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Worldwide Ace » A Place to Come Home To

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A Place to Come Home To

2 April, 2009 (07:55) | Family

Sunset over the Rockies
Sunset over the Rocky Mountains.
Image by A guy with A camera.

It was supposed to be like going to camp or to boarding school. I could come back and it would all fall into place with the same scents and comforts and, for the most part, players. But after my freshman year, it wasn’t the same.

First, the people I knew began to disappear. My friends found their own lives, and I had made new friends elsewhere. My teachers and coaches were busy teaching and coaching new students I didn’t know. My family developed new routines, ones that I awkwardly injected myself into while trying to maintain the independence I had developed far away.

Then the comforts began to flow away like water. Some evaporated into thin air, like the record stores I frequented and the restaurants I sought refuge at. Others I had bottled and shipped to my new abode two thousand miles away, small links between who I had been and who I was becoming. Still more shifted, subtly at first, still seemingly home but not quite.

Soon, I found the smells and flavors changing in my absence. My bed smelled of fresh linen and not me. My cats’ fur coated my things, leaving me irritated and forever adjusting. The house morphed into a new home in a foreign neighborhood, the scant few blocks seeming like oceans, my room gone forever.

I passed through my old haunts and every sign read the same: “Under New Ownership.” I couldn’t bring myself to walk in the door and see what had become of what once was my home. I was a stranger in an all together too familiar land.

Leaving that Bizarro world, my heart still ringing with misplaced nostalgia, I couldn’t help but feel comfort in return to the life I had fallen into. As I got off the plane, I thought, for the first time, “I’m home.”

My grandfather’s house, with the exception of two rooms, has remained the same for as long as I can remember. One of those rooms was the room I stayed in growing up. The couch disappeared along with the TV as it was converted into my grandfather’s office. The other room, which had been my grandfather’s office prior to its move, became, for all intents and purposes, my room over the last four months.

When I moved in, I was unsure if I’d feel welcomed. My family shared my doubts, beginning with cautionary questions of how things were going. My grandfather and I gave tepid answers, never admitting our own distrust and wonder publicly. Our interactions were awkward and we kept an emotional distance.

Slowly things began to shift. What started out as a daunting puzzle, thousands of pieces seemingly tossed at random into a box, gracefully fell into a bond I was unprepared for.

When I had arrived, we had each reached the end of a journey—I through college and around the world, he through his marriage and death of his beloved. Each left us with fears and loneliness that never could be put into words.

He sat with one eye, the TV spewing news about a world going bad, and he still cursed the liberal pigdogs with the same vim and vigor of his youth, but he moved slower and softened quicker, his shouts petering to dismissive grunt more quickly. At 85, he still skied, his friends and confidants collected about him like disciples, enjoying the fruits of their time together, but he skied less and ached more, not quite able to speed ahead of the group as he used to. He worried about his friends as they got ill, aged and died, many younger than he, but he still smiled as he reminisced, telling the same great stories with the same verve as he did the day after they occurred.

My grandfather wasn’t the man he was in my youth, the weight of my grandmother’s illness and passing having brought him a softness and humanity I had seen only glimpses of before.

I, meanwhile, was afraid of failure, success, and all the various places in between. I wasn’t sure if I had spent the last decade wasting my life trying to follow my heart or if my heart had been wrong from the beginning. I was afraid the rest of my life might amount to nothing in the shadow of the world’s problems, my degree a flimsy piece of paper meant to age in the sun on the wall of my cardboard box. Most of all, I was afraid to be a disappointment in the eyes of my family, though I knew in my heart I had a long way to fall before I ever reached that stage in the eyes of my parents.

Somehow, my grandfather and I came together, our opposing political views set aside for revelatory tales and conversation. Our routines began to twine, a level of comfort unexpected arising. A trust bloomed where I thought only disdain could grow.

Today I left my grandfather’s house. I feel odd pangs of longing to remain there, safe and somewhat sheltered from the problems facing the world. Already, I miss the meals, the conversation, and the constant knowledge that there’s another human being who, despite the generation gap, feels oddly like I do in so many ways.

After I pulled away, I imagined him walking through the house, noticing that everything is essentially the same as it was before, but feeling my absence. In the evenings, while sitting before the TV, he might turn and look at the doorway, wondering briefly whether he heard me walking into the kitchen for a glass of water. A little part of me wonders if he wanted to ask me to stay, and a little part of me wonders if I would have said yes.

Though returning to Boulder is a homecoming of sorts, my grandfather’s house has been home long enough. I’ll come back in a week or two and it will be similar, my room slowly fading from ownership back to a guest room. I’ll notice that things don’t quite feel the same, the fridge stocked differently, the house a little emptier without me. The next time, my resident status will become that of a visitor, forced once again to ask where things are and where they go. Later still my grandfather will move and the house will settle into a strange limbo of existence, suspended between the home I remember and the foreign occupation destined to take it, like a city besieged, its supplies dwindling.

I know my time there was short, but moving out of my grandfather’s house feels similar to my exodus from my parents’ home after high school. There’s just one difference.

This time, I know what I’ve lost in the leaving.

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  • Mom

    Benjamin,
    The writing is wonderful, and the sense of loss beautifully articulated. I am so glad you had the chance to get to know your grandfather as an individual, and that he had the chance to get to know you as an adult.

    Mom

  • haven’t finish reading the post yet, but that taken picture is simply;y breathtaking! killer shot!! 😀

  • AceHarmon

    Thanks, but I didn't take it. As noted just below the photo, it's by a guy with his camera, or so he calls himself on flickr.

  • AceHarmon

    Thanks, but I didn't take it. As noted just below the photo, it's by a guy with his camera, or so he calls himself on flickr.