Note: This post was later rewritten and published in Segullah’s newest anthology, Seasons of Change. It was also published in the December 2017 issue of Draper Lifestyle Magazine.
Grandma’s old clock chimed eleven. My brother Dave, who found sleeping bags for my girls and put them to bed downstairs, had gone to sleep. The boys had finally closed their eyes. Gordon on the mattress, Spencer sprawled on the floor of an upstairs bedroom. I could hear my parents talking quietly in their room, soft lamplight seeping out from under the door.I changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, turned down the covers in my old bedroom, but couldn’t sleep.
So I walked out to the kitchen.
It was all dark. Soft light coming in from a strand of white bulbs scalloped along an outside fence.
I noticed my Dad had tidied the scene, set out the frying pan and grill for tomorrow’s breakfast. By morning, the table would be crowded with children and grandchildren filling plates with buckwheat pancakes, fresh bacon, and scrambled eggs. The granite counter tops gleamed a shiny black, starlight trickling in from a ceiling window.
I padded into the living room and turned on the lights to the tree. I climbed into the red winged chair, tucked my feet up onto the cushion, and hugged my knees.
Doug called Disaster Clean-Up. (They came last year when a section of pipe broke downstairs.) He stayed at the house while I took the kids to my parents’ to spend the night.Somehow I had injured my back a week earlier and the neural sensation and lumbar pain I was having made me suspect a disc tear in the lumbar spine (which has since been confirmed). I muscled through Christmas but wasn’t moving like myself. I had also noticed blood in my urine on several occasions and was starting to feel concerned. All that, along with other menopausal oddities, and I felt like my body was falling apart!And now the house was falling apart! (Which has since manifested several other disasters. Like the dishwasher flooding the kitchen floor, waking up to a cracked kitchen window, and a vacuum cleaner that went kaput.)I usually try to spare you complaints here. Who wants to hear it? Who wants to read the running list of disasters we’ve been cursed with lately?
No one. But I’m going to share them with you. Because sometimes it’s the stuff behind the blog, behind the happy pictures, that has to be talked about. Because it gives context. And in this case it created a circumstance in which I could feel something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
As I sat there, huddled in the stillness, Christmas after Christmas suddenly played out before me. Memories from my childhood.
The tree was in its usual place. Our stockings were stuffed to overflowing. I saw the Sesame Street playground. The cabbage patch dolls. The year we found two saddles and saddle blankets propped up on one side of the tree. I felt the fire blazing in the fireplace, could hear the singing on the stairs, my sisters hopping and twirling in anticipation until it was their turn to see if Santa had come.
In a rush of vision and emotion, I felt the total safety of being together with my siblings and parents as I grew up in this home.
And I thought… this was a remarkable place to live. To grow up.
I curled deeper into the red winged chair, overwhelmed with nostalgia. Feeling something new yet familiar. So startling it made me cry.
Day after day I’d been caring for my children and family. You know how it goes. Mom holds everything together. Mom meets everyone else’s needs before her own. She makes sure things keep rolling, gifts are bought, school projects are finished, and all the parts keep moving. Mom cleans, folds, cooks, band-aids, reads, sings, tucks in. She cares until she’s limp and then she cares some more.
But for a few minutes that evening, I wasn’t Mom. I was a child again.
My Mother had put fresh sheets on my bed. My Dad sat down and discussed my health concerns. They helped me put children to bed, made sure I had everything I needed, hugged me, let all six of us come banging into the house with our bags and blankets because we had nowhere else to go.
I forgot how heartening it is to be cared for. To have somewhere to go when you feel broken, lacking, and hurt. I forgot how it felt to go home.
To that warm, safe place where someone takes care of… you.
The next morning, I sat at this counter and told my sisters about my experience. I couldn’t do it without blubbering. Mom and Dad listened and my sisters agreed. Our growing up was marvelous, magical. You don’t realize how much you have until you travel the world a bit, see families who don’t love, don’t nurture, don’t care.
Then my Dad, in his wisdom, said, “I believe what you felt was just a taste of what it will feel like to go home to our Heavenly Parents.”
And that made us cry some more.
He is right. In that glorious moment of return, all the mess and struggle of this life will melt away. Someone will hold us. Loved ones will come for us, gather us in their arms, and we will know, without question, how well we have been cared for.
During all of mortality. Even when we couldn’t see it.
We will find our name. We will know our place. We will belong.
Home. It has so many meanings, doesn’t it?
Different front doors. Different roofs. Different living rooms, kitchens, and beds to sleep in. But hopefully each of us has one (or several over the course of our lives) that is very tender to us.
I wish everyone on this earth could know the feeling of home. Real home.
As the years stack up, I realize how much this home – the one I grew up in – means to me.
The grandkids loved playing in the snow. Just like we did as kids. (We used sleds for snowboards back then.)
Uncle Lance made things especially fun.
I was slow with the camera this year. My back kept me from moving as quickly as I would have liked. In fact, I can’t believe I didn’t get any pictures of my brother Dave and his family, visiting from Texas.
Deb with baby Hana.
Over the Christmas break, my Dad worked his last shift as an ER doc. He “retired” a couple years ago. Which meant he stopped working night shifts, but didn’t technically retire. Not until now.
So we planned a surprise dinner and invited his siblings over. Deb put together a book for him. Full of things we remembered about his doctoring over the years. After dinner, we went around the room and talked about his gifts. His gifts of healing. Not just his skills and expertise, but his mannerisms, his humor, and the way he immediately sets his patients at ease. The stories had everyone in tears.
I think Lance said it best: If we were to put a red sticker on all the parts of our bodies he had helped us with, patched up, prescribed medicine for, or given us counsel for, we’d be covered with red dots. But if we put stickers on the parts of us he had healed with his love, his tenderness, and his concern, we would be covered head to toe.
My Dad has been a physician of both body and spirit, to all of us.
I didn’t have my camera out that night. Wish I had.
It is good to have my Dad home with my Mom. She’s been having sensory seizures, maybe 1-2 a week lately. Which might be her new norm. And that has caused her to have a little more anxiety than usual. Knowing Dr. Bob is home is a great comfort to her. And to us.
Of course, he’s still on call 24 hrs a day when it comes to our family. Last week he wrote me an MRI order for the lumbar spine, made sure I got in to see a urologist. He even made a house call when Sami collided with a kid on the playground then whacked her forehead hard on the pavement.
Pretty sure he won’t get rusty with us around.
After our international dinner on New Year’s Eve, we came home, put our New Year’s tree together, and rang in the new year with dancing, horns, and streamers.
It was good to go home. To my parents. To be cared for and cradled. And it was good to come home. To the home our children know. Even without carpet downstairs and a dishwasher that doesn’t work.
It is still home. Still the place we feel most loved. The place I care for my own.