The longer I stay in my home town, the more people I think of that I’d like to spend an hour talking to. I’d tucked the memories of all of these people into a back corner of my mind. They were hugely important during my growing up years, but I went far away–in age, need, and physical distance. One thing I’ve learned about friendship is that even if I am not actively friends with someone now, that does not devalue the friendship that was. Yet being here in my parents’ house opens all those stored memories. I start wondering about these people who mattered so much to me in my prior life. The thing is that to truly re-examine all these dusty relationships, I’d need more time. I’d need several hours of visiting time for each person and then I’d need alone time to process before being ready to be social again (introvert here.) There are at least a dozen people I can think of off of the top of my head. Each of them matters, but I do not want to spend another two weeks away from home. So what I’ll do instead is visit with one or two people that I’ve kept in touch with through the years. And I’ll pack the rest of the memories away and go back to my life.
I did make one very important visit. I stopped in to see my Grandpa.
He wasn’t really there. I’m certain he has better things to do than to hang out in some mausoleum. But it is a place I can go to think of him. I was going to bring a flower, but Grandpa wasn’t much of a flower guy. Instead I brought him a piece of wood, some nails, and utility scissors. He was a man who took things apart, made things, and fixed things. He’s better remembered with tools than with flowers.
Link went with me. I invited all three kids, but Link was the one who decided to go. After I arranged my things in that silly narrow vase that they put out for memorial offerings, I noticed that Link had tears in his eyes. Something about the place, the solemness of it, and seeing me put tools out for my Grandpa, touched him. He realized that I continue to bear great love for this man that Link only met as a baby. I told Link a story or two, a brief summary of who my Grandpa was to me. Link is now interested in seeing the house that my Grandparents shared. It is sort of on the way home, but it would add three hours to our travel time, which is already long. I’ll have to decide if additional visiting is worth the extended trip. I’d love to visit the house too. I’m certain additional memories are stored there.
We came home and sat down to visit with my Grandma. She’s already got a reserved spot next to Grandpa, but I’m in no hurry for her to occupy it. I’ve written about my Grandma before. She is less focused than she was four years ago. Since then she’s broken her hip, recovered, and acquired a walker. Mostly her thoughts circle around making sure everyone gets enough food, checking the mail, and watching out the window to tell me that the folks across the street who’ve torn up their yard are doing it wrong. Sometimes her thoughts do wander through memories. Then I get to hear fragments of stories and I catch them as they go past. Today something reminded her of the house fire which happened the year I was a freshman in college. Grandma and Grandpa watching my two younger sisters when the fire happened. Grandma mentioned seeing the fire in the front room and mentioned how scary it was. “I kept telling that man to break the glass and get the fire, but he wasn’t doing it. They put that stupid mask on my face. Then they made me go to the hospital. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I wanted to stay and tell those firemen what to do. But they made me go.” I suspect they only succeeded in making her go because Grandpa needed to go to. They were treated for smoke inhalation, but were fine. Then the next sentence we were back to talking about fatigue and whether she had time for a nap before dinner.
I’ve done so much visiting this trip. I’ve seen places and people. I’ve sorted through memories. Tomorrow I’m going to raid my mother’s boxes of photos to see if I can find some duplicates to take home with me. I don’t have that many pictures of myself as a child. For every visit I’ve accomplished on this trip, there are ten more that I’d like to do. I have to choose and I choose going home, because visiting is nice, but home is better.