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.
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Last night I slept in “my bed.” But it wasn’t home.
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Am I a sap, or what?