Old Man's side of the family, let alone my ancestors beyond a generation or two before mine. My father seemed to have little interest in his family; there were a number of his siblings that I never met, and he never spoke of them. One of his brothers, perhaps the only remaining one at the time, I first met at the Old Man's funeral, and he seemed just as taciturn. Old, white-bearded, almost gaunt, I only recognized the relation by way of the piercing eyes. He himself would pass before much more time had passed.
|All I know about this picture is that Granvil and Hester are the first two seated adults to the left in the front row. Again, this must have been taken in the 1890s in or near Upshur County, West Virginia.|
It's a relentless thing, time is, dragging us all along whether we want to tag along on the journey or not. What should I, or anyone, expect, though? Time has even ground down the Appalachians of West Virginia, softening and blurring and reducing those once-towering peaks, their long-hidden hearts now close to the surface, sleeping under a thick blanket of forest. Time sends even the mountains to their death-beds, dreaming in their dotage.
|The Old Man himself, in 1964, along the shore of Lake Erie, the Cleveland skyline in the distance.|
The currents and eddies and waves of time's waters constantly push and pull us apart, making the close bonds of family, friendship, and romantic bonding even more precious in the time we have with them. Yet many seem to strive to help along those watery forces, working to catch waves and ride currents to new souls with which to bond.
|My mother, Calcie.|
Some of us are restless, seemingly always yearning for something or someone new, the unknown a powerful draw. Some of us, like me, long for permanency, to travel the great river of time with those with whom we are familiar, as though onboard some great temporal cruise ship, in that way defying - futilely in the end, I admit - the unstoppable flow.
|My parents, October 1964. I would not enter the timestream for almost a year-and-a-half.|
But is it really futile? Are we not, in some small way, attempting to impose some structure upon the universe with such defiance? Are we not agents of order working to at least slow the effects of entropy, the great river that washes all away before it? Are not the bonds we have with each other, whether those we are born with, or the ones we create ourselves, akin to a great lattice upon which our lives can find purchase to grow, like ivy up the side of a house? I like to think that creating such a structure is one of the ways we have of becoming eternal.
|I make my appearance in 1966. My mother and I seem to be enjoying a nice day in Cleveland.|
|The Old Man, my sister Bonita, and me, likely sometime in late 1968. I believe that's a '64 Galaxie behind the Mercury Montego station wagon.|
Legacies are varied, and each of us can choose what to leave behind. Children, works of our hands, ideas...they all extend us into the future beyond our span of years, moving a bit of us further along the river. Is it enough? For some, I'm sure it is. Even if it isn't, it's truly the only choice, unless you choose nothing. And that seems to me like no kind of choice to make.
My maternal grandmother was widowed in 1962, four years before I was born. Until the end of her life in 1998, whenever asked why she had never remarried, she said, simply, "I am married." For her, death was not an impediment to love, and did not render that bond void. I always felt that she truly understood the eternal. For her, there was, ultimately, a point to existence. For her, entropy was illusory.
|From left to right: me, with an aggravating smirk; my brother, Emmett; and, of course, my sister, sometime in 1970.|
That's not an easy way to live. It requires moving against the current, heading through rough waters when smoother ways are easily surrendered to. I'm not saying it's superior, or the way for everyone to live. It's a strong choice, though, and our lives are defined by our choices.
Life seems to be an unending string of moments, of pivot points, where we can set sail in new directions or surrender to the whims of the current. Either way, we choose to remain in the river, charting courses as best we can, even if that course is no course at all.