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The one constant in time, is change. And with change should come progress. However, sometimes progress is not progress, but a step backward.
The other week, I had a haircut scheduled with my cousin. It’s a good time to catch up on family happenings, and I get a free haircut out of the deal. And since I was up in the area, I stopped by one of the city parks during my travels.
Now this wasn’t just any city park. This was a park where my Father had been a groundskeeper for some 20 years. Many a summer during my youth was spent helping him at the park. While other kids were enjoying their summer vacations by sleeping in, I was up at 6 a.m., and we were at the park by 7 a.m. There was trash to be picked up, pools to be cleaned, baseball fields to be mowed, and many other tasks to the day. Even when I was a teenager, and working, I would go work with him in the morning, and he would drop me off at my grandmother’s at lunchtime, so I could go to my job at the grocery store in the afternoon.
The park that I visited the other week was nothing like the park I remember. Where once the park had character, it now seemed cold, impersonal. White fence posts that once surrounded the parking lot were now replaced with a cold steel barrier of highway guardrails. The canopy of trees that once surrounded the pool, offering shelter from the hot day sun were now gone. Paths that were once worn down by the passage of many feet, large and small, were now grown in with grass. Two of the baseball fields, once having grass in their infields, were now nothing but a diamond of sand and stone. Character had been replaced by ease of maintenance. I could only shake my head in sadness, knowing what once was, and how much had been lost.
One of my Father’s best known skills was his ability to prep a baseball field. He was so well respected in this regard, that folks from other towns would ask him to come prep their ballfields for games. He would, and I would tag along to help when I could.
Looking at the large ballfield before me that had been prepped, I shook my head in much the same way that my Father would have, if he were looking at it with me. There was no pride in its prepping, no care. To whoever prepped it, it was just a job. To my Father and I, it was an art. The baselines weren’t well raked, with solid compacted earth around its edges, grass was growing into the baselines, the batter’s boxes hadn’t been well done. A part of me wished I had had the necessary tools in front of me. Twenty years later, and I still remember how to do a far better job than the one that lay before me. Part of the experience of playing baseball was the field itself. The youth who played on that diamond were being denied the full experience that is baseball.
But alas, time marches on, and things change. Unfortunately, progress is not always pretty.
Speaking of days gone by, it was time to say goodbye to an old friend the other week. After 10 years, and 187,000 miles, it was time for my car to get a rest. She had served me well, never once breaking down during my long commutes. For a commute that involves driving late at night, and at odd hours, with little civilization along much of my 123 mile trip, her dependability was comforting. Beyond a radiator, and a head gasket that was caught even before she had a chance to overheat or do damage, she never required any major maintenance, just the usual brakes, tires, belts, and hoses. And even with her age and wear, I was still getting 36-39 miles per gallon when I retired her last week. I can only hope that my ‘new’ used car can provide me with the same dependability and comfort that my Cavalier did. Time and mileage will tell.
May you all have a wonderful, safe, and happy 4th of July! I’ve been blessed with actually having it off from work this year, and I’m going to do my best to enjoy it, avoids and all! : )
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