Can we…really go home again? Maybe not. But we can go back to the place where home once was. I did that last week. My brother, Carl, has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his tonsils. He is scheduled for surgery on March 9. We are all very scared.
Carl is my baby brother. I was a very grown-up (I thought!) eight-year-old when he was born. I always felt a responsibility to take care of him. I still do, especially now that our mom and dad and middle brother, Homer, are gone. We share February birthdays – his on the 17th and mine on the 20th. Our grandfather was a February 28th birthday guy and a sister-in-law was a Feb. 23rd celebrant, so for years we all participated in the “Mass February Birthday Party.” It seemed appropriate that Carl and I should celebrate our birthdays together this year.
Carl’s health has been bad for years but he “keeps on keepin’ on.” He was in mega pain the whole time I was visiting but he insisted on cooking my favorite down-home foods — pinto beans and cornbread for dinner and cheese-stuffed omelets for breakfast — buzzing around the kitchen in his Jazzy chair. My sister-in-law, Debi, had hip surgery recently so was still using a walker. Despite all that, she made a wonderful key-lime birthday cake for us. We all managed to stuff ourselves into the car to drive to a nearby town for a delicious Chinese dinner and then laughed at ourselves as we dragged our dis-functional bodies up the front steps afterwards.
The drive to dinner took us past our childhood home, which is now a rental house; Homer’s house, which now belongs to a new family; and the homes of aunts and uncles whose kids we used to play with. The aunts and uncles are all gone now and the cousins scattered. There was lots of reminiscing about neighbors who used to live near us, along old route 60…the lady with the piercing voice who “sang” in the church choir, always off key…the wino who kept snakes and charged fifty cents to see them…my best friend who lived four doors up…the drive-in where we used to get hot dogs with chile and slaw and pineapple milk shakes…and what happened to the grocery that used to be on that corner? A massive flood a few years ago wiped out a lot of landmarks and left others still standing, but now damaged shells, silent ghosts of another time.
So, yes, we can go home again and visit those who still live there. But we can also go home anytime we close our eyes and remember those faces of our past, their laughter, and the love that surrounded us.
SHARON CANFIELD DORSEY is the author of four children’s books, a memoir, Daughter of the Mountains; a book of poetry, Tapestry; and a travel memoir, Road Trip. WATCH FOR A NEW POETRY BOOK, OUT THIS SUMMER.