For anyone who really knows me, it is no secret that I have loved to write for a long time.
I remember when I graduated from college, I received a gift from a close friend of mine. I slowly opened the box and pulled out a beautiful Waterford pen. It felt great in my hand and immediately I knew that it was meant to tell stories. It was meant to share thoughts, beliefs, feelings and perspectives. It was meant to be used. All it and I needed was a blank piece of paper.
I started to write. I wrote about everything. I wrote about growing up in a small town. I wrote about my family. I wrote about the death of my brother. I wrote about my college experiences. I wrote about traveling around the world, meeting two U.S. Presidents and I re-told stories that my grandfather shared with me. I wrote about my future dreams and how I truly felt about the things in my life. I wrote every day and I kept my musings in note-books and hid them so that no one would ever find them. I was embarrassed, afraid that someone would read them and expose my thoughts and feelings. It was my life story hand-written and detailed on paper. Nobody ever knew that this was what I did in my spare time. That was over 30 years ago. Long before there were computers in every home. Long before word processors, blogs and the internet.
Then life got in my way. Responsibilities of a young father and a man trying to make it in this life sapped any desire and passion I had for writing. I just simply stopped and put the pen down. For almost 20 years, I really did not write much more than my sign my name. I swallowed the desire and passion I had about writing. Most of what I had written over those years would never be read by anyone. I hid my notebooks and today I assume they are where I placed them all those years ago. I am sure that some of my “best” writings are embedded somewhere in that “buried treasure.” Unfortunately, I have no ability to unearth them. Along with my treasured Waterford Pen, those notebooks will remain where I put them all those years ago.
In some ways, the reason for this project is to try to remember and relive the raw feelings and perspectives of that time in my life. This is intended for my family and more importantly my children and grandchildren. I write now so that they will know where I came from and in a small way to have piece of me that will endure, long after I am gone. I want to be remembered and I want future generations of my family to know that I existed. I realize that sounds and feels really arrogant when you actually write those words down. But what is the purpose of life and living if you don’t leave a legacy that is to be remembered in a good way? Truth is, if you are not remembered in the eyes of the local community you grew up in, your “hometown,” the chances of your passing will ever be noticed are slim. However, if your life is reminisced by those who love you, likely you will be remembered forever.
I am aware that there is never enough time to say everything that I want to be told. My intention is that for those that read this, will not only get a glimpse of what it was like for me to grow up in 1960’s and 1970’s but to also come away with the feelings of what it was like to grow up in the safe confines of Oak Harbor, Ohio. It is intended to be as frank and personal as I can possibly make it. I will not intentionally censor myself and I will try to keep it real. I will try to tell the truth as I had seen it and at the very least, how I perceived it.
To be honest, it also is my last attempt to try to put into words of what it was that made growing up in a small town in Northwest Ohio something special to so many people. There is no doubt that I have lost clarity of many of the memories over the years. There are details that I used to be able to easily recollect before, even as recent as a few years ago, but I can’t anymore. Many of the details were tossed into the abyss when I hid my notebooks all those years ago. Not to be alarmed too much as I am pretty sure I am not suffering from any medical problem leading to unusual memory loss. I believe it is just a natural process of life that is being orchestrated by something.
And that something is Time.
Time marches on, like a faceless army – emotionless, merciless, relentless, all-consuming, pillaging the confines of our mind and the precious memories of our past. Time creeps slowly and surely. They say that “time heals” but what they really mean is that “time erodes.” Time erodes everything – the bad, the ugly, and even the good. Time erodes the details so that sometimes memories cross and blur into one another. I look at some of the things I used to do when Oak Harbor was home. I wish I could do them again. However, for a long, long time Oak Harbor hasn’t “felt” like home to me. I don’t live there anymore except in the memories that flood my thoughts.
It is like standing on the banks of a rushing river. Your past is on the other side, and you are on this side and there is no way across. No way to go back. That river is called time. The waves of time, slowly crash against the shores of our memory. Slowly and surely eroding away the sand castles of your past.
Maybe time isn’t the enemy. Possibly the real enemy is the attachment to memories that I am not sure ever existed the way I remember them. Over the years, I have told myself that this is silly. Why am I trying to re-connect to a place that doesn’t even remember that I was part of it? Why am I trying to find a way home to place that doesn’t exist anymore?
The tracks of time are final. No point in mulling over it. Was what I believe happened reality? Are the memories just a creation of my imagination?
Does any of it matter?
It is then I am reminded of the many times I lie awake at night with memories of another place and time running through my mind. I have come to the conclusion that answers to these questions really are not important. There is something deep inside of me that is pushing me to find my way back home. Even if that home isn’t what you thought it to be.
Maybe my memories are real. Maybe not.
But I am reminded that everyone has a story… this one is mine.
Hopefully, it will be the start of a journey to find my way home… for good.