Fittingly it is raining today; the past few years this has become one of the more melancholic days on my calendar. For over a decade until he died three years ago it was on the second Friday in August that I made my annual trip to see my father and step-mother in Arkansas. This day hits me harder than the anniversary of his death, probably because the routine had become so…routine…that I know instinctively how today would have played out were he still here. I would have gotten the six a.m. flight out of LaGuardia, transferred in either Memphis or St. Louis, been met at the Little Rock airport by the two of them, gone for lunch, and then taken the hour drive back the house where I unpacked my small suitcase to settle in for the week. Somewhere in the week we would have taken a sidetrip to Memphis, the Mississippi Delta, Shiloh, or some other place. It was a pattern that began in the late 1990s and continued throughout the 2000s as I passed from the last stages of my youth into full blown middle age. The rhythms were so set that they eventually became unspoken. The one consolation is that my soon-to-be-wife was able to make the trip in 2009 and see, if just for that brief time, a part of my life that is now gone. We take what we can get.
Coincidentally, my trip always coincided with Elvis Week in Memphis. Three years ago I took the Hayfoot to Graceland. Were we there this week, we may have returned to Memphis to see some other sites. Last night I began Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, which had sat unread on my shelf for a number of years. This week seemed the appropriate time to get around to it. It makes me feel a little closer to what are rapidly turning into the “old days.”
The best way we can remember and pay tribute to someone is to live happily and productively. Tomorrow begins Civil War Weekend at Governors Island. It will be a fun time, not least because the Hayfoot will be turning out on one of the days. I won’t be dwelling on it every minute, but somewhere along the way I’ll stop and think of those Arkansas Augusts and the times we shared there and then.