I went back to visit my sister and her family last month. For the first time in 33 years, I drove past the exit that took me to my hometown and to the house where I grew up with my four sisters. The house that my father had built. The house that my mother had made into a home. I tried not to look at that sign as we drove in the opposite direction, away from the place that I referred to as “home” for over fifty years. Both of my parents died last November. My younger sister moved away from the area and closer in to the city 2 months ago.
As my husband and I drove passed the exit and continued on in the opposite direction, I wanted to grab the steering wheel out of my husband’s hands and turn the car around. I wanted to yell, “No! We go this way”! If I could only turn the car around, I was sure I could turn back time and go home again, where my Mom and Dad were waiting for me. As usual, I ignored the emotional tsunami building inside me that threatened to sweep me away. I said nothing, blinked back tears, and stared straight ahead. I guess that explains why I get headaches.
But, the closer we got to the city, I started to feel an unusual sensation. The sensations grew stronger as we drove through the neighborhood where I had lived, worked, and played during my junior and senior year of college. I finally recognized what I was feeling. It was excitement and anticipation. I was happy to be coming back to an area that was home for me during the last two years of my college life. I did a different kind of growing up (and a lot of it) during those two years.
I spent those two years in clinical training at a huge teaching hospital. I also spent a great deal of time in that same hospital during the last year of my parents’ lives. Of course, most of that time my heart was heavy with sadness and my mind was full of worry. I wasn’t able to appreciate returning back to the neighborhood that I knew so well and loved so much as a college student.
But as we drove through that neighborhood and I pointed out the familiar surroundings, I felt at peace. I had a sense of coming back home again, in a different way. A circle closed. The beautiful thing about a circle is that once it closes, it has no end. It continues to move. In spite of struggling with the loss and grief of saying goodbye to both parents and my childhood home, I was back home again, in a different way, at a different time of life.
Home is where the heart is. Most of us have several homes during our lifetimes, in the physical sense as well as the emotional and spiritual sense. We leave a little bit of our heart and ourselves in each one, and we take a little part of each home to live in our hearts forever. If you think of it that way, we can go home again. All we have to do is open our hearts.
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP