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August 26th, 2010

Wet Cement…

Today I saw workers pouring cement. I wanted to walk through it, but I didn’t…

Take a look at this map. When I was five-years old I lived here (the house marked with the red circle and arrow):

This is 566A Brady Drive, Fort Campbell, KY (Clarksville, TN)

My family moved into this neighborhood in the late summer of 1980. I had celebrated my 5th birthday (July) in Russlleville, KY not long before we moved into this house. We were already living there when my younger brother, Nick, was born (early September) so I am guessing we moved into this house sometime in August (30 years ago this month). Some random things I remember about that place are:

  • There was still lead paint on the walls
  • The outdoor siding was made of wood (It would later be replaced with aluminum siding).
  • The floors were covered in hard green linoleum (I cracked my head against it the first night there).
  • Outside, in the back yard, was an old air conditioning unit. It didn’t seem odd to me then, but it was painted green…like almost everything in the Army back in those days (this was before woodland camo).

The air conditioner isn’t what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the air conditioner that replaced it. A couple of years after moving into the house, people came to replace all of the air conditioners¬† in the neighborhood. They took out the old green boxes, poured new concrete foundations, and installed brand-new units behind every house. By this time, Nick must have been about two-years old which means he was freely mobile. Before the cement had dried, he stepped in it and left a little footprint. I was around seven-years old, and I think it was the first time I’d ever seen someone leave a footprint in wet cement.

When I drove past the workers today I immediately thought about this incident. I began to wonder if that little concrete slab was still behind that old house. Considering the fact that it’s almost impossible that the air conditioner unit is still there, I doubt the cement slab is. However, it is not beyond the realm of possibility. I seem to recall driving by that neighborhood as a teenager and sneaking into the back yard and seeing it still there. If they only replaced the units without tearing up the old concrete it could conceivably still be intact.

Lately I’ve found myself being more philosophical than usual. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life (and the lives of others). I’ve been second guessing past decisions,¬† formulating future plans,¬† contemplating women, wondering about money, considering my career, thinking about finishing my education, and trying to grasp the concept of my own mortality. In fact, I’ve just generally been wondering about life, the universe, and everything. When I saw that slab of wet cement my mind made a ridiculous analogy…our lives are like wet cement.

When I saw that patch of cement today I wanted to run right through it. I didn’t and now it’s too late. I have missed my chance. The next time I walk along that stretch of sidewalk no one will never know I’ve been there. I’ll walk by and I won’t leave the slightest trace. Today was the only chance I had to leave my print.

I just turned 35 a few weeks ago and I’m starting to see the concrete begin to harden. So many times I find myself in situations when I want to run through the wet cement and leave my undeniable mark, but I don’t. I tell myself that I don’t want to get my shoes dirty or I’ll have a better patch of cement a little further down the road. I tell myself, “Now is the time to do something great! Everyone will see it and marvel at the impact that you’ve made. They will sing your praises and never forget you.” Then, I tell myself, “Now is the time to steer clear. Don’t get too near. Whatever you do can never be taken back. Everyone will see the mess that you’ve made and when they walk past they will point and laugh or maybe they’ll curse your name. They’ll never forget you.”

The second thought wins way too often. How easy it is for me to walk on by and to let the wet cement go undisturbed. How easy it is to live my life in a way that will immediately be forgotten.  I look back at the hardened concrete, smooth and clean, and wonder what it might have looked like with my 6.5 extra-wide footprints running through the middle of it.

Today I saw workers pouring cement. I wanted to walk through it, but I didn’t…

Tomorrow, if I see wet cement, I hope I am brave enough to walk through it. I don’t want to be forgotten.

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