different. That’s okay. It has a lot of new buildings and looks better than it did before. It’s time to let go of the past and move on.