Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coming and Going

The presidential candidates are all over the map meeting up with America’s citizens to win their votes. The citizens themselves also find travel much more a part of their lives than any other time in history. Not very long ago, it was not unusual for someone to say when someone died that the person had always lived in a certain locale and had never been further than the nearest city. After the Depression, many young men and a few young women served overseas during World War II. As that Greatest Generation dies off and leaves us, we read in their obituaries of the foreign soils they traveled to.

With the cheap gas of the last decades, Americans have enjoyed and become habituated to going and coming often more limited by time than expense. People have to commute to work in places miles away. Many folk travel to shopping in larger cities without much thought. Then as our local stores went out of business, we began to find out we didn’t have anywhere else to shop but at larger communities in our regions.

Gerald and I were so tied down by livestock on the farm that we couldn’t travel for years and looked forward to that opportunity in retirement. In fact, as soon as Gerald retired from farming, his first project was buying a new truck and modifying it to haul efficiently. For the next three years, he worked as a trucker—whenever he chose to take a trip or whenever he could get a load. He loved going all over and seeing the industries back in the mountains or learning to navigate in a new city. When he travels in the same territory today, he still likes recalling those trips, and he is constantly aware of other truckers and can get envious in a hurry when he sees a beautiful truck.

Gerald left for Columbus, GA, yesterday in order to see Geri Ann’s Oconee High School softball team in the state tourney this afternoon. His plans were to stop in Nashville for a dinner date with Leslie, his blond granddaughter at Belmont University.

This is also the weekend that Erin is using some flier miles to come from Texas into Nashville. She and Les will also be having dinner together. Erin will meet a fellow Johnston City friend there and they’re driving home to Johnston City for another friend’s wedding.

I don’t even know where all Gerry’s work has taken him during the past two weeks. I do know he was able to see his grandson Aidan briefly last weekend while in Chicago. And he and Vickie like the other softball parents will be in Columbus motels right now. Tara wanted in the worst way to go with Gerald to see her little sis in the state tourney, but she knew she needed to stay in Aurora. Her December due date is taking its toll on her traveling comfort. But Mary Ellen’s family is excited that she is to be coaching in Lake Saint Louis next weekend for a Southern Force tourney. I’m excited that Jeannie’s family will be spending Halloween night here (briefly) as they arrive from Freeport on their way to spend weekend with Leslie in Nashville.

I was planning on going to the Georgia tourney also, but my doctor on Monday felt it was a risk with me still healing from the blood clot in my leg that had caused the lung clots. So I am at Woodsong instead of on a trip, but I have had a variation in my life style.

Son-in-law David is working in California this week, so I’ve been going into town to spend nights with Katherine and Sam. I come back home during the day. Katherine had a tysabri infusion yesterday and her morning aide was able to drive her to the hospital. Suddenly Tuesday night she realized she needed a ride home and both David and her dad would both be out of town. Fortunately, the evening aide came to get her instead of coming later in the evening.

Gerald believed I could drive the van, which has a lift for Katherine’s chair, but I never have and I was fearful of trying with no one to back me up if I failed. The only time I tried to drive the van, I did not get out of Katherine’s driveway. I quit to avoid hitting Sam’s basketball goal with the projecting side mirror as I backed. I also don’t understand the lift’s operation. The van certainly takes enormously more gas than the wise choice David has for travel to his work place, but we’ve come to expect that those in chairs should no longer have to live their lives confined to their homes.

Our other sons-in-law and our next-door neighbor are also often away from home for coaching events, conventions, or meetings. Our only other near neighbor travels nightly from her farm to her job in a plant over an hour away. This time of year we pray for her safety from the deer dashing across the highways, and soon we will once again fear the icy roads for her.

While the increase in travel is partly pleasure gratification, travel has been built into our work lives. We can never go back to living in insulated geographic bubbles with little contact with the outside world no matter how attractive that nostalgic pull feels. I have always loved reading about village life and also loved experiencing it. How people connect and interact is fascinating and when people can’t easily go elsewhere, there is no question their local community connections are more vigorous and often more life enhancing. One of my all-time favorite books was poet Elizabeth Bishop’s translation of The Diary of Helena Morley, the actual diary of a young teenage girl who told of her life in her village of Diamantina in Brazil in 1893-1895,

The same sort of village or community life is created within cities as people connect with those of common interests. When two of our daughters lived in the same city, we had to laugh at the interconnectedness that made it just as indiscreet to talk negatively about someone there as in it was when my mother moved to Dad’s hometown of Goreville, where everyone was either our family’s relations or relations of relations.

Now we have farm friends and city friends who are hurting while trying to keep gas in their cars to get to work. We have friends who have had to cut out attending functions they really want to attend in order to save gas. We have wise friends with no economic problems who, nevertheless, have cut gas consumption because it is astute to do so and because it is patriotic to do so.

How our nation will come out of this dependence on foreign oil and our present economic crisis will be interesting to observe. I have a feeling that we are going to find out what we are made of in the next few years. Will we be as strong as our grandparents who survived the Depression with much suffering and ingenuity? Will we be as self-sacrificing and as tough as the Greatest Generation who helped us survive World War II?

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