Yesterday I did something I always wanted to do, but never had the chance to before. The chance came unexpectedly and I took it. I satisfied a lifelong wish and at the same time carved out my place in posterity.
That’s what it’s all about, after all, isn’t it. That’s why we write books, or paint, or sculpt. That’s why men build cathedrals and churches. You may build a bridge, or a sky scraper. In ancient Egypt they built pyramids and Sphinxes to serve as reminders that the pharaohs once walked the Earth. We all want to be remembered. We all want to leave something behind that says we were here.
Here in Virginia, the county officials have been tearing up the sidewalks and laying down new concrete. I have a house that sits on a corner property, and the road crews are currently working on replacing all the corner sidewalks. They did a good job on my corner. It only took them a day. They chopped up the concrete pretty quick with a tractor-like thing that had a jackhammer on the end of it. Another bunch of guys came later and loaded the concrete onto a dump truck with a steam shovel. After that, they laid gravel, and finally by the late afternoon they poured the concrete. They started around 7 a.m. and were done by 5 p.m.
I talked to one of the guys, who had sat down under one of the trees on the front lawn, catching a break. He said they’d have the neighborhood done in a couple of days. I told him it looked good, and I was glad to see the county was helping keep the neighborhood up. I said another good thing about it was that projects like that help create jobs. He said that was for sure. He was glad to get the work.
After the guys had all gone home for the day, leaving some of their tractors and other equipment behind for the corner across the street the next day, I went back out and took a closer look at the new sidewalk. It was a definite improvement over the old one. It looked so clean and fresh. I ducked under the yellow barrier tape and stooped down to get a closer look. It looked like it had already set. I reached a finger out and touched it. It was still wet. I pulled my finger away and it left a dark smudge there on the sidewalk. And a sudden urge came over me. Must be the same urge those guys building the pyramids and the cathedrals had. I looked up and down the street. There was nobody around. I reached down and put my finger on the dark spot I’d left behind and then traced the letter J and next to it W.
I stood up, made sure I hadn’t been spotted, and with a silly smirk on my face, went back in the house. The sun went down an hour later, and I went to sleep that night, with the realization that someday I may not be around, my books and articles, and movie reviews may disappear from the face of the earth. But those initials in the sidewalk will be there for some time. Jean Shepherd once said,”Can you imagine 4,000 years passing, and you’re not even a memory? Think about it friends. It’s not just a possibility. It is a certainty.”
Well that sidewalk on the corner may not last 4,00o years. But it’ll be there a while anyway.