Monday, July 20, 2009

One Small Step

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of astronaut Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. You all read about it in your history books. I watched it on television -- the one with knobs and tubes and an antenna, back when there were only three network channels and a lot of static.
I was just shy of sixteen years old, working two jobs in the summer. My dad was out of work and trying to start his own company. My older brother Bobby had just graduated from high school and trying his best to avoid being drafted and sent to Viet Nam.
I was sitting down in the basement, where the tile floor was cool on that hot summer's evening. And my three brothers and I watched that historic moment, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." My grandmother, whom we called Mammy, sat down next to me, having just put in another load of wash. She was always moving, never sitting down, always busy, even though now at eighty she had every excuse. She had fought rheumatoid arthritis since she was 35, and her knees were as big as cantalopes. They didn't have knee replacement surgery in those days. She just kept pushing through her pain and would hit you with a stick if you told her to relax.
We watched Neil Armstrong on the fuzzy screen. I looked over. Mammy had tears on her cheeks. "What's the matter?" I asked.
"To think that I have gone from covered wagon to watching a man walk on the moon," she said. "Imagine that."
My life was about to change radically. In just a few weeks, my brother went away to college. And in just a couple of months, on her eighty-first birthday, Mammy passed away, as it says in the Bible, "full of days." Suddenly I was the oldest kid, Dad was traveling all the time, and Mom was trying to support us by giving violin lessons at 7 a.m. in our living room. I was a junior in high school, and life seemed so hard.
I remember so vividly that humid day in July. And it surprised me when I saw the headlines today, announcing the anniversary of the moon landing. I didn't read about it in the newspaper. I didn't see it on television. I read about it on the internet.
Imagine that.

1 comment:

Laura said...

"...the one with knobs and tubes and an antenna, back when there were only three network channels and a lot of static."

I would just like to point out that this description is accurate of our TV up until about 5 or 6 years ago. :)