June 9th, was a hot summer back when the world was my oyster. The pearls, well, they were everything that an 8-year-old kid living out on a chunk of land in the hills of Pennsylvania could possibly experience.
There were creeks running cold, and an old dammed up pond with sunfish, bass, and catfish in it. There were trees reaching tall into blue skies, and twisted and gnarled apple trees whose misshapen fruit was green and sour. Forbidden fruit according to my mother which would give you more than a belly ache if you ate them. We ate them anyway, sprinkled with salt from a stolen salt shaker snatched from the top of old kitchen table. I would have slipped the glass shaker in my pocket and hoped it wasn't discovered missing until I replaced it again.
There were voices of kids, laughing, screaming, running, jumping, and well, being kids. There was an old red-bone hunting dog tied to a shed. The dog was too hot and too tired to howl. His happiness, was simply watching the action around him through sad brown eyes with slow blinks.
Below the house, past a chicken coop was a ball diamond constructed by my father, and my older brothers with bases made of old feed bags stuffed with wild hay. They went so far as to line the field with a bag of lime, and I thought this must be what Forbes Field looks like. Pittsburgh could have been a million miles away as far as I knew back then. The only connection between our oyster shell of life and the Pittsburgh Pirates was an old tube radio humming on a varnished old stand in the room my mother liked to call the parlor. My father wouldn’t miss a game, and I can still recall him leaning toward the small square radio with his right hand cupped by his ear to drown out us kids, and hear better. My mother more than likely would have been in the kitchen kneading bread dough in a pan big enough to bath a kid in and wearing a worried look upon her face, for one of her children wasn’t there that day. In fact, in twenty-four hours, he’d never be there again.
Her first born son, my brother, Chuck was in a place called Vietnam. He was a Green-Beret, and just turned 24-years-old in January. In February, he left for a tour of duty leaving behind a son just over one-year-old, and a wife carrying a baby girl in her belly which he would never see, and us. I didn’t know much about Vietnam, I didn’t know much about war except what I saw on the old black and white television set in the living room. We played war with old sticks turned into guns and dried mud balls tossed as grenades. Nobody got hurt, much. It was just a game.
The ironic part of it all is that all the young men over there once probably played the same game. Now it was real. Some of these guys, it occurred to me were just a mere ten or fifteen-years-older than me. At eight, that seemed as if they were a lifetime older than I was then. I’d call them kids today. They left their oyster of a world back home, while I still played in mine.
The hands of time click with a solemn-ness leading us to aging. We go through our world counting seconds, minutes, hours and days that turn into years. Throughout it all, we live with good and bad times. In twenty-four hours, for my brother, the hands of time would forever become frozen just after midnight of the next day. On June 10, 1965, the oyster shell closed forever, and that pearl would be gone, forever. When will we ever learn, when?