For the first time since 1998, when I went back to bury my mother, I am headed home today. The reason why is not a happy one. I will write about that this weekend when I get back and have a chance to sit down with a bottle of whiskey and reflect on things.
Today I am thinking about how long I’ve been away. I have warm feeling about my hometown and I love quite a few people who live there. My extended absence comes down to a couple of things. One is my mostly (but obviously not entirely) subconscious desire the break the chain of sadness and loss that began there with my dad’s death in 1968 and ended with my mom’s in 1998. More importantly, however, is the combination of the great distance and my post-9/11 desire to keep my children’s feet on the ground. Cassidy has flown once or twice in 7+ years. Delaney has never been on an airplane. Some (actually most) of my friends think I’m nuts, but anyone who knows me knows that where my kids are concerned, I’m not subject to peer (or any other) pressure. If my hometown was 4 hours away, we’d go all the time. But it’s not. It’s halfway across the country (actually it’s on the edge of it; we’re halfway across it). So until I can plan a cross-country drive, my kids are going to have to wonder what Daddy’s hometown is like, kind of like they wonder about Paris, Sydney and NYC. Yes, my position will soften as they grow up and demand to see far away places, but we aren’t there yet.
Nevertheless, as I return to my hometown, I fully realize that I am going back to face my failures. My failure to visit. My failure to call often enough. Sometimes even my failure to send a Christmas or birthday card to people I love. It’s hard, but it’s only hard because I haven’t worked to keep the connections that once meant everything to me- that made me who I am.
It’s going to be a strange and sad trip. But my hope is that some small good will come of it. That I can remind a lot of good people that I care about them. That they are a part of me, and by association a part of my children. That they have been in my prayers every night since I left (at least every night I remember to say my prayers).
If I can tell a few people that, maybe it will be easier than I think. I hope so.