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What's this place all about?

Who's Arthur?  You might ask.  Arthur was a friend I had when I was very young.  In the late 1950's, early 60's we lived in a section of Levittown in Wantagh, Long Island, New York.  My parents and I had moved there from Nebraska a couple of years earlier, when my father took a job transfer.  Being the only kid in our family, I enjoyed the friends I made in the neighborhood.  Arthur was one of them.  He lived on Duckpond Drive, around the corner from my street, Deep Lane.  (Levitt named all the streets starting with the letter "D" in our development).  I could go around the block to his house without crossing the street, so I was allowed to go there on my own at a very young age, probably around 6 or 7.  When I went to his place, we spent time playing with toy cars and trucks, and knocking a kickball around in the backyard.  I remember Arthur was easy-going, like me.  I don't think he and I ever had a fight or even a disagreement.  

I'm not sure where I met Arthur, but I think it must have been at school.  They opened Cherrywood School the year we baby-boomers started in kindergarten.  The desks and books were all brand new, and there wasn't even grass growing in the schoolyard.  At recess on a nice day, they'd bring out barrels full of red and green kickballs and, maybe 200 Hula Hoops--If you can picture that.  When we learned to ride two-wheelers, we went everywhere, including a strip shopping center near our neighborhood.  There was a Woolworth's with a soda fountain, a hobby shop and a grocery store, among others.  It was everything a boy could need.  We could walk or bike up a path to the back service area and around either end to get to the stores.  This was around 1960, and I remember kids rode bikes all over, with little thought of the horrors you hear about today.  We were only 8 or 9, when we'd take an afternoon to ride a bike path in the woods along the parkway, halfway to Jones Beach.

You might think this is strange, but I don't remember Arthur's last name.  You see, my memories of him were cut short because he died in an accident.  As best I can remember, one day I told my mother that I was going to see if Arthur could play.  She sat me down, and said I wouldn't be able to go, because he had "gone to Heaven."  The details came out over time, but I found out he had ridden his bike to the shopping center, and when he went around the end of the stores, he met up with a delivery truck coming around the blind corner.  Arthur had been hit and killed by the truck.  Now that I think about it, Mom may have said only what she thought I could deal with at a tender age, but that's the story as I remember it.  I didn't really know about funerals, so I didn't ask about going to his.  In the following weeks, I wanted to go to his house and see his mother, father and little brother, but my mom wouldn't let me.  Maybe she felt my presence would have been too much of a reminder to them during their time of loss. 

So time went on, and the hurt must have dulled for me, but I guess not completely.  Later, when I rode my bike to that shopping center, I would take the same route Arthur had and I can't describe the feeling I'd get when I passed the place where he had died.  To this day when I think about it, the smell of the place pops into my head.  When I was a kid, I always said my prayers before I went to sleep.  I had lost grandparents by then, and I included them at the end of my prayers.  I must have decided to remember Arthur in this way, and he became the last soul I asked God to bless.  I didn't use last names, so I guess that's why I forgot his.  Not long after all this happened, my father's work took us away from Long Island, to the Philadelphia area.  I grew up there, married, had a son, and now both my parents are gone.  My mother could probably tell me Arthur's last name, but it's too late for that.  Now, without my folks around to help me to remember, if I forget something that happened in our small family, it's lost forever.  Today, I still pray, and I ask God to bless the souls of an increasing roll call of people.  And Arthur.

By now, you're probably wondering, why after all these years?  And why a Web site?  We often hear about closure for the people left behind, after someone close dies.  I didn't get that with Arthur, so he's always been there in the back of my mind--a little boy, frozen in time.  It has always troubled me that he didn't get his chance to experience so many joys of life.  Last days of school before summer vacation.  Hitting one over the fence.  His first kiss.  Getting his driver's license.  Hired for his first real job.  His wedding day.  Holding his newborn child. 

And I never had a chance to tell his family how much I missed him--How sorry I was that he was gone.

Why do I still remember Arthur when I pray?  Of the people in my life who've influenced me to become the man that I am, my mother and father had the most impact.  But I had a chance to prove myself to them, make my peace with them before they left me.  My wife still hopes to change me, even today.  I honestly believe Arthur continues to play a part in it, too.  Because of him, I realized at a very early age that we should live each day like it's a gift.  Arthur didn't get much of a chance, but I have so far.  I'm no saint, but that little voice pointed me away from the wrong road more than once.  No, I don't really hear Arthur's voice, it's just a part of me now.  There has to be something to it, because it's been over 60 years, and I still think of him.  So to me, Arthur's brief life really did mean something, and I've never let him go.  I've asked God to bless his soul countless times over the years, so I also have faith that somewhere, Arthur knows this.  

There, I got it off my chest.  I got closure.  So I dedicate this site to you, Arthur. Writing this has been very good for the soul.  I invite you, reader, to do the same if you lost someone too soon.  Someone who you can't get out of your head.  Someone who, even though they're gone, still influences your life and you wish you could tell them about it.  If you'd like to share this with others, you will find a place in here to write down your thoughts.  (In the years since Arthur's site was created, social media has become a place for people to remember lost loved ones, and that's fine too). You'll notice, even if you don't consider yourself a writer, the words will just flow.  You will feel very close to him or her while you're writing.  And you will cry.  Join me in sharing more remembrances of people like Arthur.  These souls we all ask God to bless. 

And God Bless Arthur.         

-Burt Zastera

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Click to see the memorial to Arthur's mom