Commonwealth Journal

Columns

June 21, 2014

Without the past, there is no present

The rain has stopped. It has been a difficult day of depression, discomfort and distress. Nothing accomplished.”Those are tough words to read when they come from your hero, one of the most important people in your life. Tougher still when you know they were among the very last words he wrote.
But they also shine a light on the poetry that is life — and how important it is to make sure your words are remembered and preserved.
I’ve found myself looking to the past frequently, for a variety of reasons. Combing through old letters, emails, notes I’ve taken, looking to revisit other times and places in my life, looking for clues, looking for inspiration. Not for any particular purpose, other than my own self-nurturing (and to a degree, perhaps, self-flagellation).
In particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandparents. A lot our readers, those of a certain age at least, probably know them. My grandfather Meriel was one of the prominent downtown Somerset lawyers of his day. My grandmother Thelma shared the gift of music with countless individuals around here, either as the longtime band director at Pulaski County High School or as a private piano instructor.
I was touched a couple of weekends ago when, at the city’s celebration of rock band Exile and native son Marlon Hargis, the guest of honor spoke glowingly of my grandmother and how she helped mold him into the musician he is today, sharing at least a seed of the credit for his remarkable career. I liked that when he said her name, I could hear cheers from the crowd behind me as I stood there taking pictures of the event for the newspaper. It meant a lot, more than I can properly express.
At the event one local attorney caught up with me and shared his memories not of Thelma but of his brother in the fraternity of the bar, Meriel. A few days later, I spoke to 27 Drive-In owner Harry Roaden about an event he was hosting. Once he recalled who I was, he spoke glowingly of my grandfather, who defended him and his business once in a case that went before the Supreme Court when the drive-in was accused of showing a pornographic film — one that would be considered tame by today’s standards, but was scandalous back then. All who knew him found him to be a fine man; I often describe him to others as a real-life Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He was that kind of a human being, kind-hearted and well-spoken, concerned with equality and the nobility of man.

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