Opening the door to home was filled with mixed and jumbled up feelings.
It wasn’t like I had been on vacation the entire month of June and reluctant to come home. It wasn’t as if I was I was rested and content with a suitcase full of souvenirs and happy memories.
I wasn’t sure exactly where to lay this baggage down. How to unpack it and sort it all out.
The house had that gone away feeling. You know it. The closed up, abandoned stuffiness that is mingled with absence and lack of life. Since it was now July down here in Georgia, and the temperature on the air conditioning was turned up while we were gone, there was a stuffiness and staleness to the air.
It felt like it desperately needed to breathe.
As I stepped into the hallway, my bare feet slapped against the wood floor, and the sound magnified as it bounced off the ceiling and walls. Echoing the announcement of homecoming. Yet, there were no banners. No balloons. No welcome home committee.
I had never been gone this long from home before. I wondered if it would remember me. Would my house take me back in, embrace me? Would I find comfort here?
Before I left for Texas, I planted some seeds and tender, baby plants in the ground out back. It has become a new hobby of mine, trying to develop a green thumb in the red clay ground of the south.
I was hopeful for a harvest of flowers and vegetables.
My immediate impulse was to go out back to our yard and check on them. See how they fared. I wasn’t real sure what to expect.
I winced as I approached the back door. I could tell by one glance as I looked out the window. All of the plants and flowers that were coming up new and promising before I left were now withered and dried. Dead.
Since I was not there to tend to them in their infancy, they didn’t survive. I was not there to give them what they needed.
The only thing that looked half alive was a pot of wild Morning Glories climbing a trellis on the deck. I didn’t even plant those. They reseeded themselves.
That’s how wild things grow, anyway. Strong and sure.
All my hard work was gone.
I desperately wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. I was numb.
I noticed that my thirteen year old was growing increasingly anxious in the car the last few hours driving home. I didn’t ask why and simply thought that he was wanting to get out of the car; to be finally home.
I heard his cry from the back deck. I don’t know exactly what he said but his tone alarmed me. I rushed to his room to find him sobbing. So unusual for my boy. He’s sensitive and real sweet, but it takes quite a lot to make him cry. Especially out loud.
He was standing over the cage of his beloved hamster, Lego, and the look on his face was cloaked with sadness. Disappointment. Regret.
When he left to join me in Texas a week or so prior, he wasn’t real sure how long we’d be gone. None of us could know that. And in the haste after they heard the news that Michael was off of life support, Lego was the last on his mind. My son thought he left plenty of food and water.
I looked into the cage to find poor Lego stiff and lifeless in the corner of his cage.
Oh! It was just. too. much.
I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. I stood there for a few minutes, dazed.
So much death.
I looked over at my son. Salty tears rolling down his cheeks.
I watched his face a little while, let him cry, saying nothing. I then noticed something that stands out in my boy when he gets nervous or sad, or when he thinks he is in trouble somehow. He’s strong as steel…calm and cool so often on the outside, but I know that underneath there are many times when he comes unraveled. The only way to tell is in the crook of his neck.
The carotid artery that lays there underneath his skin visibly throbs. It’s a dead giveaway. It’s the sign to me that my boy is feeling distress.
And that very moment as I watched the rhythm of it, I was overwhelmed with the contrast. The dichotomy.
I then pulled my son in close into my chest. Wrapped my arms around him. Let him cry at my breast like he did when he was real little. It felt so necessary. So comforting.
I could feel his heart beating against me. Rhythmic. Strong.
My own tears showed up then. My eyes relented and allowed them flow.
We’ll be alright, Son. Yes, we will.
After a bit of standing there like that, he quickly pulled away and dried his eyes. I had to smile at that. Thirteen year old boys caught up in the middle of needing and not needing. An awful lot like grown up soldier boys.
Yes, this is how it will always go. How it will always be.
He wanted to be alone, so I left his room, and closed the door behind me.
I was drawn right back to the deck outside. I wanted to see it all again.
Looking around, I decided to leave it all be.
Let it all go.
I wouldn’t plant anything new. Not this year. I wouldn’t try to buy new or replant or redo anything. I decided right then to let nature take its course.
Allow the loss and the pain and the desolation show up, do it’s work.
Favor the wild. Give in to the process. See how all of this reseeds.
I realized then (as this lesson will ebb and flow forevermore) that I was given a gift here.
Yes, I surely was.
I could see only the overwhelm of it all…the death and loss and pain and more pain.
Or I could focus on the life left. The throbbing carotid artery.
Yes, I would tend to that.
Go back inside. Unpack the suitcases. Do what I can with what is now. Embrace the life that’s beating in those of us that are left.
Ease this house back to life.