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Sometimes, I have found that being away from my hometown makes it come into sharper focus.  I think about people and my childhood differently with the perspective that distance and time give me.  Here’s an example.

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Marty

That cute older boy,
A standard to dream of and measure by,
he counted the pennies after Sunday School,
ones we put in the Mission banks.
Even if he wasn’t truly brilliant,
His smile could light up my day.

It was 1969.
He’d done the business track in high school –
Oldest of four,
Born to a mill worker’s family,
He saw it as a way out.
He began work at the local paper,
Typing graduations, weddings, births–
Small town life as other people wrote it.

When he was drafted
We thought him lucky,
Or luckier than most
Since he could type.
He saw Vietnam from an office –
Armed with typewriter,
Clacking to flack
In heat and muck.
Missions and engagements differed now.
He transformed blood, destruction, death,
Into forms and reports.

When he returned,
We welcomed him.
His edginess, surliness,
Challenged adults
But intrigued me.
When he heard “Angel from Montgomery”
In the background,
He found it curious I shared
His love of John Prine songs.
He was home.
We thought that was good.

He tried so hard –

Marriage, but he slipped away.
Parenthood, but he lost his kids.
Work, but he kept getting fired.
Defeated,
He moved in with his parents,
And slipped ever further away,
Pouring alcohol into his emptiness
Until illness filled him.

Agent Orange, weakness,
Immorality, alcoholism –
Everybody ventured explanations.
But the liver transplant could not restore,
repair,
replace,
whatever he had lost.
No longer could he filter through
the daily business of life.
He was consumed by lost dreams,
Destroyed by disconnection
From a world no longer his.

When I heard he had died,
I listened to John Prine with
Marty centered in that song:
“Make me an angel that flies from Montgom’ry
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.”

Now my children smile brightly
And try to change the world,
Rolling their pennies down plastic wells,
Where they spiral ever downward
Till they clack below.

And I remember Marty.

Copyright (c) Lydia A. Schultz

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