Dear Winn – 28 January 2016
Dear Winn: 28 January 2016, the 30th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. I stayed home my freshman year and attended a community college on a super-sweet scholarship. Such an arrangement afforded me the opportunity to have lunch most every day with my parents. Now that I think about that it brings tears to my eyes. Did I even have a clue as to what a gift that was? I was home on the lunch hour that day, watching tv, eating Guy’s Bar-B-Q chips and drinking my mother’s sweet iced tea, when the television suddenly became a box of shock. I don’t remember us saying anything to one another, we simply sat (or did we stand?) and tried to believe our eyes. As best I can remember, that was my first national televised tragedy. My parents had witnessed JFK’s assassination coverage, the Kent State shootings, and others I’m sure. But that was my first, or at least the one that feels first in my memory. I believe our television was a Magnavox. Will’s room has gone quiet again, the son back at school for the spring. He probably won’t be back home until the semester’s over. I’ve made an online acquaintance whose son is also off at college as a freshman. He sends me a note from time to time agreeing that yes, getting used to this is very hard. He said something in his last note about those people who say kids going off like that is the start of a new chapter. But he said for him its been like the closing of a book you’ve been writing and reading for so very long. He’s right. You’ll be there soon, pard. Hang on. God, sorry to be so Eeyore. I’ll liven this up a bit. I’ve started reading Richard Hugo’s poetry. I believe one of his books holds the key to a stuck place I’ve had in relation to some writing I want to do. I may tell you more about this later, but for now that’s all. Yep, its good not to give all your gold away, right? Oh, man, I’ve gotta share these lines from Hugo. I thought of you when I read them: Today, I am certain, for all my terrible mistakes I did the right thing to love places and scenes in my innocent way and to spend my life writing poems, to receive like a woman the world in its enduring decay and to tell that world like a man that I am not afraid to weep at the sadness… Beautiful, huh? I haven’t read enough about Hugo’s life to get a feel for his faith or lack of. But I’m willing to bet when he wrote those lines that heaven hushed for a moment, and a voice as gentle as the morning spoke in the direction of Montana and said, “Oh how beautiful.” That brings to mind a favorite quote from Robinson’s Gilead: “In eternity this world will be like Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets.” My gut tells me heaven hushed for that one too. And maybe that same voice said, “AttaMarilynne.” I had a car insurance payment due today, car tag renewal due tomorrow, this weekend is grocerypalooza (every two weeks), I’m gonna have to break down and buy a new pair of cowboy boots (close to holes in my soles, which sounds poetic, but in the snow is no bueno), Sarah needs a new pair of glasses (overdue), and the Beagle’s up for litter of shots. Money’s always a concern. I try not to worry about it, you know, look at the birds and the lilies and all that jazz. But I still do, I guess because I’m not a bird, or a lily. But we’re getting our three squares and then some, plus everybody’s healthy (for now). So I’m thankful. But I still worry. My birthday’s so close I can smell it. I’ll turn forty-nine, man. Forty-freakin-nine. It was just yesterday I was a college freshman watching The Young & The Restless with my mom on the days my dad had to be away at lunchtime. Yes, the epic of the universe, my good friend. Troy. Coraggio. John
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Such bittersweet memories. I did not realize the Challenger explosion was 30 years ago. I, too, watched it as it happened. (I also watched both JFK’s assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald’s by Jack Ruby.) Feeling very sad and very old today.
Me too, Susan. Thanks.
30 years ago I was a 21-year-old engineering student, studying in the basement of the house I shared with five other guys. I have vivid memories of my roommate calling down to me that Challenger had just had an accident. I remember sitting on the couch, and watching it all unfold. The sadness. Almost 28 years in the aerospace industry now, and I still think about that every time I send something into test, or get ready to put something onto an aircraft, or send something into space. Trying to impress upon the younger generation that details matter, and decisions have consequences.
I also remember watching the Young and the Restless every day after lunch. One of my friends got hooked one summer after being laid up due to a car accident. Watched it every day with his mom, and carried the habit with him back to school. Got the rest of us hooked. Could have been worse, I guess. I wonder what ol’ Victor and Nikki are up to these days.
Vic and Nik, quite the pair, huh? Thanks for sharing those pieces of memory. It was a very sad day.