We dream, and dream some more, saying to ourselves, “One of these days.” Most of the time, we never get around to seeing it happen. Well, I’ve done a lot of dreaming, too, over the years; but, this time, my “one of these days” came true. I got back home on a long-awaited trip.
If you read my last post, “One of These Days”, I talk about taking a trip back home that I’ve longed for, like this, for many years. The moment came when family circumstances made me decide I had to go for it. It’s been 15 years plus since I’ve been home and I don’t know that I’ll have another 15-20 years like this to go back again. My family typically doesn’t come west to visit – very often – hardly ever.
My aunt, now 92, got sick and depressed this spring with the sudden death of her youngest daughter in January and her health appeared to be going downhill. Something in me said, “It’s time” and I felt that if I didn’t make this trip, I may never see her nor any of my family again. We all aren’t getting any younger and I always wanted to get back, not only to see family, but to pay tribute to loved ones no longer alive who gave me life and purpose – my way of saying goodbye as a type of closure, coming full circle, in paying respect.
So, I answered the call of this particularly strong inner pull to go back home in these pressing family times. This is the beginning of my adventures, reflections and how it all came together – miraculously!
Answering The Call
Hubby and I had always dreamed of taking a road trip from Colorado back to my home, on the east coast of Philadelphia, Maryland (where my aunt lives) and Virginia; taking our time, connecting with family and revisiting places where we first met, fell in love and got married. Over the years, we kept telling my aunt we both were going to make it back some day but it never seemed to happen. I’ve been back a number of times but she hadn’t seen hubby since we first left to go west in 1969 (50 years ago) but the money was never there for us to go.
The same was true this time in that the money wasn’t there but there was an urgency with my aunt’s health. Something in me knew I had to find a way to get back. I wanted to see her as I have for years. She is the only living relative connected to my parents and those of my childhood and I longed to spend one last time with her.
With that intention to find a way, I started looking for jobs online and applied to an opening at our rural post office. I was surprised to get a call for an interview, though in my ‘70’s, and was encouraged that maybe this was the answer to make money for my trip. I had no doubt I could do the job in this small mountain, one-man, non-techy U.S. Post Office operation. I could create and manage e-mails, Excel spreadsheets, service customers, calculate package weights, compute shipping charges on a computer and run a cash register. Hah, how hard could that be—all by myself!? It was a small post office, right?
I don’t think I was a particularly appealing candidate, as I had no long-term employment ambitions, and was also requesting 2 or 3 weeks’ vacation within 6-months. I wanted to be completely transparent with this Federal institution that my main goal was to first make enough money for an important trip with the intention to stay on the job afterwards. If hired, they said the most vacation time they could give me was 2 weeks. I was okay with that with the hope I could make enough for hubby and I to finally make this road trip together.
Little did I know that the universe was intervening and that there would be other ways for money to come. There was never any response on the job after my interview nor from any of my numerous follow-up calls; and, it wasn’t until after my trip that I got an email that the position had been cancelled. Presumably, they hired from within.
Even though I had no response on the job, I still held onto there had to be a way for this trip to happen and, then, the money began to come in – in bits and pieces, over the spring and summer. We got an electric company refund check amounting to more than we had ever received, my daughters and a friend gave me trip money on Mother’s Day and my birthday and I got a large order for the last of my pinecone fire-starters.
It ended up, getting back I would travel solo, again, with just enough money for my flight, rent a car and some extra for expenses. I booked my trip for a week and was waiting for the day when I would finally be launched on my long awaited trip back home, now last month, September, with my return on the 11th, the infamous 9-11.
It wasn’t exactly how I had hoped for over the years, with hubby, on our leisurely road trip back home; but, the universe was pulling and telling me now was the time. I answered the call and sensed there would be more to this trip than I had initially imagined. I was on a type of pilgrimage to the divinity within and, along with connecting with family and paying tribute, I was looking to meet some goals I set for myself. Namely, find my voice, face some fears, come full circle with love and gratitude and meet my transformed self.
I had changed over the years, since I last spent some significant time with my family; of course, there are the physical changes, but spiritually, mentally, philosophically and politically as well. I wasn’t quite sure how that would be received and perceived and was curious as to how much they had changed, too.
Isn’t it curious how friends, even only acquaintances, seem to know us more than our own blood relatives? I suppose it’s because they’re the ones that are there when we have those goofy, unpredictable moments.
I think we all grow in mind and spirit, as life edges us along, and I was looking forward to spending some quality time and learning, in depth, what had been going on in their lives. More than idle chitchat, drapery talk and the weather, I felt the need to be open to whatever events unfolded, late-night talks with heart-to-heart love and kindness, whenever – however.
They say you can never go back home – it will never be like you imagined
There’s a lot of truth to that. Things can never be like we remembered and I understood that from the beginning. Plus, pushing 20 years is a long time since I was back and my old homestead had been sold years before, bulldozed and rebuilt to someone else’s new beautiful home. Highways had been rerouted, old landmarks changed and new businesses replaced old ones; but, nevertheless, I wanted to see how memory would serve me and what still held energies of the past. I was alone on this adventure and open to whatever unfolded.
From Philly airport before heading onto my sister’s, I wanted to check in on an old classmate, Bill, remembering where he lived, just a short jaunt from my old neighborhood where I grew up as a child. His wife, Julie – also a classmate, had died a number of years ago and he lived alone in their home. We had kept in touch on Facebook and I tried to contact him about my trip to let him know I was coming back, along with calling an old number. But, I never heard back. I even tried one of his Facebook relatives but never heard back from them either. So, next best thing was to pop in and try to see him in person.
It’s pretty daunting in this stage of my life and, especially at the beginning of a memorable trip, to find out from neighbors that Bill had died a year ago. I lost a few childhood friends and classmates over the years, Viet Nam, accidents, health; but, it never gets any easier when you hear those words that someone you love had died and I’m standing in front of their old, empty house.
So many memories we had, as friends growing up, especially middle school and high school. Julie and Bill were always destined to be together. They were never apart. I remember one year, when I came back for a visit, they both took me to our old middle school that had been turned into an Administration Building.
We were allowed to go through the old halls and downstairs, in that creaky old building, with them trying to get me to remember this classroom, that teacher (when we staged a sit-down protest in the hall in front of the Biology lab because of the smell), the tunnel through the boiler room to the cafeteria and onto the girls and boys locker rooms recapturing those moments of long ago.
I could remember most things, especially when they said names and told old stories. We were laughing and joking, just like old times, and it felt good to remember old memories with them, right down to the mural on the wall, at the entrance, that Bill said our class painted and is hung there to this day. I never knew about that and he was pretty proud of it. It was a special time back then reliving those times with them.
I love them . . . and now I missed him and whispered a special prayer to him hoping he’s happy back with his beloved Julie. Somehow, while standing there I felt them together again and in love, as they always had been. I said my goodbyes, got in my car and left to take the short ride over to see if I remembered how to get to my old homestead. I was on to see what this trip holds for me next. If this is just the beginning, what else awaits. My heart is full.
There is much more to share with you in the days and months to come as the stories of my trip take shape and come to life. My sister and I did get to see my aunt and spend the night with her after getting lost a number of times. We couldn’t stay longer as Hurricane Dorian was moving up the coast. I visited with nieces, paid tribute at the gravesite of my surrogate grandfather, had a moving and gripping discussion with family and reunited with a cousin I hadn’t seen for more than 55 years, since I was a kid.
And finally, topping it off, with it ending on a return trip, not soon to be forgotten, where I’m sandwiched between two fellow passengers and engaged in talks with them on a 4-hour flight home to Denver on 9-11. Here is a 51-year old successful businessman, I’ve just met, choking up with tears giving me his personal account on 9-11 at ground level telling me, “He doesn’t know what is happening to him . . . he doesn’t do emotions”. You can’t make this stuff up.
One thing I’m reminded of, however, is that there is a greater intelligence in charge no matter how chaotic the world seems and that this greater intelligence has a sweet presence that resides in me and in you.
It’s eye is not only on the sparrow, it knows the number of hairs on our head, the laughter, the pain and our deepest feelings and desires. We carry it around within us and when we connect and align with it for one seemingly unimportant, simple trip (that was much desired by me), it hears and miracles happen and materialize. That’s the wonder and nature of living this beautiful life. It couldn’t have been said any better than by Patanjali, an author of Yoga Sutras from India, many centuries ago:
“When you are inspired by some great
purpose, some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bonds;
Your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction,
and you find yourself in a new, great
and wonderful world.
Dormant forces, faculties and talents
become alive, and you discover yourself
to be a greater person by far
than you ever dreamed
yourself to be.”
Pat from the ‘ol kitchen table