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Nostalgia is how the past helps build a future

Life can only be understood backwards, yet it must be lived forward.

And so it is that I often think about the lives of my forebears. I know that like the flowers of the field, which have their day and then cease to be, so it is and was with those forebears.

I at times think about my grandparents, the parents of my Dad. In my recollections, they were simple, uneducated people, and here I write about a lost world. Not to my memory of them, because that is still there. It is nostalgia, the word by which people often dismiss recollections or praises of time gone by.

When I go back in time and turn to thinking about the declining years of these grandparents, I see their naive and native conservative outlook, which was strongly reinforced by the Depression. And once again, my nostalgia about them comes into play. At the same time, I realize that nostalgia is frequently a device used by the less educated and salesmen. Let’s face it, there is nostalgia and nostalgia. Personal and historical nostalgia are universal, but the past is no longer present. Useful nostalgia acknowledges the pastness of the past. Our reminiscence helps us to remind ourselves and know that things and the past really disappear; what’s gone is gone. But by way of memory, we keep its ghosts around. The past often criticizes the present, and this criticism may help to construct a future.

What is it that makes me think and so remember my grandparents? When I at last became better acquainted with them, they were already in their declining years. Yes, grandpa was still running the family farm with the strong help of his oldest son, my uncle. They kept some livestock and worked their fields and received a small paycheck from the nearby creamery where they delivered their few gallons of milk on a daily basis.

Then grandpa fell from the hayloft, hit the concrete floor below and was put to bed for a few days of rest following the diagnosis of family members. He soon would recover, they felt. All what was needed was some rest. He had worked so hard to get the hay in and now was a good time for some rest.

No doctor was called. Why should they? Rest for a few days, and he would be as good as new, right? However, grandpa did not recover after a few days. He died from broken ribs having punctured his lungs.

We took grandpa to the village graveyard. We walked behind his casket, going around the graveyard three times according to the old legend of having to confuse the devil as to where the body of the deceased was going to be placed. Grandma stayed on the farm, and her son continued to run the place on his own. The passing of grandpa remains a vivid picture on my mind. Nostalgia, yes, indeed.

Tony Antonides lives in Central Point.

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