There are perhaps halls where fame is not recognized, places dedicated instead to the memory and celebration of the merely ordinary who have achieved discrete moments of excellence. The possibility of such a place occupied the thoughts, on his one-hundredth birthday, of Bud Clawson. He imagined it might be possible, as he wandered the corridors of his past, to meet someone, probably slightly younger than himself, perhaps accompanied by a grandchild or great-grandchild, standing before an illuminated niche, staring together in wonder at a monitor on which grainy figures skittered about at comical speeds. “I was there that day,” the elderly stranger would be saying, bending low to the child, a shaky finger pointing at the screen, “when Buddy Clawson flattened Ernie Nevers short of the goal line. Best damned, oops…sorry, son…best darned defensive play I ever saw.” They would then all shake hands and make their introductions. At each station, Bud would meet someone else, immensely old, sometimes passing lore on to a later generation, sometimes alone. He knew that when he came upon that solitary visitor at, say, the day he reached out while falling to the frozen turf to barely trip up by the heel the great Red Grange as he tried to skirt around left end, that this one display would soon go forever dark. When he arrived at the case that should have held the time he caught Jim Thorpe (admittedly well past his prime, but still) from behind to gain possession of the ball for his team on downs, there was nothing there, only an empty glass cabinet, the dust-covered door creaking in response to an almost imperceptible draft, the chill origins or destination of which Bud did not want to know.
There were those known to him among the living who would remember him on this day. Of his three children, two remained; of his six grandchildren, five; of his thirteen great-grandchildren, twelve; of his fourteen great-great-grandchildren, all fourteen. Many would make a point of visiting him, and the rest would talk to him on the phone at least. None, however, would meet him in the grand edifice of his youth, a vast space where he hoped to find the unknown few who could still recall with him, no matter the distance in space or time, his best moments. They were an ancient elect, each completely unaware of all the others. The one common thread that could have connected them all across sixty-three years, a love left all too often unspoken, he had buried fifteen years earlier. Bud Clawson had come to know haunting, not through the presence of ghosts, but by the utter absence of precisely one.