In some ways it was a week of communing with ghosts. I spent an afternoon visiting my father's grave in Tazewell Virginia and my great grandfather's grave in Richlands. It was haunting to walk the grounds and streets where so many of my relatives lived and where I as a child had visited often -only now all that remains are the hallowed grounds of family graves.
Perhaps that is why as I drove around my old haunts amongst the rolling hills of East Tennessee with memories flowing through my mind, I felt as a ghost visting old familiar places but where life has moved on and is only now a shadow of what once was. I saw only one person that I knew from my past other than my family, an assistant manager at Kmart who helped me find a job once many years ago.
But life does move on and we have new additions to our family including a most beautiful great niece who brought a lot of light to our family gathering. It may the last time that my brother and I are together with our mother as her health is failing. I bid farewell to her this morning with focus as it may very well be the last time I see her in this world. But she has surprised me before fighting back from great weakness. While her body is frail, she has always had a depth of stubborn resistence to the realities of life and a strong spirit.
I have made it a resolution that I shall do all I legally can do to hinder the cigarette industry that directly contributed to the death of my father and has now robbed the vitality from my mother to the point that she and her life is only a shell of what once was.
Even the community has changed and in some ways is only a shadow of what once was. The city of Kingsport has gobbled up the surrounding county neighborhoods filling their coffers with new taxes and their schools with new bodies. Band camp was starting this morning at my old high school so I stopped for a minute to watch. Twenty-five years ago we fielded 350 people in our band. Today I counted 25. And they looked so young.
In the midst of so much change I am amazed at home much the community has remained the same. Homes look much the same. The Reedy Creek park has changed little and a run or walk there continues to be therapy for the soul. (Though I did see a wild black ferrit for the first time). I logged 35 miles on that trail this week and made lots of friends from the community of ducks that reside there thanks to some old bread. The ridge lines remain the same though there seemed to be more timber in the fields than in the past. Mom's neighbors remain the same - though bit more gray around the ages - so I fit right in.
July 25th I found myself in lovely Charlotte North Carolina waiting for my return flight to London and back to work. I've been home in the mountains of East Tennessee for a week and a day (thanks to a broken plane that extended my leave by a day).