So the day after our little Thanksgiving in Monmouth I wake the girl up."I think we're going to go soon, babe."
I'm a little anxious.
"Leslie you wanna go to?"
We get in the car and roll down through Monmouth on our way to Alexis. She plugs our destination into the navigator. I realize half way down that I wanted to get flowers. Leslie and I run into County Market and we try to find something relatively cheap. She picks out the poinsettia and we check out. I get some quarters out of the change and drop them in the machines. I get two rings out and we walk back to the car.
It's been about two years since I've seen this town. Work and School stopped me from being able to come and I often think about my priorities. The navigator is moving us onto gravel roads and she's ", Where are we going."
This isn't right.
I didn't grow up here, this isn't where I was born, but it is for everyone else I know. i back up and we get back on the road. The Navigator adjusts. We keep driving. The blown out speaker in my car sizzles.
"Ahem...Let's pretend Marshall Mathers never picked up a pen, let's pretend things turned out no different"
We move into town, past the fire station. This is what keeps Alexis alive, and nothing else. The population is 850. She says that we're in the town out of "The Crazies."
I say to Leslie "That green patch of grass there is 'Sparies' where Dad used to get comic books. One time I got Grandma to come out here at sundown so I could film a night scene for The Pinklydoodle in that telephone booth."
"I'm surprised you got Grandma to drive at night."
"This is so sad."
I'm looking at the shut down "My Store."
"Tell us about 'My Store' Barry."
"Well my store was owned by Don Mckelvie."
"What did he sell?"
"Uhm he sold everything, he was a painter to. I saw him perform in the Galesburg Choir Concert once."
We mull around some more looking at locations. I tell the stories my Grandmother has told me and her mother told her(so one day when I'm a mother...).
"That's the Library that Mary-Alice owns, she also runs the Alexis Museum. That used to be the phone company. That's where Iola used to go to see silent movies..."
We continue down the road and I remember a day ago Grandma telling me her high school is being torn down. She and her mother graduated this high school which was built about ninety years ago. We park at a stop sign and she gets out to take a picture. The only remaining part of the school is the entrance. It's eerie with the entrance still open holding a staircase that one would consider leads to some meaningful purgatory.
Alas though, it is dead and gone. Speaking of death, we're going to visit MyDeadGrandFatherwhoInevermet's grave.
I make a left turn which should yield the cemetery, but there is nothing in site. We turn left and right and I don't know where I'm going (and I should). We pull over to the water tower and I try to call Grandma on this dead Illinois signal.
We go straight down main street.
"And that's where Grandma grew up and Iola lived for a good fifty years."
I almost turn the corner as she and Leslie point out the truck bearing down on us and I stop.
It's good to have loved ones.
We pull in see the graves.
They're all related to us somehow. We stroll through as I point them out.
"He died young."
"Oh that was Grandma's brother. He was injured in Vietnam and when he came back Grandma said he just wasn't the same little brother. He was driving a truck when he shouldn't have been and was hit by another car and died."
Barry Dwayne Rowen
He died 13 days after his 47 birthday. This doesn't say anything about the man, but it's all we've got.
We look around and there are some really weird graves. One woman has an enormous portrait of herself, another has a giant picture of a semi-truck on the back. Barry has a short poem he wrote.
"Creativity is the essence of civilization
This no one can deny
for it allows each individual
to make his mark or try"
I hope they remember me
I didn't know you, but I feel like I have a privilege only for my name's sake.
Sir I didn't know you. You were a military man all your life. You kept interest in the mechanics rather than art, film, and music. Maybe that's not so true. Barry, I've been writing letters to your brother Bill this semester. They're short recaps on how the others life is. He even sends me a check for "pizza." He tells me stories about you, encounters you had with other people and how you reacted. I suppose most everyone does that. Anyways... I'll never know you, never will feel your presence or take your words of the moment to heart, but we do share something. I've love the people you loved. I've shook the hand of the brother you shook hands with. I've worn the clothes you've warn. This hasn't been forced, this hasn't been planned out, it's simply the affect of being your grandson. I'll tell you the truth, just like a lot of things that probably would not have happened if had lived, I probably never would have been born. You can't dwell on this though (because you're dead), you can't tailor life like that either. Back to the Future wasn't real and I can't change the past or jump to the future. All I can do is think and think slow and that's how I'll change the future. You're dead and I can't have it any other way.
From one Barry to another.
I drive home, just the two of us in the abyss of the Midwestern fields. I've shown her my other background, the one which is mine by relation. As the sun sets and we switch drivers, she plays stick wars on my phone and my eyes move left above the trees to the navy blue sky. Three of us go to visit Barry Rowen, none of us knowing him. I put a measly $5.00 towards a plant and look at the grave. We stand for a second or two. No memories, no prayers, we stand. It's respect in Adulthood.