By Craig Hastings
“Craig, do you remember back when?…” Yes I certainly do. And I remember more and more each day, week, and month. Any of you will have to be my senior or no more than say, fifteen years my younger to appreciate what I have to say tonight. I’m serious when I tell you that remembering “back when” is something I do probably too much lately. But why? A couple of reasons I think. The first being is that I’ve broken into the sixty years old group of Americans. “It’s just a number and just one day after yesterday, it doesn’t mean anything nowadays.” Seriously? I feel like I’m on a count down to the end which isn’t that far away. My birthday is on March eleventh so why in the world do I feel like March twelfth is an eternity beyond the eleventh? I think I do this because the twelfth starts the next “years old” year. However, if a person wants to get real precise, you could say there’s just a minute’s difference or less between March 11, 11:59 p.m. and March 12, 12:00 a.m. But oh no, not me, I have to blow it way out of bounds and believe a whole year just passed me by at the stroke of midnight and therefore I just got terribly older.
The best way I’ve found to deal with my own ageing is to look around and watch some of the guys my dad knew and see how they are doing. Most of these guys will be at least twenty years older than me so I’ll watch and see how they’re doing. I wrote a story a few months ago when Jack Allen passed away. I marveled at what Jack was still doing and how well he was getting around even into his 90’s! Up in the morning and uptown to The Candy Kitchen. Then a couple of times a week he and a few buddies might drive to another town in the county for lunch. A hobby perfectionist when talking about toy tractors and the restoration of the same. I’ve seen some of Jack’s work. Trust me, I’m told I’m way too over the top about scrutinizing anything restored. But I’m not trying to just be kind when I tell you Jack’s work was perfect! I don’t even have to get into the fact that Jack was still mowing his lawn and helping with the Methodist Church lawn into his 90’s!
Someone else that I admire and consider a dear friend and someone who has always offered up life’s advice to me as I was aging through my middle years is Gordon Adams. Of course I’m far from being alone in how I feel about Gordon. Gordon has touched the lives of many families here in Tuscola and the surrounding communities via his construction and remodeling business. On top of the construction business he and wife Phylis own and rent many properties in Tuscola. Just as Kenny Nelson taught me how to use my hands to fix anything that ran on gas and oil when I worked at True Value’s automotive division, Gordon taught me how to use my hands to build and fix minor construction projects around my own home. As much as I had always desired to learn how to build and repair things in my own home, I didn’t know anyone that I would ever learn how. Then one morning I opened my eyes and I realized that the two little boys in my house would be growing into bigger boys. Well, since this was happening I would need more room so a room addition was planned.
My own parents had contracted Gordon many times so why wouldn’t I? So then over the years the builds and repairs began at 63 Cherry Drive. But here was the best part of the deal; Gordon would insist, not ask mind you, but insist I help and consequently learn how to do these things. At a minimum I would be required to carry the discards to the trash so why not help and learn to do it all?! Holy cow! No need to insist, I was all in with a nod and a wink! And if I did something wrong that nod and wink might be a frown and a grumble. No matter, I was having the time of my life using my hands to build something regardless of how minor my contribution might be. Of course with any build there are tools to be used! And if I learned how to use Gordon’s tools surely I would need to buy my own just like his! Just in case mind you. I just might get brave enough to tackle another project all on my own! Gordon and I have talked a lot about many things over many years. Sometimes when he was teaching me how to do something, I felt like he was treating me like he might his own boy. Why? Because Gordon didn’t just teach me how to do something and move on. No, he taught me how to do something right and then he would show me how to do it better than right. Trust me I know there is a difference because I’ve always been the same way about my own cars. E.g., you can wash and wax your car or you can detail your car. There is a tremendous difference but, the majority of people would consider both a “wash and wax”.
There are other local gentlemen I’ve got an eyeball on that I look to for my own inspiration to keep my head on the positive side of the human ageing process but I won’t get into all of them tonight. Name a few you say? Red Profitt, Doc Galey, Curt McDaniel, and a few more. These are some of the guys I see out and about most days when I’m out on patrol. I watch them out doing things, going places, staying interested in their community and hope and pray that someday that can be me. A simple but still engaged lifestyle after I’m retired. I envy them all for keeping on, age be damned!
But what I really want is for my own world to go back to the simpler years. Black and white televisions. No air conditioning, just fans. No cell phones or video games. I remember and lived in the days when the very few times I was allowed to use the house phone an operator would say; “Number please?” I would then say to her a three, yes just three, number code that the operator recognized was assigned to Robert Hastings at 34 Walnut Circle located in the Hillcrest subdivision. If I was lucky I might be the only person attempting to talk on the shared party line! What?! Yep! Not always a private line “back in the day”. “Back in the day” I had to leave the house to talk with my friends. There wasn’t much television to watch, just three channels to remember, so my siblings and friends stayed outside most mornings, afternoons, and evenings. “Back in the day”, no bottled water or bottled anything to drink. We used a garden hose but only after the heat soaked water in the hose boiled by the sun was purged from the hose.
What did we do in the winter? We couldn’t be out in the cold all day right? Wrong! Yes we played outside when it was cold but, mostly we weren’t cold. Growing up in a four season region in America, children (me) got used to the temperatures and rolled with them. It was never an issue like it is with kids today. Kids today want to be comfortably climate controlled every day, every week, every month, of every year! Not “back in the day”. What about late nights, rainy days, blizzard days, or any day we for whatever reason couldn’t be outside? Well in the Hastings house and most all of the others in the Hillcrest neighborhood there was a stack of board games! Yes board games. No electronic flashing, ringing, dinging anything! Oh wait! The Hastings kids had this game called Green Ghost! Before we started playing the game we would hold a flashlight to the game board itself and the eight little plastic green ghosts to get them charged and glowing. You would play this game in a dark room and if you hurried you could finish while everything still had a green glow to it!
Ah yes, “back in the day”. Please God, if I could have just one more twenty-four hour day of “back in the day”! I’d choose a day in June or July. Ninety degrees, sunny, no wind, eight or nine years old, 1965-1967, all of my same friends. If you’re less than fifty years old you probably think I’m just a rambling and babbling old man that’s gone off the rails. But I haven’t. You just have no idea what the very best days in America were like. All of these electronic communication devices along with the world’s worst pandemic, no not COVID 19 but the dreaded internet, is continuing to destroy all of America and what we the people have always stood for. What’s that? Decent, hard working, loving, caring, giving people and our belief in God and our faith. God planned and established America and the people who would live here. You think about what might have been without America and Americans. Not that we haven’t been without our own internal misgivings because we have. We were to be a beacon to the rest of the world and the example of how people would and should treat other people. And when the rest of the world went wrong America would right those wrongs. But look at what is happening inside America. We are tearing ourselves apart through all of our divisions and hatred amongst those divisions. We are failing the cause we were established to save. There isn’t anyone else that can do this. If America and Americans fail so too will the rest of the world. Once again it will be a world made up of Conquerors and Kings and the little people that serve them. You know what I mean; those that have it all and the rest that have nothing because they have to give everything to those that already have it all!
I wonder…is our ability to remember our past a good thing or a not so good thing. If you couldn’t pick and choose what you could remember and given a choice; all or none of your memories, what would you choose? I really don’t know what I would choose because it hurts me more to remember and miss the really good things that have happened in my life than the really bad things that have. Maybe there’s a reason that most of us forget our pasts the longer we live. Maybe?