I’ve been realizing something of late. I guess it’s been going on for a long time but I’ve begun thinking differently about this phenomenon lately. You see, I see ghosts.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the kind of ghosts people usually talk about. I don’t apparitions, or people haunting buildings, or scary things such as that. My ghosts are much more ethereal and are founded in past experience.
What I mean is quite simply, when I go places I don’t always see what’s there as much as seeing what I remember to have been there in th past.
Blame it partly on the fact that I have traveled a lot, and I have a really good memory. I kind of doubt that I’ll ever suffer from Alzheimers because I still have a pretty damned good memory, even if I lose a few names here and there. And over the years I have traveled most all of the major highways in the U.S., and a lot of the secondary roads too. Not just once but numerous times. I remember intersections that have changed two or three times. I remember buildings that used to be there and are no longer. I remember how well things used to be maintained, and when I see them falling into ruin today it makes me sad. I remember features that I used to love that have been discontinued — like displays at a garden or museum — things others stopped appreciating so they were just dismantled and removed.
A part of getting re-acquainted with Milwaukee has been the reminder that ever so many landmarks — physical ones and emotional ones — have been removed or changed. I can’t say that I am surprised — change is a part of life. I can’t say that I am saddened — each generation has a right to make it’s mark on the earth and what I am seeing that I say “saddens” me isn’t so much a grieving as it is an acknowledgment.
When I drive the streets of downtown Milwaukee the ghosts are all around me. A million errands run downtown, a few hundred meals eaten, dozens of walks taken, and thousands of faces seen. All of them are no more.
We (the both of us) used to love fine dining. We still enjoy good eating but we’ve come to appreciate the quality of simpler ingredients treated honestly. But in our youth we were all in favor of posh restaurants and lavish meals with well chosen wine accompaniments. I still see the signage over the new doors of now non-existent restaurants where we ate fabulous meals, and drank amazing wine, got to know the sommelier or the maitre ‘d.
We’ve made crazy, spontaneous trips for no more reason than that we had a few days off — and sometimes just seeing the sign to a long distance destination brings back ever such fond memories of laughter and giggles and kisses snuck at the beginning or the end of a long day’s drive.
The past is ever with me. I don’t think I have been like this for all that long. I think there are some aspects that have remained the same. I have long remembered funny stores on Interstate frontage roads that caught my attention — from trip to trip to trip. I’ve seen places on one trip and five years later taking the same route I have planned to exit the highway in advance so that I could check out some curiosity that I saw last time through the area.
Just earlier today we did just that in nearby Kenosha.
We had seen the sign above along the road some months ago and at the time we didn’t investigate. Today Peggy remembered having seen the sign and off we went in search of it. I could have searched it out on Google Maps but in fact I chose to hunt and peck my way along the Lake Michigan coast to see if we could just find it. And we did. I had to borrow a Bing search result photo to illustrate what the place looks like — as cold as it is there aren’t any green leaves and the sand alone doesn’t make a very photogenic image. But we found this place that we’d been marginally aware of and it felt good. We walked the earth, smelled the lake, watched the weekened walkers who were there with us and enjoying the great outdoors on a warm (56º) pre-spring day!
And, you know what? I’m sure we’ll remember having done just that for years to come. It wasn’t a big thing. It wasn’t earth shattering. It cost us only the price of gas and wear and tear on the car. But it was an investment in us, in our marriage, in our happiness, in our life together.
I think it’s important for couples to invest in their marriages. I’ve said this before but I’ll repeat it again: people take great pains to invest $$$$ in their retirement plans, and they hire agents to insure that their investments are well timed and wisely chosen. But when it comes to marriage, too many couples expect their marriage to weather all the storms of life without putting anything “into” them. And the most valuable thing any of us possesses is our our time. Investing a little time in your wife or your husband is important. Not just in your children — but that should apply without even being said. Yet too often you see families that have invested all they have in the children and when the children go off on their own to start their lives the parents have nothing left between them to hold them together. It’s no wonder that there are a lot of empty nest divorces!
But, back to my ghosts….
I suspect that seeing ghosts has something to do with recent blogs — as for example, Staying at Home. Sometimes you don’t need to go somewhere to realize you have a wealth of experience up there in your noggin and it doesn’t cost $$$ to replay those things in your memory.
I doubt I’ll ever tire of seeing those ghosts — in some way the accumulated wisdom of age is nothing more than the ghosts of the past. We think of them in that way — as accumulated wisdom — but really they are the contrast between what was and what is now — and the realization of which of the two is “better” or “smarter” or what have you.
Besides…. I suppose it sounds better to talk about the wisdom of age rather than seeing ghosts… A person could get locked away talking about ghosts don’t you know! 🙂