Remembering the Forgotten Ones

Who remembers the forgotten:

the white bicycles that fade in the sun;

the crosses and plastic flowers, whose visitors appear on Sundays after church;

the dogs and cats left bloating in the sun;

living room and bedroom remnants, tossed in the dark?

Who remembers the forgotten:

the nowhere people who haunt fields and washes,

had jobs, or maybe not, and have nowhere to go;

those who seek handouts and create sad stories to part other folks from their cash?

Who remembers the forgotten:

until they too join the ranks?

Have you ever seen someone dealing with homelessness and wanted to just give them all the groceries you just bought, regardless of what they were? Yeah. That.

I needed to clear my head, so I took a drive. I stopped at the store to pick up some jalapenos (for the leftover cheese and bacon stuffing), which of course meant I had to check the sale rack, which meant I had to buy a couple of mark-down items. I wandered to the sandwich shop and on the way home saw two people, walking with bags of recycle items. One way to put it is that they had been on the road a spell.

The title of this piece came to me as I drove the back way home. Nothing like side streets and light warm breezes to get me thinking.

I might have written about it before, but a long time ago, I wanted to do a photographic piece to commemorate all the faded crosses, white bicycles, and other memorials I’ve seen on highways and side roads. However, I was always concerned about disrespecting the dead and their families by doing so. It’s tortured me because of one spot in specific. In South Jersey, there was a large memorial near the tracks. It sat back from the road and unless a person knew to look, it was easy to miss. The plastic flowers and cards were faded, as if it had been there for years. Other than the occasional mowing, the spot seemed left to whatever God and nature wanted for it.

I’ve never forgotten that memorial and I can’t say why it touched me so deeply. I never got close enough to see who it was for.

Several years ago, the white bicycles started appearing around the country. One showed up not far from my home, near where my friend Mr. Leonard used to live; I haven’t have the courage to stop and ask if anyone had heard from him lately. Anyway, I would see the person’s family at the bicycle quite regularly, almost every Sunday when I drove through that way to see Mr. Leonard.

Today, I thought about him as I drove by the couple of ‘been on the road a spell’ people, the white bicycle, and a bunch of discarded furniture. I thought about all the roadside memorials I’ve seen through the years — those that were kept up and those that were faded away.

I realized that nothing that could be labeled First World problems — and I mean nothing — is worth losing a night of sleep over, especially since everyone is likely to be forgotten someday …

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