One of the few perks of my job is that I can work extra hours each week and select a day off each pay period. This works well as I can pack more into the longer days especially when I have to travel outside the immediate area of my office where the travel time can eat up a good portion of the day. Today was my “flex” day and I needed to run an errand that would take me near where I grew up. As I was driving around, not through, downtown Pittsburgh I remembered that there was a detour that would not allow me to take the direct route to the North Side. I made my own detour before the official detour and it took me through what some call Old Allegheny part of the Burgh as I looked for this old bridge that would take me to the BIG POST OFFICE. This is the general mail sorting facility and when I need something to get there fast I mail it from there.
The neighborhoods are an eclectic mix of brand new homes, very run down homes, and old homes that are being restored. I found my bridge, mailed my stuff and decided to stop to check on my Mom’s house since I was close. Her house is less than a mile from the post office, but I again was disappointed because the road to her road was closed…another detour. I drove about a block and remembered this back, one way road that would take me home. I had forgotten that the one way was not my way. We used to risk the narrow road when I was younger, but the right way (actually left) took me near my old grade school.
Saint Gabs. never looked so bad. It had ceased being St. Gabriel the Archangel School decades ago, but as I pulled into the parking lot I couldn’t help but remember the raucous times we young Catholic kids had on that blacktop. Broken bones, skinned knees, broken glasses, and torn clothing never stopped us. For us a game of Release was a contact sport. The grotto where a statue of The Virgin Mary stood is now a garbage pit, the lot is mocked with potholes, the school’s windows are broken, the doors chained, and weeds are winning the battle for domination.
The front steps once witness to scores of young children on their journey through the sacraments now languish in disrepair. I find it interesting how fast a building goes down hill when no one uses it. It is almost as if the inanimate structure draws life from its inhabitants. St. Gabs’ building had no life today. It would have been interesting to have a look inside the old place, but I am not fond of creepy critters and there is that whole trespassing thing. Good thing Sister Mary David cannot see this.
I still wanted to pop in my Mom’s house so I headed there. I am almost always amazed at how the neighborhood changes between visits. It seems like each time I drive through the neighborhood another house has been torn down. I let myself in the house and took a look around. My father used to have this large cabbage cutter and I wanted to find it so that I could make sauerkraut. My search took me into Grampy’s basement. My parent’s house was attached to my Mother’s father’s house and my Dad had poked a hallway between them when Grampy got older. My search eventually led me to his basement. The light switch produced no light so I proceeded down in the gray light that came in from a front window. I pulled on a light switch to get some additional light and moved into the back part of the basement where there is this old footed bathtub that I think is so cool.
As I was looking around something passed in between me and the light; a slight flicker that gave me a chill. A chill very much like the chill I just got writing about it. I felt very uncomfortable in the house. I wouldn’t say that I was scared, I just felt that I needed to get on my way. My neice lives up the street and I had texted her that I’d be at Bub’s house in case she wasn’t working and saw someone down there. I told her about my experience in the house and she joked that it was Pap playing jokes. Pap died nearly seven years ago. She said that her boyfriend also feels weird in the house. Who can say, but I felt something there in the house that I grew up in.
I headed home and thought I’d stop at the Byzantine Seminary Press to see if they had gotten their new hand-carved santa ornaments from the “Old Country” for the store. As I drove between two large cemeteries I thought about my father and whether I should stop and see him. I wanted to get home so I decided to put it off and kept going. I know…I should feel guilty. I got less than a mile and ran into another detour. The entire road was closed. I turned into a side street that I remembered ran parallel to the street I wanted to use. It had probably been thirty years since I had been on that street. My nostalgia was short lived as I ran into a series of more detours that led me back to the original detour. I had to take a different way home.
The weird thing isthat the new route took me past the cemetery where my Dad is buried. This was too strong a sign for me to ignore so I drove up to his plot. This may sound odd, but this cemetery is a peaceful place. There is certainly sadness when you remember a family member, see a freshly dug spot, or a brand new headstone. One thing, however, that I can appreciate about these old resting places is the variety of trees…and really big ones. There are the oaks and maples and sycamores, but there is also this cool cucumber tree (the leaves are huge) and near where my father lies is a beautiful American Holly. I unsuccessfully tried to start a tree from this holly last year, but I am determined to do it this year (my attempt at a cucumber tree had the same sad result).
As I pulled up to Pap I noticed that he had two visitors. One took off as I got closer, but the other kept a wary eye on me as it fed. As an avid gardener I am not sure that Pap would have appreciated the deer nearby, but at least it wasn’t a groundhog. They were the bane of his gardens.
After my visit I headed home to work on my brick oven. I am building one on wheels and if it works I am sure that I’ll post and brag about it. Though the weather was quite dreary today and my road was full of detours it was a very, very good day.