Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 8

FROM THE EDITOR

THE PAST BECOMES SO, AND FAST

It's Time to Jump on Time,
Before it Gets Away
Is there a silver lining to be found amid the current dark clouds?
By KURT RHEINHEIMER

O

ne of the odd hallmarks of the recent months
has had to do with time: Is it six weeks or
six months that we've been working from
home? Is it Tuesday, or November? Was I on
that trail two weekends ago or last summer?
How have I suddenly gotten this old?
Well, maybe the last one has been around
longer than the current times. But time and again, people
seem to question the trustworthiness of time. Or more
precisely, the trustworthiness of our perceptions and understandings of time.
Perhaps that little syndrome is part of the reason that I
have been thinking often recently of my maternal grandfather. Fred Hurt was born in these Virginia mountains
in 1896 and was thus in his early to mid 20s during the
pandemic of 1918-1920.
About which he knew, I am certain, as much as anyone. As he did about World War I, or at least his period
as a soldier during that time. Or the detailed history of
of Claytor Lake, near Pulaski, Virginia, and how I did as
his "helper" when he built a cabin along its shore. Or
about the 1950s polio epidemic in his hometown of Wytheville, Virginia.
I know far too little about all those things, and he
would gladly have told me as much as I wanted to know.
But then it's another quirk of time that the "young"-
I was around him from birth until I was 33 years old
and considered myself a, you know, grown-up guy with
grown-up appreciation of the man who had taught me to
fish, play baseball, think about girls, try a beer, and lots
of other stuff- is to know it all, even when of course you
do not.
From the perspective of these many decades later, I
was of course anything but. (And, I should mention, I
failed the same test with my father, who died when I was,
well, way way old enough to know better.)
And that test is perhaps an especially acute one these
days, when many people of the grandparent age are
working to not be around the younger people as much,
when opportunities to get together may well be fewer.
And farther between.

8

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Eric Rheinheimer (Kurt's brother) and his granddad, Fred Hurt,
navigate Virginia's Claytor Lake, c. 1955.

What better time, said the current grandfather, to push
yourself to think think think about when you are decades
older than now, and will wonder about all those things
you wish you knew and you never asked about, and can
no longer ask about. Plus you'd be creating good connections with people who, as they say, just adore you, here in
these times of separation and, thus, created connections.
What was the best part of your work life? The worst?
The best part of life with Mom? (Be careful, he may well
tell you.) The worst? What was the high point of your
athletic life? Tell me three of your heroes. What kind of
person were you in high school? In what clothing, over
the course of life so far, did you feel most dressed as yourself? Do you have a favorite brand of shoes? Of candy?
How about your three favorite bands or singers?
Each of which would lead to more questions and more
discoveries. And unlike when I should have talked to my
grandfather, you can just hold a phone and you'll capture
some stuff that you can just put somewhere for several
decades until it becomes . . . precious.
Because it will. That lack may be more acute with me
than other people, because I just didn't much see my parents as people. Just as teachers weren't people either, parents were parents, grandparents grandparents. Not people.
If I had done what I should have back in the 1970s, I
could be telling a great story about the Virginia mountains 100 years ago, rather than lamenting a failing you
don't have to repeat.


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Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020

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