It’s not like I’m losing my best friend, but I do feel sad that Blockbuster is in hospice care right now and that the end is near.
I’ve known Blockbuster for, what, 20 years? For awhile when my kids were still at Grant-White, we’d go over to Blockbuster frequently to get a video that the entire family could watch. Sometimes the kids would argue about which movie to get, but on the whole, the memory of walking to that video store and back is a pleasant part of my nostalgia.
That’s what happens when you stay put in one place for a long time – in my case 29 years. You get attached to things, to people. It’s kind of like family. It doesn’t matter if your brother, John, is the brightest bulb in the chandelier, or the most attractive. He’s your brother. Over the years you went through a lot together. You get attached.
The result is that when a detachment occurs, some of your own skin goes with it. I miss Buck’s pizza place. I miss Calcagno’s. I miss the Methodist church which used to stand proudly on Adams St. I miss Sam Zussman and Lorraine Popelka and Fr. Fearon. I miss going over to Denny Moran’s garage on Sunday afternoons to watch the Packers, have a beer and hear language pastors don’t experience on Sunday mornings.
I’m not saying that all of the changes have been bad. I proudly show visitors from out of town our shopping district on Madison St. and enjoy checking out new restaurants. In terms of race relations, we’re nowhere near perfect, but we have come a long, long way from the block busting – pun intended – days of the 1960s.
So, many of the changes have been good, but the deeper my roots in this town go, the harder saying goodbye to even relatively insignificant things like Blockbuster seems to get. I mean, I haven’t picked up a video there in ten years. Yet, it’s still another loss.
This is the 40th anniversary year of the publication of Future Shock, in which Alvin Toffler argued that it is the pace of change and not change itself which is so hard to deal with. People like me – six million bought a copy – really resonated with what Toffler was saying. The irony was, of course, that many of us baby boomers pictured ourselves as agents of change.
What strikes me is that my adult children don’t seem to be troubled by change. They, in fact, appear to thrive on it. Two weeks after getting a new smart phone, they will talk about the next one they want to get. When one of their best friends moves to Boston, it’s no problem because they stay in almost constant contact via email, Twitter and Facebook. They are as comfortable navigating the changes and chances of life as I am canoeing through class II whitewater.
And yet, I wonder if they – if we – are losing something and are, for the most part, unaware of a slow erosion of our foundations. To be honest, there are several places in which I would have preferred to live 20 years ago. For one thing, I would have liked to have been closer to nature and solitude. But that was 20 years ago. Now the experience of having roots deep in this place has given me a kind of stability to survive the emotional storms of life – especially during the last two months in which we have had more than enough of surviving storms of any kind.
Benedictine monks take a fourth vow in addition to poverty, chastity and obedience. For almost 1,500 years now they have taken the vow of stability. For St. Benedict, you have to stay in one place and stick with one group of people, for better and for worse, if you want to grow up spiritually. Staying in one place for a long time forces you to get to know your neighbors well – for better and for worse. Paradoxically, it confronts us with ourselves – for better and for worse.
“Stability,” wrote Benedictine nun Joan Chittister, “is an invitation to live life deeply rather than spend it superficially.”
I drove back to where I grew up in Wisconsin last Friday to go to the Manitowoc County Fair. I was hoping for a big helping of nostalgia, but it wasn’t the same. Manitowoc had changed, and so had I. My hometown wasn’t home anymore. Driving past the house my parents helped build and the high school from which I graduated brought back a lot of memories, but as I walked the 4-H barns and checked out the midway, not one person said hello to me. They had no idea who I was.
When I arrived in Forest Park in 1982, I pictured staying here for five years and then moving on to something better. For many reasons, I’m still here. As it turned out that “something better” is right where I am now.
Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.