Here I find myself, alone, writing these words late at night in the house I lived in from the time I was 6 years old to 18. My father died 4 years ago – my brother died just over 3 weeks ago – and my mother is currently in the hospital 5 days – post heart attack. Are the pictures on the wall welcoming me back, or torturing me? Not sure about the former, but most definitely the latter.
Rewind a little more than 25 years ago when I moved to Southern California, six months after finishing my under graduate degree. Somewhere in my last semester I decided I needed more. More of what, I wasn’t sure. However, the thought of trying to find a job teaching PE in the mid-1980’s felt hollow and ridiculous. There were no job prospects, and as I neared the completion of my degree, I found I was drawn deeper toward the actual art and science of the human body. Also, at the time, I was in a fairly long-term relationship with a vey nice young man – however it became painfully clear that I was not at all content with the idea of being “comfortable” – which was an adjective he often used to describe how he wanted his life to be. To me, “comfortable” conjured up images of a glob of discontented humanity slowly melting into a couch somewhere. EWW! Morbid blue fear flashed through my soul every time I heard that word. And even thought it seemed unconventional to my brain at the time – my heart screamed, “RUN!” So I did.
My escape? Graduate school in San Diego. Not a bad place for a small-town Nor Cal gal to end up. I had opportunities to study in Oregon or Arizona… but, seriously? San Diego - I was not yet aware that it translated into "whale's vagina", but I knew it was not too cold, not too hot…and a beach, to boot! Seemed, just right. And not "just right" like Baby Bear's oatmeal. It was exciting, but not comfortable. Because, it was a change that required packing up and leaving everyone I loved and everything I thought I understood behind. Definitely not comfortable.
From that long ago August morning when I sat across from my mother, pretending to eat breakfast in a little café next to I-8, dreading her departure home, I remember how I couldn’t look her in the eyes. Was I running away from home in plain sight of her? Kinda felt like it. Torn, but not torn. But, no matter, as the tendrils of my life wrapped themselves even more tightly around my psyche, and convinced me to set roots in new soil.
I’ve come to visit “home” fairly regularly over the past 25 years. However, except to be close to my loved ones, I’ve almost never been overly excited about returning. Somewhere between Bakersfield and Lodi always felt like the “twilight zone.” Somewhere in that expanse there was some strange shift of energy that completely threw off my equilibrium when I hit my “root” soil. Was it shame? Regret? Or something completely undefined? Jury is still out on that.
Whether one agrees or not, change is the only constant. We're reminded of that reality in thought, word and action everyday. Through the years I, and those I love have experienced numerous adventures, marriages, children, divorces and deaths. For the most part, I’ve ridden the waves of these life alterations relatively smoothly.
My brother’s death and mother’s condition, coming so close together, placed me in that “twilight zone” space again – not in the middle of California this time – but smack in the middle of the place of my origin. Utterly disoriented. Right here in my mother’s living room.
As the night moves into morning, I recognize that, while the house looks different from my youth, the pictures are reminders of so, so many days of happiness and beauty. And yet, they are just that – simply reminders. After writing these words, and as my tears dry, I remind myself of the impermanence of everything. As my eyelids swell from overuse, I remember that it’s my choice whether this room and these memories welcome or taunt me. As my eyes close from sheer exhaustion, I know that the pictures, and the benevolent energy they will forever hold, accept me with love.