Archive | August, 2010

You Can’t Go Home Again

23 Aug

Thomas Wolfe had a portion of the sentiment right, but the fact is, one can. The truth is, one shouldn’t.

Grandma fell and broke her other hip on the 4th of July and now is in the care of those who can handle her needs, her medical needs, in a manner that I cannot. Her wheelchair sits in the kitchen in my home, her suite remains unchanged, her boxes of cereal still line the shelves of the pantry and her medicines sit on the counter, undispensed and undisposed. She exists as if a ghost or a memory.

She is fine, of course, in her new home and in her new care, but the absence of her pervades. It is palpable in its permanence and but as an apparition in her lingering non presence. The breakfast that I was loathe to make is no longer made by me, the never-ending stream of meaningless conversation has ceased, yet now has meaning.

I have come home again. She will never.

I am at her home, in Illinois, sifting through a lifetime. The sentiment of not being able to return is both true and false. I am here, in the first place that I ever was after being born. My parents left the hospital and came directly here, even bypassing their own home. The first arms into which I was passed were inside these walls.  Family had gathered. I was the first Grandchild of an only son. I was an event to gather for and around, and the gathering was here.

The house remains basically unchanged. The smell when I entered is the same one that I have known my whole life. The top stair to the kitchen still creaks in the exact way that it always has. The front door sticks, the hall closet has its own way of needing to know that whoever is opening it has opened it forever or it won’t cooperate. The water heater makes its predictable whoof when the pilot lights the flame. Each and every closet has an exposed bulb with a string pull that I can can reach and grab in light or in dark. Everything is exactly as it should be. Would I be blind, I could navigate and find and touch each and every thing I needed. Yet it is no longer home.

Grandma’s house, without Grandma, is just walls and a roof. The car port is but a place to park, not the cover of birthday parties or cookouts. The clothesline is just wire without her and her basket of sheets to hang out to dry.  The kitchen is simply a space without her cooking. The asphalt drive is just a means to an end, not the place that I learned to skate and ride my bike or a source of many a skinned knee.

The bath is just a bath. The scent of her perfume, band-aids and Bactine are but memories.

My movements are slow. The process is long. Every thing I touch has been a part of me for 44 years and everything from the spatula that she used to flip my eggs to the ornaments that hung on the tree are worthy of absorbing and remembering for one final time.  I smell them, remember them and caress them each, bless them and her and say good-bye to every last piece of her, this house and that life.

I love you Grandma. This is the hardest thing that I have ever done.

The End.