Saturday, May 19, 2007

Home is where the heart is.

Nazareth Hospital

Thirty-one days ago, I walked into a large tin can with rockets attached to either side and was propelled on an adventure. Last night, shortly before midnight, a similar vehicle returned me to Western NY.

In between I traveled some 13,000 miles. By car, truck, train, subway, Gator, big jet, little jet, and on foot. One day I got on a boat, but didn’t go anywhere.

I slept on couches, in guest rooms, basements, low-cost motels, and one of the nicest five-star hotels I’ve ever been in.

Meals, too, ran the gamut. From vending machines, to fine dining. Obviously I had more meals “out” during the last month than home-cooked meals. I even visited a few bars.

What did I most discover?

Home is not where the body lives,
but where the heart lives.

I was at home just traveling with my best friend from first grade. He probably knows more about me than anyone else ... and I, him. Yet, during the last month I even learned some things I didn’t know before. Secrets never revealed. Feelings never verbalized.

While we didn’t meet until we were six, we were both born in the same room within 30 days of each other. Interestingly we’re not alike at all. Very, very different lives and experiences. Yet, I suspect, we’ll always remain extremely respectful and loyal.

I was at home when I drove by the hospital in which I was born, even though it has been closed for over thirty years. When I was born, it was the only hospital in town, run by the Sisters of Nazareth. Incredibly strange for a small rural town in Texas with fewer than one hundred Catholic families.

I was at home when I visited my grade school, now an “alternative school for disturbed children.” It’s an eerie feeling to return to your first grade classroom with a friend that you actually met there. I've got vivid memories of the play ground, the annual "pet show," and watching Little Match Girl in the school auditorium every Christmas for six years.

I was at home when I met a former business associate for coffee in New York City. It was a chance to catch up; it had been way too long. Why do we so easily loose touch with so many friends?

I was at home visiting my father’s grave in Atlanta. It’s next to those of my grandfather, my grandmother and my aunt. I heard that there are eight vacant plots close by which some other family wants to sell. They were purchased in the 1930’s but never used. I told my cousin to check it out.

I was at home the day I drove my eighty-three year old uncle 290 miles to meet my eighty-two year old aunt – my uncle’s sister – for lunch. After we ate pot roast and fried chicken at a roadside diner near Hamilton, we sat at a picnic table under the pine trees and talked about how our family has stayed connected even though we rarely get the opportunity to see each other in person.

I was at home returning to Chicago, a city I only lived in for three years after college. Yet it probably represented the best years of my life. A time of independence, self-discovery and spirituality.

I was at home eating burgers at both The Varsity and The Billy Goat Tavern. I love their burgers, and the ambiance, both very distinctive. But I love the memories of eating there in years past with family and friends even more. I hope these two places never close.

I’m also at home listening to the music from Schindler’s List. It’s both peaceful, and disturbing.

- - - -

Last night I slept in “my bed.” But it wasn’t home.

- - - -

Am I a sap, or what?


Gawpo said...

YAY!!! Welcome home. Now I can go read what you've posted.....

Gawpo said...

Definition: A fool. A person who lacks good judgment.

No, Paul. I just checked. You are not a sap.

You know where home lies. You are rich.

TWISI said...

WONDERFUL post and welcome back, you have been missed. But it sounds like you had an amazing adventure.

BTW, you took me home when you mentioned the Varsity. Did you have onion rings and a fried pie?


Paul said...

Mr. G: Thanks for the comment. I've got so much to catch up on!

Kendall Damn, I knew I missed something. No fried peach pie, nor onion rings this time. But I did have two steak burgers, fries and a chocolate shake. And the aroma! Nothing smells quiet as tasty as the Varsity.

Matt said...

Welcome back, Paul. I really enjoyed reading this post.

Blue the Spa Girl said...

Welcome home little Pauly bird. Your nest awaits.
WEll, you are no sap.
Houses are four walls, but home is a full life rich with experience and love.
And good burgers.
All to be found in the heart.
Glad you enjoyed your time away. Now get to enjoy being where you are. Cheers matey!

lifescolorfulbrushstrokes said...

Hey Paul...been a while since I strolled out yonder. Sounds like you were all over. i just got back from the East Coast and S.F. about three weeks ago. Was a three week stint of travel, a chunk visiting Spider. Am going to Chicago in about three weeks to meet a new friend. I can't wait to see that city...last time I WAS ONLY there for a day and a half.

Kevin said...

Wow. Great post. It's funny, I'm the exact opposite though -- I spent the first 30 years of my life in a town I didn't feel I belonged in to a family I didn't think was mine.

Now, finally, I am home.

somewhere joe said...

I'm a sap too. And like you, my home isn't so much my address as what happened along the way to bring me here.

Welcome back Odysseus. There's a margarita, on the rocks no salt, awaiting you on a little boat that doesn't go anywhere anchored just offshore at the beach.

Paul said...

Matt: Thanks for hanging around. I'm glad to be back.

Blue TSG: Such wise words! I'll work on it.

Tony LCBS: It sounds like you've been on the road, too, lately. We probably crossed paths a few times.

Kevin: You're right, I can tell by your blog ... you seem to be in a pretty good place right now.

S. Joe: And when you're as old as I am ... a LOT has happened along the way. Cheers.

CondoBlogger said...

Welcome Home! Awesome post. Sounds like your trip was amazing!

Mike said...

Welcome back Paul...
After reading a post like this my daily underwear selection process seems so..... trivial.

JustJock said...

I'm happy to see you made it "home" safely, and that the trip was so meaningful. Sap? Hardly.

Doug said...

Sorry I'm late. WELCOME HOME! :)

Excellent post. It sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing some of your memories with us.