Home Is Where Your Peeps Are

iampeacenow’s post about her mom’s passing and her brother’s disposal of her worldly possessions got me thinking about my own dad’s death. I used to go back to Michigan every July to visit my dad, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces, and great niece & nephew. But now I don’t. Admittedly, Covid got me out of the habit, but when I look at why I haven’t resumed the annual pilgrimage, I have to wonder if unbeknownst to my conscious mind, the pull to return “home” was my dad.

Babs paddles by De Zwaan, imported piece by piece from the Netherlands in 1964

With so many family activities, it was sometimes hard to carve out a lot of time to visit with my dad. Kayaking with cousins, hiking with nieces, biking to the beach and the culmination of the week with a huge family reunion, all served to push quality time with Dad to the fringes. And as he grew more infirm, I wasn’t eager to take him out for the long, shore-line drives and beach-side lunches he so enjoyed when he could no longer drive. He had to pee often and just getting in and out of the car was fraught with the danger of him falling. He was a big man, over 200 lbs. and I feared that I wouldn’t be able to right him if he ever toppled over on my watch. So, our visits consisted of me visiting him in the depressing assisted-living facility where he spent his last few years.

My Favorite Aunt Mary Jane, me, Dad, and sister Babs July, 2008

Thankfully, his memory remained as sharp as his ever-ready sense of humor so our visits were interesting and funny. He was a great story teller and could always surprise me with a tale I hadn’t heard before. I always parted from him with a vague sense of guilt that I didn’t spend more time with him, and as he grew more enfeebled, I feared that each good-bye might be the last.

His failing health gave us ample warning of his imminent demise and I was lucky to be able to make one final visit, a month ahead of my regular, annual journey, to say our final good-byes. Weak but still of sound mind, he entertained me with more stories of my grandparents and great-grandfather. He told how in The Great War (WWI) his dad’s commanding officer advised him to take good care of the mules because they were more valuable than the poor soldier who tended them. The admonition was not necessary, dad said, as my grandpa loved those beasts like his own children. What a poignant illustration of the connection of family! I had come by my passion for horses through my dad’s genes.

So, Dad’s been gone a couple of years now and for a variety of reasons, I have stopped returning to the place of my birth on an annual basis. Though the cousins and nieces are still there, and the places of childhood memories remain, there’s one missing piece. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the one missing piece spoils the picture.

https://iampeacenow.wordpress.com/ is right, you probably can’t ever go home again once the people who made it home are gone.