Searching for Home

The cats and dog were loaded in the van, the hot water heater was turned off, and we’d taken that last bathroom break. With a sigh, I fastened my seatbelt and pulled the van onto the road. It was late August and we were leaving Maine to go… not home, but to Harrisonburg.

Only months before, we had moved to a house we thought would be our home. It started with a grand idea. My mom, my “other” brother, and I were going to each chip in 1/3 and buy a house together. I’d sold my house in 2019 and was ready. We’d even looked at one house that my son and I loved. The large deck and full screened deck under it encouraged dreaming.

Somehow we got on an alternate plan of using a house my mom owns, next to my old house, and all living there together. My part of the plan was to spend $100k for repairs and upgrades. We started working on that house, and prepping to move out of where we lived. Everything was harder due to the pandemic. The thrift stores were closed to donations and I couldn’t call on friends to help us move. It took my son and I a long time to pack our belongings, while also giving away unneeded items through the Buy Nothing Facebook group. We then had to move those items ourselves. It was exhausting. We moved loads over, unpacked, then took the boxes back and repeated the process. It’s amazing how much you can fit in a minivan, including furniture! I hired movers for the heavy furniture. We got our rooms set up, along with the den and dining room. It still didn’t feel like home.

It couldn’t feel like home.

It turns out that my mom and I had very different ideas and needs. I thought it would be our home, but her view was that it was her home and she was letting us stay there.

My son and I unpacked and then left for Maine for the summer, going to our work-in-progress house that now felt more like home.

With letters and phone calls back and forth, it became clear that my mom’s house wasn’t going to be home. I started searching realtor listings, but there wasn’t much in my price range. I entered an online auction bid for a small house, but it sold for a ridiculously high amount.

By necessity, the new plan became to live in Maine until next year. When we drove to Harrisonburg in August, it was to repack all of our belongings and put them in storage. My heart was heavy. I thought of myself as “homeless in Virginia.” I had never been without a place to live in the area.

Shortly after we returned, my realtor and friend contacted me. He had a house in Harrisonburg that he owned and he was going to sell. Did I want to see it?

I toured it in the morning and signed a contract in the afternoon! He graciously allowed us to start moving before closing. We closed in a few weeks and got everything moved into our new house. It doesn’t completely feel like home yet, but it will. It has some things that I wanted, like a front porch and yard.

A week after closing, we headed back to Maine. With school being online, we could spend time here that we couldn’t normally. The house is cold. I spent all my money on the Harrisonburg house, so don’t have enough left to finish insulating yet. There’s always next year for that.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll have the cats and dog loaded in the van, have the hot water heater turned off and drained, and have taken that last bathroom break. I’ll fasten my seatbelt and pull the car onto the road. This time, we’ll go home.

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

Summer Resident

I was acting as tour guide, the way people do when others come to visit.  I was showing Mom and Don around Portland Head Light. We took the usual pictures from the most photographed side, then walked closer and around to the north side. The wind ruffled my hair as I paused at the railing.  I listened to the seagulls’ calls and feasted on the visual buffet of craggy rocks, ocean waves, and sailboats. Below me, the waves and the shape of the rocks created an occasional “bloop, bloop” sound. Continue reading “Summer Resident”

Two Huge Endings In One Day

Friday couldn’t have been much bigger!

Here I am, at the end of a 30-year career in teaching. When I looked at my Google calendar Friday morning, I chuckled when I saw the reminder that I’d set a month or so ago. It read “School’s Out Forever!” Perhaps I should rewrite the song, from a teacher’s perspective. Continue reading “Two Huge Endings In One Day”

When the Loss of a Parent is “Complicated”

 

The memories and sadness come sporadically. On Saturday, I glanced at my watch and saw the date – June 23. It was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 88 that day.

Ours was never a close relationship. There’s a lot of baggage and much left unresolved.  By the time I was ready to start tackling those difficult memories from my earlier years, my dad’s dementia had progressed significantly. It was impossible to get answers or have discussions.  Continue reading “When the Loss of a Parent is “Complicated””

A Special Place in My Heart

I was on a mission. Five quick steps forward, a shift to the left, ten steps forward, a pause, and then another continuation forward. All the while, I was scanning side to side, looking for one student out of the many who were leaving for the day. The kids were pulling on hats and coats, adjusting backpacks, and talking and laughing. It was the last day of school before Christmas break. I feared that the student I was seeking had already left. It was her last day and I wanted to say “good-bye.” Students come and go often, in my school. Sometimes I get to say “good-bye” and sometimes students move away or change schools without my knowing ahead of time. There are times, like this one, where my emotions run higher than usual, because of connections that I have with specific students. Continue reading “A Special Place in My Heart”

Mind Before Body

The sunshine streamed in through the windows of the nursing home “day room,” offering beauty in the midst of decay. Only my family noticed it. The several residents in the room, other than my father, were sound asleep in their wheelchairs, slumped in various positions.

My dad sat across the table from me. He sat in his own wheelchair. Despite the room feeling warm to me, he wore fuzzy suede slippers, black fleece lounge pants, and a flannel shirt. A red “Gitmo Bay” baseball cap rested atop his mostly bald head as he sat gazing at the t.v.

“What time is it?” he suddenly asked. Continue reading “Mind Before Body”

Choosing Pain

I am grieving. After being gone for nearly a year and completing a residential treatment program, my son returned home in April.  Although nervous, I was hopeful that it was going to work.  I was joyful that my son had finally returned.  Since then, things seemed to be going well. Now, two months later, something has happened that makes it clear that he cannot stay.  My heart is broken. Continue reading “Choosing Pain”

Becoming Myself

Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of who God made me to be.

Looking back over my high school journals, I was compassionate.  I wanted to encourage and help my friends and went out of my way to do so.  I wrote notes.  I went places with others just to be there as a support.

When I started teaching, I remember caring so deeply for my students that it was overwhelming at times.  I mentored two boys who became like sons to me.  I wrote encouraging notes, with parents’ permission, to Christian kids at school. Continue reading “Becoming Myself”