When the lights go out

Cornelison, Mark W.

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When the Lights Go Out I remember the '60's. Most think I'm not old enough to remember them well, but I think of it differently. I think if I were any older, with the psychedelic culture of the time, I might not remember the '60's at all. I remember leaving Iowa, though I was only two years old. I remember my dad pulling his '56 Ford alongside the road in Colorado because my baby sister was crying. I remember being the only white family in Garver Park, the housing project where we first stayed in Henderson, and I remember my very first friend outside the family, Charlie. I remember moving to the trailer park with nothing but empty lots and barren desert around us. I don't remember the day Kennedy was shot, but I do remember the aftermath. I started saving pennies because I thought they had JFK's image on them. I remember the day Martin Luther King was shot. I was with a group of new friends who claimed, "The nigger had it coming." Though their words felt more than wrong, and I couldn't help but think of Charlie and of what Dr. King stood for; I wasn't brave enough to say anything. I remember a woman following my mom to the car, yelling at her over plans to begin busing kids to school. As we drove off I told my mom we already had buses at my school. She said some different kids were going to start riding the buses. The following day I snuck out to the school's bus stop to see the different kids, but found the usual bunch bounding from the buses' doors as they popped open. Confused, I asked a little black girl I knew from class if there was anyone different riding the bus. She simply stated no as she ran past me. I remember using a clothespin to put a card in my spokes and putting rubber bands around one bell-bottom to keep my pant leg from my bicycle chain. I remember crying when moving a few miles away to a house in Las Vegas; then I remember being happy. I remember Vietnam, and Kevin's dad being drafted. The letter said his friends and neighbors had selected him. He never came home. Britney's dad never came home one day either, but he hadn't been draft ed. I never told her I knew. I remember the war protest and Ben's brother coming home with one arm. I remember another man coming home with no legs. He would ride a skate board everywhere, pushing himself along with two gloved hands. I didn't want him to know I was watching. I remember going with my dad campaigning for Nixon because he wanted to stop the war; withdraw with dignity as he would say. I remember my dad's anger when Nixon resigned. He said Nixon was a liar like the rest of them and all he did was make things worse by bombing Cambodia and criminalizing marijuana. Dad said Nixon's actions were keeping the war alive while keeping the hippies and minorities from voting, and that he would never vote for a Republican again. I remember when school integration actually began and suddenly understanding what the woman that had once yelled at my mom was talking about. I remember mood rings and pukka shells and pet rocks. And I remember being made fun of because I smiled too much. I remember Laura, my first girlfriend, and the girls that followed. I remember Tammy, but she liked Andy, so I liked Kay, but she liked Mike, so I liked Bonnie; that made my brother cry. I thought he liked Kathy. When Laura came back I liked her again, but my brother didn't care. I guess he liked Kathy after all. I remember roller skating and disco dancing. I remember arcades and Foosball. I remember cigarette machines, smoking weed in back alleys, and standing in front of stores asking people to buy us beer. I remember working with a construction crew--how proud it made me feel. I remember the older guys making fun of me for wearing my tool belt everywhere, but I wore it anyway, just not when they were around. I remember graduating high school and moving out on my own. I remember going to work with a roofing crew and being made foreman in less than a year. My shop had twelve crews, each with a foreman, and I was the youngest. I could see the resentment in some of the older guy's eyes, but that only made me work harder. I remember meeting Trisa and making love every night. I remember our wedding and starting our own family, the birth of our children, and how excited and scared I was at the same time. I remember being a father, attending school functions and Judo practices. I remember building tree houses and going on fishing trips and road trips and singing songs. I remember crying with my children over their skinned knees and broken hearts. I remember the day everything began to change--the deaths of my youngest son, my wife, my cousin, my best friend, then my brother all seemingly in a row, over a short period of time, each loss taking a piece of me until my smile completely faded. I remember weakening, when alcohol no longer became a choice but my only escape. I remember the judge's words as he sentenced me to twenty five years for my third felony DUI. Now I remember all these things and more, as vividly as happening yesterday, every night when the lights go out.

Author: Cornelison, Mark W.

Author Location: Idaho

Date: November 13, 2019

Genre: Essay

Extent: 4 pages

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