Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

July 9, 2014

Much can change in this crazy world in a short span of three years

— It has been said that time can heal old wounds, and I think that statement is probably true. But the Fourth of July — and those days immediately following it — are still a little difficult for what is left of my family. It was just three years ago this week that I lost my mother. She had valiantly fought a long illness, but her health took a sudden turn for the worse on the Fourth of July. At a time when families were outside celebrating the patriotic holiday with cookouts and fire crackers, we were, instead, inside at her bedside. There was nothing the doctors, or the home nurses who visited the house, could do at that point — although initially it was an illness that we were told Mom could perhaps overcome with treatment and surgery.

The year prior I had essentially assumed a caregiver’s role while also trying to hold down a full-time job here at the newspaper. I found myself frequently racing back and forth between the house and the newsroom. Editor Samantha Perry was extremely gracious and understanding during this difficult time. Mom lived for another seven days after the Fourth of July. We had many discussions during that last year, and she prepared me well for the future.

There was so much to do and consider at the time that it was often difficult to think clearly. No one likes losing a parent, but it is something we all must experience at some point in our life. Dad passed away many years earlier during a particularly difficult time in high school. He died of a heart attack in McDowell County while shoveling snow during a large snowstorm. Around the same time period, I lost a close uncle and uncle-in-law. I also was involved in a serious car accident and then ended up catching the chicken pox of all things. Somehow I managed to make it through the junior year in high school and earned my diploma a year later.

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A lot has changed over the last three years, and I can’t say that I like everything that I have seen. When Mom was still alive, she was alarmed at some of the headlines she was reading and things that she was seeing on television. In many ways the nation’s moral compass had suddenly turned in a different direction. It was a shock to someone of her generation, who grew up as a young child during World War II.

 After a year of work as a caregiver, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. I remember someone telling me to enjoy it — because it wouldn’t last. Between work and all of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with life, he was correct to a certain extent. Of course, no one knows what the future will bring. And things are certainly more than just a little bit crazy in this world right now. I often wonder if we are racing toward the type of future that is often portrayed in those popular science fiction films. You know, the movies where cars drive by themselves while the occupant relaxes inside eating or talking on the phone, and homes are equipped with fully operational virtual reality machines.

We are also constantly being told by the politicians that our world is in danger as a result of climate change. Global warming. Melting polar ice caps. Rising sea leaves. More powerful storms. More flooding. More blizzards. But not much changes here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Our beautiful mountains serve as a safe buffer zone of sorts, protecting us from the extremes often experienced in other parts of the country. And we still haven’t even hit 90 degrees here in Bluefield. Maybe climate change is to blame for that as well. Who knows. I’m sure some politician out there would make that claim.

There is comfort in familiarity here in the mountains. I grew up hearing the train traveling up and down the tracks each morning and evening, and although I no longer live in my childhood home, I still hear the train each evening as it passes by my small community. Back in MDowell County, I was often awakened each morning by the train. Nowadays it is the cat crying or scratching on the screen in the window pane. He knows where my bedroom is and stakes the area out each morning. He normally starts this routine well before my alarm clock goes off.

As I sit here and write this column while admiring a picturesque country setting, I also notice that a storm is approaching in the distance. I wonder if it is a symbolic sign of more difficult days ahead for our nation and world. But I still delight in the beautiful summer evening — knowing that football season and fall will be here before I realize it. The past three years have been an interesting journey. I think Mom would be proud of what I have accomplished to date. But I realize there is still much more that I need and want to accomplish.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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