The famous closing suite of songs on The Beatles album Abbey Road offers a ton of quotable lyrics. As spring leans toward summer here in Illinois, I’ve been thinking about a few of the transitions I’ve endured over the years.
It was spring of 1963 when our family moved from Seneca Falls, New York to a new home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The night before our move, I stayed at the home of my kindergarten teacher, who kindly purchased a gift book about submarines that I cherished, but left behind at her home the next morning. Upon realizing that fact, I burst into tears while perched between my two brothers in the back seat. But we weren’t turning back.
Seven years later in the late spring of 1970, our family moved again, this time from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Elburn, Illinois. That move was an even greater personal upheaval as I left behind friends made through elementary and middle school. I was turning thirteen years old, and well recall having no one to join me on the basketball court during April because my friends had all gone out for baseball. I was leaving town, so it made no sense to try out. So I shot baskets alone for hours with my ABA basketball with its red, white and blue skin worn thin by hours of practice.
Three years later my family moved again from Elburn to St. Charles, Illinois a city ten miles east. By then I’d earned a spot as the top cross country runner at Kaneland High School, was President of the class and had many valued friends among my peers. Twenty-five years later I asked my father why we moved in the middle of my sophomore year and he told me, “I didn’t want your brother to play basketball for that slow-down offense at Kaneland.” I knew that offense all too well as a starter on the sophomore team who was almost brought up to the varsity team that placed second in state that spring. But knowing that I’d just moved to another town, the coaches passed me over for that opportunity.
My father was right about my brother. He played great at the new school and earned a D1 scholarship at a school back east. But I asked me dad, “That was great for him but what about me?”
“I knew you were a social kid,” my father replied. I knew you’d survive.
To put it plainly, I’ve stepped on the gas and wiped away a few tears in my time. At some point the anchor of sentiment ceases its grip on you. As an adult I was told in the spring of 1982 that I was being transferred from Chicago to an office in Philadelphia. That summer I said goodbye to friends and moved all my junk out to a small apartment in Paoli, Pennsylvania. The job lasted until April of that next spring when the whole department was shut down in a fit of disgust with the VP of Marketing who didn’t have a clue.
Before I packed all my stuff in a U-Haul van I drove down the east coast to get naked in the sand of Assateague Island. Then I gathered up my belongings again and moved “home” to an apartment in downtown Chicago. That spring I went for a run on the beach with a good friend and roommate and had no idea what the future held.
The only thing I knew by that point in time is that change is inevitable. I’d kept on running out east in Pennsylvania so I turned that energy into a personal protest of sorts at all the stupid changes I’d just been through. Chicago became my training ground. I ran and ran and ran. I won races right and left. For two years I ran like a madman while making just enough money to get buy. It wasn’t a future that I could bank upon, but it was my way to step on the gas and wipe that tear away.
When spring rolls around every year and the light takes on a certain tinge, I feel that familiar tug of pain that came with so many moves. But as I’ve always known, the best thing when you’re forced to move is to keep moving. So I still lace up the running shoes or hop on the bike and let the restless wind buffet me until those hard feelings are gone.The Beatles were certainly right. You have to step on the gas and wipe that tear away. It never really ends.
There have been consoling moments. I recall crouching in the back seat of that 1965 Buick Wildcat on our way out to Illinois from Pennsylvania in 1970. The Abbey Road and Let It Be albums were still all over the music charts and my eldest brother leaned down to me and we started singing that short and bittersweet Beatles refrain together…
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to Heaven
Heaven is the place that all people supposedly want to go. In spring of 2013 I realized that my wife was not going to survive into the summer months. Rather than us picking up and moving this time, it was a question of rallying people around her to say goodbye and wipe away tears. Ironically, she’d only gotten to ride three times in the new Subaru we purchased that spring. I still have that vehicle, and during a recent service appointment one of the technicians said, “You’ve done a good job getting 100,000 miles out of this car.”
I thought to myself, “This car is going twice that far, at least.” That’s why we bought it in the first place. So that we could have a dependable car in which to step on the gas and wipe that tear away. Alone or together in this world, you’ve got to keep moving until something good again comes your way.