Friday, September 15, 2023

Insight: Leaving history in the past

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

A very wise person once told me that if I wanted to leave yesterday’s baggage behind me, I had to power forward without looking back. For me, that became clearer during a recent visit with my younger brother and his wife to our home here in Maine.

Ed Pierce, right, and his brother Doug in
Arlington, Virginia in 1981.
During our time together, he told me that he lives in the present and looks forward to the future, rather than thinking about negative events that we experienced growing up and rehashing the past.

For some time now as an adult, I have found it hard to overcome some of that negativity and have thought about and questioned why some people in our past acted the way that they did and how it shaped me into who I am today.

For me, remembering the past is a key component of my existence. As a baseball enthusiast, I enjoy recalling great games I have watched through the years and pouring over statistics on the back of my baseball cards.

I find it interesting to learn about the minor league careers of players, the numerous towns across America that they may have played in during the 1950s and 1960s, and the teams that they played on once they reached the major leagues. It’s been fun to discover towns and cities I never knew existed once fielded baseball teams and the players depicted on old pieces of cardboard continue to represent their past days of glory.

It’s also fascinating for me to examine the sometime obscure stories of people who became footnotes in American history. I’ve watched just about every episode of many popular Western television series of the 1950s and 1960s and can point out actors who went on to appear in major movies after playing a bit role in “Gunsmoke” or “Rawhide.”

Even though those are some of my distractions, I tend to dwell on reliving negative incidents from my childhood.

Until my brother’s visit, I thought he knew many of the same basic facts about my parents, but I was mistaken.

Back in the 1980s, I found several old Army photographs of my father taken during World War II and there was something different about his appearance in the photos.

When I asked him about it, he told me that while he was attending Manhattan College in New York City after his discharge from the Army in 1945, he became a professional boxing fan and would often go to bouts at Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium.

He told me that on one of those occasions at a boxing match, he met a plastic surgeon who performed rhinoplasty, which changes the way that your nose looks. Because he was always self-conscious of the way his nose looked, he made an appointment in 1946 with this plastic surgeon at his office in Queens and paid to have his nose reshaped.

That’s what was different about his appearance in the old wartime photos and what he looked like years later.

When I related that story to my brother, he said it was something that he never knew previously, but I did. He went on to tell me several stories about my mother and father that I hadn’t heard before, but he had.

I told him about how after my father’s death, my mother was asked out on a date for breakfast by a dentist in Florida. The dentist said he wanted to take her out for breakfast, so she got up early and put on some nice dress clothes. The dentist even held the car door for her as she got into his car to drive to breakfast.

But the date quickly soured when he drove to a nearby river, parked his car and then reached behind his seat. There he had a brown paper bag containing two bagels and a tray with two paper cups of black coffee he had purchased at a gas station. That was his idea of taking her to breakfast while she was expecting something a bit more substantial at a nice restaurant.

My brother told me about attending funerals in New York state for several relatives when I was either in college in New Mexico or serving overseas while in the U.S. Air Force. He spoke about meeting distant relatives at those funerals that I had only heard about while growing up, but I never have actually met in person.

By the end of his visit, we had compared many stories about our parents and our childhood memories that we either had forgotten about or had been glossed over by the passing of time.

We both agreed that although we did survive some troubling incidents growing up, we also experienced many wonderful times too. We agreed that our parents were not perfect and despite some of their flaws, they did the best they could to raise us and give us a good life.

And although there were some unpleasant and unsettling events living with them, the way we turned out is a testament to their love for us.

They are both gone now and even though one never moves on, perhaps I can move on to a new life.

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