EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 22, 2014

Column: Introducing the grandchildren to the home of their ancestors

“But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again.”

-- Thomas Wolfe, “You Can’t Go Home Again”

Actually, I’d gone home to western Pennsylvania, to the little town (now a city) in the Allegheny Mountains, many times: to visit my parents, then not for a decade until my 50th high school reunion in 2011. But though I’d read Thomas Wolfe during my college years, I recalled just the title of the book, which always seemed technically inaccurate; the feelings noted in the above quote didn’t register with me until I returned with my son and his family for a week this month. The twins just turned teenagers; Lance will be 50 in July. Now I’m newly aware that “the years flow by like water”; for most of my life I was just happily flowing with it, not noticing how the current speeds up as you get closer to the mouth of the river.

There’s something about taking your grandchildren to the grave of their great-great-great grandparents, on a hilltop cemetery like the one in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. Now joined by my parents, my closest ancestors seem as they always seemed to me: “waiting for something that they feel is comin’. Something important, and great.”

I’m newly aware of that coming wait-time because I hurt my knee just before leaving and needed a wheelchair to get to and from the airplane, and walked with a cane during the vacation trip. I’m not old, I kept telling everyone, just injured. Yeah, in the rapidly aging knee ...

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