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My acquaintance with poetry in general and the simplistic literary brilliance of Robert Frost in particular, came at a relatively early age. My mother would ambivalently imply that I was too young to remember, however an acute preservation of innocence and memory, dictate that I'll always be too young to forget; distant echoes of placid verse, maternal soothing, methodical repetition, non-nonsensical rhythm and rhyme. Perhaps it was then that the seed was planted, a subliminal attachment to my virgin soul, a burgeoning requisite, a swelling commodity of insatiable thirst with a gleaning notion to one day harvest a fruitful bounty somewhere down the road.
My initial exposure to the pastoral charm of Frost's prose emerged in the early 1960's during summer visits with my Grandfather in rural Connecticut. As a native New Englander, crusty seaman and former assistant to an eminent Yale University English professor, Grandpa was long-winded and well versed with a colorful menu of fish stories and Frosty delights. His gravelly voice, punctuated with a lilting resonance and earthy nasal twang, fused together words like a master craftsman. Firmly anchored in his billowy La-Z-Boy recliner, hypnotic gaze cast somewhere in a sea of time, reeling in memories line for line, verse by verse, as if under the spell of some Svengali maritime dictator.
"The road not taken" surfaced frequently and from time to time in those days, however my ability to comprehend and appreciate the enigmatic essence would not manifest until sometime later.
1963 was not a good year for my Grandfather, his road was coming to an intrusive end. An illness known as “old age” had descended upon him, and with a bereavement in force from Mr. Frost’s recent demise, combined with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, apparently was enough to take the wind out of Grandpa’s sails permanently. He never made it to 1964. My wellspring of youth evaporated that year. Once a raging tempest of turbulence, I was now reduced in a heartbeat to a puddle of tears, soaking in a pool of sorrow and despair, with a sad realization that there would be no more tomorrows with my Grandfather, only yesterdays. I never returned to Connecticut, however some years later I did return to “The road not taken’ with a modality of reminisce and reflective inquiry.
At the precociously ripe age of 22, armed with BS Degrees, no ammunition and a powder keg of displaced ambitions, I realized that the collegiate road I had taken was not going to satisfy my adventurous, idealistic inner being. After no real serious deliberation, in a blazon fell swoop, I effectively discharged with precision abandon, all uncommon nonsense and unavailing verbiage by dropping out of graduate school. While my mother recovered from the initial shock of my abrupt academic desertion, I braced myself for the ensuing storm of censure and admonition that was inevitably forthcoming. Evidently there was an unwritten law in my family of snobbish academicians that frowned upon a lineal member departing a University before securing an advanced degree. Doing so was at the very least politically incorrect, and at worst a mortal sin. Fortunately, my degree of sedition was middle of the road, although to this day, more than a quarter century later, on ceremonial occasions and dysfunctional family socials, I hear my name in a sequestered hush, with the assignment of a dark ruminant mammal. Baa….Baa….
As it turned out, my departure from the historically trodden road of generational academic tradition and familial intelligentsia was neither a blessing, nor a curse. An appointment to the papacy never materialized, nor did a circle of hellish condemnation. Perhaps one day I will examine, from a slant not too left of center, the trials and tribulations I’ve endured, with a perspective of obscure clarity, of two roads that diverged.
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