Not Look Back: A Memoir
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by I.M. Tillerman
Description: When a sixty-one year old retired college teacher travels fifty years into the past to change the tragic, childhood death of his beloved sister and only sibling, he spends several hours with that fourteen year old "kindred spirit"--and with himself as an eleven year-old farm boy--and must decide whether or not it is wise to alter the past.
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2008 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: December 2008
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [136 KB]
Reading time: 74-104 min.
"Familiar as an old mistake, and futile as regret" (1916).
~ "Bewick Finzer," E. A. Robinson
I suppose all people wonder, at some time in their lives, if they would change the past, were they given such an extraordinary opportunity to do so. My mother told me, on more than one occasion when I was growing up, that worrying about the past and ignoring it were quite different approaches, the first being futile, the second, stupid. Since one cannot change what has happened, she explained, it was senseless to fret about it. However, she went on to clarify, to ignore the past by not learning from it was foolish.
When I was about ten years old and we'd play softball during recess at Pioneer Country School District #44, my hands typically would be sweaty as I held the bat, arms cocked like Father's double barrel shotgun. And like the greased pig at the Minnehaha County Fair in Sioux Falls, the bat more often than not would slip from my greasy grasp as I swung it around. It would sail into the infield, bouncing to rest usually between the pitcher's mound and third base. Miss Tabor, the gifted teacher who taught all of us--grades one through eight--in a crowded schoolhouse, warned me sternly about the dangers of this bad habit. Because I admired and respected this overworked, underpaid educator, I labored to solve the problem by gripping the bat firmly in my hands as I brought it around and it struck the softball with as much momentum as my puny arms could muster.
On one traumatic occasion, however, when the score was tied and my excitement overtook my caution, the greased pig squirted from my fingers. The bat arched slightly in a smooth trajectory toward third base, and then collided with the face of Ira Lonetree, a Lakota Sioux Indian boy who, black ponytail flying behind him, had just rounded third base. In a valiant effort to win the game, he was streaking for home like Seabiscuit in the homestretch. Poor Ira. Given the cultural prejudice against Native Americans that he tolerated every day of his life, he surely didn't need a blood pumping, one inch gash through his right eyebrow.
Ira was named after the famously sad Marine, Ira Hayes, who had strained to help raise the flag on Mount Suribachi in 1945. My Ira survived that notorious ballgame with a nasty scar that resembled a tiny, one inch railroad track with only one rail. Riddled with guilt and remorse, which was fueled for days by the other twenty-two students' silent treatment and furtive glances, I dragged my battered brain to the Great Oz, my mother. "Little Man," she said with infinite sympathy, "you can't change the past. All you can do is learn from it." She was right. She was always right. At her suggestion, I soaked up the sweat on my hands by washing them in the fine dirt that always lingered about home plate. I never threw my bat again.
But now, fifty years later, I did have a chance to change the past. Not the Ira incident, though, for ironically, much good came from that misfortune: He drew a handful of new, close, sympathetic friends to his side, myself being one of them eventually. Something else. Something much more grave ... much more far-reaching in its consequences. As I held the crystal cylinder in my right hand, my thumb poised over the transport button, my eyes nailed to the gold face of the antique grandfather clock that towered over me like the chimneys of Devil's Tower, I paused. My hand trembling like those of Grandpa John when the plague of Parkinson's settled on him, I took a deep breath and made the Sign of the Cross. After waiting an eternity, I slowly lowered my thumb the one inch to the button and then pressed it in a single, deft motion.