A Sunday Morning in America, October 2018

DpeBg4HXgAAg2Ik.jpgFresh coffee and a cig on my parents’ porch. Marveling at the big sky, the mighty Atlantic, the salty autumn air. I can hear the Big Band music my dad’s playing in the bait shop behind the house, and organ music from the church on the corner.

A burst of laughter from a house down the block, one of the few with year-round residents here at the south end of the island. Other homes are closed up for the winter, leaving behind the hulking silhouettes of covered grills and a few lonely beach toys under patio tables.

My parents, now in their mid-seventies, have changed in the four years since I last saw them. I’ve missed personal evolutions and devolutions, and the political revolution I’m grateful they #resist. I’ve missed their smell, their hugs, their accents, their cooking.

I’ve changed, too. My hair is greyer. I’ve gained a few pounds, a second nationality, a third language. People, places and things that I’ve held as constants in my life in Europe have been altered almost beyond recognition, throwing me off my axis.

The dozens of photos in the hallway of my parents’ house span generations. There are graduations and birthdays and vacations and Sears portraits and moments that would have been forgotten if not for the camera’s eye.

In these photos I see the origins of my dimpled smile and my thick ankles. I see people who have died after long, epic lives, and I smile; others were taken from us suddenly, shockingly, and I flinch with guilt for not being here to bear witness to their passing. I miss them all.

I am the salty air and the old music and the reruns and the photos in the hallway. I am home.

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3 thoughts on “A Sunday Morning in America, October 2018

  1. I am feeling this from the opposite direction. It’s sometimes hard to enjoy the freedom I have to go wherever I want now that my children are grown, with children of their own, when I feel guilty for not spending more time with my grandchildren. A week or ten days, 3 or 4 times a year, feels like far too little.

    Looking back, I also feel guilty for not bringing my own kids to visit my grandmother more often while she was alive. We weren’t good about remembering her birthday, either.

    How can we reconcile the desire to live the life we want with the idea that we should spend more time with our loved ones?

    But then I remember that grandmother, and the full life she was living well into her eighties. She was still surf fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and playing cards until midnight 2 or 3 times a week. She never remembered any of our birthdays, either.

    Fortunately, these days, we can at least stay in touch. My kids and I often go longer than a week without contact. Then we’ll have a long flurry of texts, with photos. We can even use video, when necessary, though we rarely feel the need.

    They don’t confide all of their problems to me, but when we finally get together, they catch me up with most of what’s been going on. They do share all the joys, though, and I love that. And we laugh so much when we’re together, it’s always a fun time.

    There have been times in their adult lives when they have come to stay with me for months at a time. There have been other times when I’ve gone to stay with them for longer periods. Both were fine, we’re always there for each other.

    Still, they have very full lives of their own, and though we all enjoy our visits when we’re together, I don’t think it bothers them that I’m away so much. Some people may find that hurtful, or depressing. I consider it a relief.

  2. But does it really feel like home anymore? Do you not feel a bit like stranger in your own country? This has been my experience living in foreign countries for all of my adult life. When I visit my native Holland much of it is of course familiar, I can speak the language, I know the food, I know my family, but when interacting with other people it is very clear that I don’t live there anymore, and don’t ‘get’ things, and don’t know how things work anymore. Greetings from Languedoc 😉

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