It didn't turn out that way. Here is something I wrote seven years ago, a couple days before we moved to Westerville.
My friend/pastor Don Muncie asked me, just before he moved to
I couldn’t think of a particularly meaningful response at the time. I think I gave him the Standard Christian Line: my sinfulness, my selfishness, my lack of love. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Good answer. Now what do you really want to leave behind?
Last night I walked around by myself for a couple hours. The kids were in bed. I had spent most of the evening taping and labeling boxes. I walked east, past all the grand old historical homes on Gambier and High Streets, their National Registry plaques proudly displayed next to the their front doors. I doubled back west and walked to the little park in the center of town. One hundred and thirty six years ago Abraham Lincoln sent the Union Army into this park to arrest Ohio Senator Clement Vallandigham, who was stirring up trouble among the Copperheads. Last night I was the only trouble afoot. Mike Merilees cruised by in his police car and saw me out there and waved to me. I waved back. Mike used to stop me and question what I was doing. Now he’s used to seeing this strange bearded fellow who has a tendency to stand by himself in parks at midnight. He can’t figure it out. I suppose I can’t either.
And so I made the rounds, walking north and west and south, keeping the night watches, making sure that
Dozens of people in
The real reason is profound disappointment. The real reason is loneliness, the feeling of almost total isolation in the midst of friendly, honking and waving people. The real reason is anger and resentment at never feeling a part of this community, of watching Bible Studies and small groups fall apart because people couldn’t find the time to make them a priority, of spending almost eight years of my life trying to make a go of it in a church where I don’t belong, and of having that church as almost my sole contact with the life of Norman Rockwell’s America. It’s the reality of having two close relationships with people in town, and of having both of those relationships disappear with the moving vans. It’s frustration with a whole passel of multi-generational
Those are the real reasons why the moving van will pull up to my house Monday morning. I can’t tell anybody that. It’s the shallowness and sterility of what Kate calls the honk-and-wave fellowship. Everybody in town knows me. And it’s wondering if that’s why they only honk and wave.
I came to Mount Vernon thinking I was pretty hot stuff, that I would be an asset to any community and to any church, and that they’d better be damn glad to have me, too. And I’ve struggled big time with these Presbyterians, these sons and daughters of the Reformation who don’t know a thing about what John Calvin taught and believed, and who don’t give a rip that they don’t know. And I’ve referred to the Bible and have been met with blank stares, as if appealing to the Bible in church was about as relevant as appealing to Sports Illustrated Magazine, that everybody was entitled to their own opinions, after all, and that there were plenty of fundamentalist (translation: bigoted, small-minded, ignorant) churches who thought that way if I would care to check them out.
I don’t feel like much of a hot shot these days. About all I know for certain is my own brokenness, which is something these Presbyterians are good at emphasizing, and one of the few things they appear to get right. I don’t have it together. I love God, but not very well, and I love my family, but not very well, and I wave to everybody else. And now it’s time to wave goodbye.
What I’d like to tell Don Muncie, what I should have told him, is that I’d like to bury all the hurt. I’d like to give it a rest. I’m tired of trying to figure out how much of this is other peoples’ fault and how much is my fault, what I could have done or should have done differently. I’m tired of thinking about it. I just want to move on. The problem is that I can leave everything behind but me.
So eventually I wandered back home, to this magnificent old house, this ramshackle mansion that we affectionately call Tara in the Corn, and I sat on the porch swing on the grand old front porch, underneath those three-story Greek pillars, and realized that eight years of my life were gone with the wind, irretrievable. And I prayed, again, that God would change me, that He would make me into someone other than who I often appear to be. I closed my eyes and envisioned myself stretching out my hands above the whole town in a gesture of benediction. In my vision it all got muddled together, and I thanked God for the joy I had found in
I felt lousy, but that’s the way it has to be for sentimental, nostalgic fools. I went in the house and went to bed and eventually fell asleep. This morning on my way out of town, dog tired, I passed a couple folks I knew and they honked and waved to me, and I waved back and felt okay about it.