Several years ago, my parents began the process of moving from Frederick to Elk City. Both are now retired and after a particularly rough year, it was decided they needed a fresh start. They wanted to move to a slightly bigger town and to be closer to my younger brother's family. At first, I was floored to learn they were moving but as they explained their thought process I completely understood. Through a couple of conversations, I moved from apprehension to unwavering support.
I left Frederick in 2002. Like countless people before me and countless others who have followed in my footsteps, I never possessed a real desire to move back to my hometown. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing there for me. There were no job opportunities. My social circle had moved on to bigger and better things. After I got my taste of life in a bigger city, I was hooked. I wanted this life and all it encompassed.
Like clockwork, until my parents moved, I would visit for all those major events that bring a family together: Christmas, Thanksgiving, weddings, funerals... With every visit, a sense of sadness washed over me. My hometown was dying right before my eyes. Houses were falling down, bulldozed, and being returned to empty lots. Businesses were shuttering and empty storefronts dotted downtown. Traffic was non-existent. No longer were teenagers dragging main. People were absent from parks. Life in Frederick, Oklahoma was growing quiet. Death for my hometown was near and I could feel it. The end seemed inevitable.
As a kid, Frederick seemed like a big place. It wasn't Lawton, Wichita Falls, or Oklahoma City. It was home and had everything we thought we needed. It held my family and friends. It had activities that filled my schedule and kept me occupied. It had events that drew the town together and closer to one another. It had tragedy and moments that would define us. It is where we grew, played, laughed, cried, and learned. It was home. It was a place you thought would always be there. Now, with each passing year, its days seem to be numbered. I don't know whose fault that is. Some blame the town's founding fathers who allowed an Airforce base to escape to Altus. Some blame politicians or city management. Some blame all those kids who left and never returned. Maybe they are all right. Maybe we all share some blame. I know I feel guilty that I could never meet the needs of my hometown and it couldn't meet mine. Sadly, that is how this story seems it will end.
Once, some friends of mine from Edmond and I ventured down to Tom Steed Lake. We spent the weekend camping, cooking, boating, and drinking way too many beers. As we ran into Frederick for some last minute supplies, Joe seemed shocked. "Is this really where you grew up?" Joe being from London and the OKC area was shocked that the person he knew could be from such a place. I smiled and nodded. I didn't really have an answer for him. Long gone was the pride I once felt as a child. Frederick had become a memory; something in the rear view mirror. It would have no place in my future. As a graduate of Frederick High School and resident for 17 years of my life, I don't possess the words to explain how that makes me feel.
Be good to each other,