Gradually, quietly, without any thoughts the scenery changes. People pass through our lives and only some time after they are gone does it occur to us that we never asked them the details of their observations and experiences. The days and decades of gradual changes added up throughout their lifetimes, enabling them to look back and see the vast leaps and bounds their surroundings have made.
Unknowingly history unfolds continuously, without any thought really, unless someone surpasses a sports record or a movie exceeds sales.
History is not confined to the past. Quantum physics shows us that there is no past or future, only a continual present. Meanwhile everything is in motion. “The state of change is the changeless state”, as Bruce Lee once said.
My great grandpa was born in 1884. He grew up during the Wild West and by the time he died the busy lives we live today, with our modern conveniences, were the same and in some cases not much different than those experienced presently. He was watching some of the same TV shows we watch today well aware we were, as a species and as a nation, traveling in space, while thinking back to a time when gunfights and train robberies were occurring, and the last generation to be born in the 1700’s were dying.
As a kid in the 1980’s, the only names I recognized in the Van Alstyne Cemetery were those I had known that were prior residents of the nursing home where my mother worked. I would sit around with the elderly, some of which were born in the 1800’s, when I didn’t have a babysitter and my parents had to work. I recall one lady in the nursing home advised she met Jesse James at her water well between Van Alstyne and Gunter, when she was a little girl. One by one, the folks I knew began to gradually pass away.
A few more people passed on as I grew up in the 1990’s. Flash forward – as I write this article a walk through the cemetery is a who’s who of names, faces, moments, tall tales, stories and events. Not only is there now an expanding sea of familiar names on headstones, but my studying Van Alstyne History has brought forth the faces and stories of names I used to stroll by and never considered or recognized before. No longer do I see headstones; I see relationships.
Today, as I continue to research Van Alstyne History there are many times I come across a name or photo from 100 or more years ago and I suddenly recognize it as a person who I used to sit and speak with at the nursing home while I waited for school, or for my mother to get off of work. I wish now I could ask them about the times they bought their tickets at the train depot to see THE Buffalo Bill in person… About the original Texas pioneers who settled the Texas land grants in the 1840’s and died in Van Alstyne during the mid-Twentieth Century… And… The list of memories never recorded are as endless as my regrets.
Meanwhile, down the street from where I’m writing this in a downtown location, developers and owners are remodeling, neglecting, and destroying Van Alstyne’s surroundings – it’s heritage. The ornate iron and stone facades, tiled interiors, wood floors, and decorative tin ceiling tiles, are being thrown away, covered up, or removed for personal use. Sheetrock, plywood, and prefabricated materials are currently replacing handcrafted buildings made by artisans with the cheapest materials of the lowest-bidding contractors. Even City Hall removed the the original, beautiful counter from the 1880’s (when the building was a bank) and replaced it with an aweful modern contraption with about as much soul and character as a mom and pop convenience store… I observed (after the fact) someone’s vehicle broke one of the last two remaining hitching posts downtown, across from City Hall, and now it’s just a stump on the curb in front of the museum. These changes occur, gradually, and they bring to mind the ghost of Hamlet’s father begging him, “Adieu, adieu! Remember me.”
All the while, little do each of us know we let go little by little.