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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Can You Go Home Again?

I'm a little rattled.

Tonight I received a card from my Aunt, my Dad's brother. She's the only relative we have left on Dad's side, and we have an odd relationship with her. It's hard to explain so I won't. I can't.

But I've felt guilty for not staying in touch since Grandma's death a couple years ago, and the the subsequent settlement of the estate (which paid for my new furnace and water heater and a chunk of debt...it was a meager amount but it did that much.) So imagine my surprise to receive a card from my Aunt.

In the card, she explained that she and her husband had sold their home in Winnebago and have moved to another location in Illinois, which happens to be across the river from where my brother and I grew up. She is inviting my brother and I to come visit them if we get time.

And I have to admit, although the letter is, as usual, more about her business pursuits than about any real relationship, I sense through her words a desire and a need for connection. She sounds even a bit lonely...it's hard to explain. So again, I won't.

I mapquested her new address and indeed, it's almost DIRECTLY across the river from our old neighborhood.

We moved when I was only ten, but even today certain sounds echo through my memory, certain images bring me back "home"...and maybe it's because that place was really the foundation of the rest of my life.

I still remember summer evenings in the back yard in the summer heat that never seemed to bother us, listening to the sounds of trucks on old Rural Route 2 across the Rock River, the sounds of their engines making a lonely whine as they passed over the pavement, heading for destinations unknown. We'd watch the boats on the river with the occasional water skier, and learned to predict the weather according to the mood of the river.

We didn't have waterfront property, and those who did were actually flooded out nearly every year when the ice went out. We lived on Rural Route 1, in a little isolated country neighborhood comprised of trailer homes mixed with split-levels and ranch homes, many on acre lots or half-acre lots. Our own home was a ranch-style rambler set in the middle of what might be termed a "block", comprised an entire acre, including the "corner". A neighbor kitty-corner to us on the same block bordered us with her own acre-sized lot, so we were able to look across her garden, onto RR1, across the river, and over to RR2. In my mind's eye, I can still see the old barn that looked gray from that distance, and for some reason, the sight always brought me a certain amount of comfort. Even the sound of trucks all that distance away was comforting.

If we were in that house today, if I were looking across that same garden and the same river and the same Routes, we'd be looking almost straight across to my Aunt's new home, although they are set much further back and would not be visible to us.

If I do get a chance to go visit her, it will be an odd experience indeed; going "home" to visit an Aunt I barely know anymore, across the river from a home we haven't owned for over two-thirds of my life.

And yet, when I think of it, I consider the mid-summer heat, the Illinois humidity, and the sound of trucks, this time on RR1, passing where we used to live.

The neighbors we knew then would likely have all moved away, and I know that many are deceased. Lois and Jim, Ethel from next door(whom I used to visit incessantly and she always gave me candy while her Chihuahua Buffy barked at me incessantly seeming to say the words, "Arf!" and "Bark", eunciating carefully.)

I'm not sure I want to go back...suddenly I'm overwhelmed with grief for the people I loved so much, but lost. I'm not sure I can handle seeing "home" anymore; it's not home. I like my memories of our dear neighbors, and I'm not sure I can handle going back and realizing that Ethel won't be sitting in her livingroom, welcoming my visit, offering me a root-beer-barrel candy and asking me what's happened since 1984.

I'm not sure I can handle remembering the little girl I was, juxtaposed with the woman I have become.

This week I had to find my birth certificate for something for work, and I actually found it and the original baptismal document.

When I was born, Mom was 30, and Dad was 33. This year, I'm still 33, will be 34 in June. We didn't live there when I was born, but moved there when I was about a year and a half, I think. Dad would have been 34 by then, Mom, 31.

We don't have Dad anymore, and I keep sensing that Mom isn't long for this world. Our Aunt who has moved to a location so close to where we were when our family was intact...I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I'm not sure I can go. It will be like visiting a forgotten graveyard which is perhaps best left forgotten, overtaken by nature and left to the dappled shadows and changing seasons.

I'm not really sure that you ever CAN really go home again, especially when everything that ever really made it "home" has decayed into mere impressions and bittersweet memories.

7 comments:

angelmeg said...

We grew up rather close to each other, I think, but I was probably gone from the area by the time you remember being there.

You can go back and look around ( I have done just that) it is an odd sort of homecoming.

If your aunt is reaching out, maybe you should consider going.

Adoro te Devote said...

Where did you grow up?

Maureen said...

You should go. Think of it as mortification. :)

Seriously, though, I think that you should. Not seeing family is "a poverty".

adoro said...

I likely will go at some point, but no time soon...I have no money to get there. It's about 10 hours from where I live. However, I will be emailing her this week.

Theocoid said...

This could provide some kind of closure for you. It could be an opportunity for you to let go of the past and move on.

gsk said...

I'm not sure if you're asking for advice or just sharing a dilemma. The sole reason to go or not go depends on if you're strong enough for a corporal work of mercy: to visit this lonely woman who had the courage to reach out. God will provide the grace, should you take the time to visit.

There would be a healing, for God "makes all things new." Our childhoods are often bittersweet places, but we move forward according to God's plan and timing.

As an aside, I know that childhood sound of trucks on a distant highway. I think it's offers a juxtaposition of the safety of our little enclave with a hint of the wider world. It captivates us all at one time or another.

Adoro te Devote said...

Thank you, all, for your comments.

But as gsk seems to sense, no, I'm not looking for advice.

Sometimes I write just for the sake of writing. This is one of those times.

Also, perhaps my choice of wording about my aunt was poorly chosen...she's by no means a "lonely woman" as you might think.

I'm closing comments on this one as it seems to be instigating a response of "advice" which really isn't needed as this was only meant to be some late night musings and memories.

Thank you all for your comments!