When it came to home and what we faced, there were two outcomes we experienced. Some of us – as kids - couldn’t wait to grow up and move away from home. We plotted, schemed, and chose the farthest college we could find. But some how when we got there, we realized being on our own, for whatever reason, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Then there were some of us who waited until after college - when we grew older – to move away from the home we knew and sometimes loved. Either way, over the years, as life happened, circumstances changed, and we grew wiser our desire to go back home was ever present. We wanted to go back to what we knew, whether good or bad, it was our comfort zone that drew us in. Some times we even mentally fought ourselves with the notion of going back home. It’s too late! It’s impossible to go back to the way things were! Nothing will ever be the same! It’s true. We can’t turn the clock back. Not even to when we were children without a care in the world. But the truth is we CAN go home again. Yes, we are different now and so is home. But this time, as adults, our goal is to make home what we want and need it to be…a place of comfort, security and love.
As many of you know shortly after my husband passed away I moved out of the town where I had lived for so many years. Everywhere I turned there were memories of what used to be. Painful memories. In addition to the home we shared, all around town were the places we frequented. The cleaners where he examined the French cuffs on his shirts to make sure they were just right. The Shoprite where he took what seemed like an hour to pick the right roast pork for his pernil (or the right ingredients for his grandmother’s secret fried chicken recipe). The local diner where everyone knew us by name and knew his favorite drink. Even driving pass the park where we took our walks had been so painful that at times it took my breath away.
Of course when I left town the memories came with me. But eventually that overwhelming pain became less and less, as I tried to navigate this “new normal” that had become my life. And the constant feeling of loneliness became less crushing as I began to do things on my own.
It has been a year since I moved away. And during that time I learned several things. I learned you can still hold your head up high in a town where they do not take kindly to strangers. I learned that the overwhelming feeling of pain and loneliness will not kill you. I learned that even though you may want to die, if God has a plan for you - you are not going anywhere. I learned that it is important to have various types of friends. Friends that will cry along with you; friends that’ll make you laugh. And the ones who will kick your butt and stop you from continuing to feel sorry for yourself. I learned that your real friends will stick by you. I learned that it is true what they say “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have been loved at all.” I learned there is always a reason to get up from that dark corner where you tried to hibernate. I learned that no matter how much you pray that the pain will go away, it will still remain. The pain becomes something you learn to live with; that eventually becomes a part of your life. I learned that even though you can no longer see the one you love they remain with you. There are signs of them everywhere. Maybe you can feel them in a song; a commercial you used to laugh at together; the smell of their cologne; in the words repeated by their child, grandchild or sibling. Even in a voice of a stranger. I have learned that we are all stronger than we think. And above all, I have learned you can go home again.
Now a year later, I have moved back home. Back to the town where the memories live. I admit, some of the memories still hurt but along with the pain stands an overwhelming feeling of love, warmth, happiness, and occasionally laughter. Home is where our two families became one. Home is where we learned to love, be patient, and forgive. Home is like a big bowl of creamy soup; it comforts and warms from the inside out.
On my first full day back in town, I went to my favorite nail salon with my daughter-in-law and five year old granddaughter. As the woman massaged my feet I laid my head back and thought of the last time I was there. Before I left the house my husband teased me about what shade of red would I get this time. (Anytime I tried another color it just didn’t feel right). For some reason I was partial to the shade called “Fishnet Stockings”, I’m sure Freud would have something to say about that, but that’s for another time.
I smiled thinking of him teasing me and I laughed…right out loud. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter looked at me as if I had lost my mind. But I didn’t lose anything. In fact, I found something. A happy memory to hold on to.
A week later it was a beautiful warm sunny day. I decided to sit at the waterfront. I curled up on a bench with a book and watched people go by just like my husband and I did so many times before. At first I felt a bit maudlin, missing my husband. But then I started feeling better as my skin soaked up the sun’s warm rays reflected on the river. Young couples strolled by pushing babies in their carriage. Others walked by with dogs that were clearly happy to be out and about. I began to feel a small sense of peace.
After a while a family of four walked by me. I noticed one of them was a cute little boy who seemed to be about three or four years old. He held his mother’s hand and in his other hand was an ice cream cone that had begun dripping. He was so engrossed in his cone that I think he was totally oblivious to the sights and sounds the adults were taking in. An elderly woman was with them. Seeing the bench I was sitting on and there being plenty of room she told her family she was going to sit for a while. They said “OK” and kept walking along the river’s edge.
The woman and I began to talk. Turns out she was visiting from Ireland. Her Irish brogue reminded me of my childhood friend, Trish. Trish’s mother was from Clare County in Ireland as well. I had spent a lot of sleepovers at their home, waking up to warm homemade scones. (Till this day scones are still one of my comfort foods). The peace that had begun to come over me now wrapped itself all around me like a big warm hug. When the woman’s family came to pick her up we all made small talk for a moment and wished each other well. As they walked away the little boy who was holding his mother’s hand turned back and looked at me. The ice cream cone was gone but the remnants were now on his chin. He smiled and waved. And for a moment I thought I saw a twinkle in his eye. I smiled and waved back at him. And knew at that very moment, without a doubt, I was truly home.
I still haven’t gone to our cleaners, our Shoprite, and some other of our stomping grounds but I know in time I will get there. There’s no rush. After all I’m home now. And as Dorothy said, “there’s no place like home.”