Do you remember where you were and what you were doing during the month of August in 1974? I know I was gearing up for my sophomore year in high school while spending the last splendid days of summer freedom “dragging main” with my sister and friends, and working at our gas station. These facts I have no trouble recalling. But remembering when Gerald Ford took the reins of leadership from President Nixon? I am ashamed to admit I had to do a Google search on the computer to recall the dates and details of the disturbing event.
I guess I was a stereotypical teenager in 1974 - totally absorbed in my world and clueless to the larger world. I remember hearing about Watergate, but beyond that I was oblivious to what was happening in and to our nation at that critical time. And now, when I hear the names of Nixon or Ford, what I see in my mind's eye is the picture of President Nixon waving from the doorway of an airplane, both arms raised, giving the “V“ sign with his fingers. And I see Chevy Chase doing his comedic sketches, portraying President Ford as a bumbling and discombobulated fool.
So, it was only when President Ford died this past week that I found out he was more than a mere parody. He was a man of integrity and a war hero. He was a top-rate athlete. He never aspired to be President, but he tried his best to pick up the pieces and keep the country moving forward when the job fell to him. And as I listened to news stories about his life and heard remarks made by many people who held him in high esteem, I wondered. Did Gerald Ford ever truly know how well-liked and respected he was? And what would he have said, and how would he have felt, had he been able to hear all the accolades being heaped upon him - after the fact!
And then my wonderings took me in another direction - away from a past President and to the common man and woman. Why, I wondered, do we wait for a person to die before we pay them homage? And why do we send flowers to decorate a grave, instead of gracing the life of the living with the sweet scent of flowers? It seems so backwards to me! Now, and not later, we should tell others how much they mean to us. Now, and not later, we should freely hand out hugs and compliments, and pass on our heartfelt words of honor and praise. Now, and not later….
I have been accused of plagiarism - by no less than my very own sister, Nancy! Last week I used a line from a poem I had written, but she swore someone else wrote it. So I searched through my desk and drawers, and triumphantly found the poem, along with many others I had written and self-printed in 1981. I had to smile at the title - “The Limited Edition of The Poems of Shelley Fowler”. And then I just had to laugh out loud, because beneath the title I had added - “Do not throw away. In fifty years they will be priceless (if they aren't already)!”
So I made a cup of hot tea and settled back in the chair to revisit the poetry of my youthful self. Some were soulful and pure, others were pitiful and petulant, and many were about the beauty of life and animals. Maybe I will share some of the better ones with you in the coming weeks, but for now I will give you the poem in question, the one I often quote.
“How drear would our existence be, if I were like you and you were like me. How empty would our emotions stand, if we marched to the same beat and band. How flat would our laughter fall, if our wit was one - how utterly dull. How logical would we be then, if inside we were all the same mechanical man.” I still feel the same way, twenty-five years hence. And I do believe my sister now owes me an apology!? (smile)