I'm writing this as I fly westward over the Rocky Mountains. This evening I will be reunited with my husband, Jim, and my lovable special-needs mini schnauzer, Otto. We will all be together again in our comfortable Seattle Madison Heights house after a week away visiting my mother. I'm going home. It's just that simple, except...
Just a few hours before this flight my mother, Frances, slept peacefully sitting on her living room sofa. I didn't want to disturb her, so I quietly loaded my bags into the rental car. A week prior, when I arrived at her house in Liberty, Missouri, she greeted me with a smile and said, "you seem so much bigger! Or maybe I'm getting smaller." She is. She seemed fragile as she slept with her head bowed, her iPad in her lap and her walker near at hand.
We spent a good week together eating out at her favorite restaurants: Red Lobster, Long John Silver's, Red Robin, and El Sombrero for taco Tuesday. We had fun with my sisters, brother-in-law and great niece who live nearby. Mostly we did projects around her condo. I repaired water stains on her ceiling, vacuumed, cleaned her nearly empty garage, trimmed her shrubs, took her shopping, and carefully reassembled, under her watchful eye, the Swarovski crystal butterfly that I had given her years ago.
Mom is adjusting well a year after Dad's death. She seems to be emerging from her time of peaceful introspection. She quilts, plays her mountain dulcimer, and faithfully attends functions at her church. But the absence of Dad is still palpable. We took his remaining clothes, primarily his suits, to the thrift shop. Then I carefully cleaned years of dust from the closet where they had hung. It's all her space for now.
I rarely cry when I say goodbye. My youngest sister, Martha, always does. But this time tears began to flow as I drove away. This had also happened 34 years ago when I backed out of the driveway in my little Chevy Monza and a tiny U-haul trailer, the largest my car could pull, and steered towards Texas. Mom stood waving on the porch trying to hide her tears for my sake.
I was leaving a life that exceeded every good definition of the word home. I had to go. It was time to build a life that would push out my former boundaries. I was excited by the potential, a little anxious about the unknown, and deeply sad to leave my home.
What I have learned over these years of joys and sorrows, bounty and bruises, is that no matter where I am at any point in my life, I am at home. I carry home within me. I surround myself with home. But I will also always seek a deeper spirit of home. And that is the paradox.
Why the tears this time? I know in my heart that a person can never return to a former place of nurture, nor should we want to. But as long as Mom breathes, she will personify at-home-ness. And someday I will be left to seek and find home without her.
Mom's love will always live on in the lives of those she has touched. I truly believe that. The love of my family, friends and my church will likewise go on. Together we seek home, you and I. Together we are home.