So I finally made the trek back to Indiana. Ya, I know for alot of you this would not seem like a big deal. But going home for me was closing the doors on alot of things that needed closing. It was opening some wounds that I had thought long since healed and finally realizing that the wound not healing is exactly the reason I am where I am today. It had been 10 long years since I had been home. The last time I was home, well it did not go so hot. I left feeling like I had screwed up something fierce with my parents, feeling like somewhere I had gone wrong. The thing I came to realize was, I put this on myself. My parents did not shut me out, no in fact I shut them out. They did nothing wrong to me, unless giving a child the best possible childhood is wrong, in which gee whiz I hope I end up being wrong for my kids too. Soooooo that door finally closed. I came to terms with the fact that the only real issue was the one I created.
I remember part of the reason I left Brown County, Indiana. I left because of a girl. I was dating a wonderful girl in high school named Jennifer Duncan. She was the all american girl next door. And like most young women, she was still figuring out what she wanted in life. I, on the other hand, was really clueless, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to be married, and I wanted a home like my parents. Because that was what my parents had done right out of high school. And like alot of young folks, I saw the military as a quick fix to security. So I signed up for the Air Force with little thought, because frankly, I thought it would help me skip from point A to Z, and take Jennifer with me for the ride. Of course in all this incredible planning, I never once considered her feelings. That perhaps she wasnt ready to be that serious, that perhaps she was a normal girl who just wanted to see what life had to offer and to finish her senior year. And lets be honest, Why did I want to be with her?, SECURITY. The security of having something familiar, which while normal for a graduate, is also pretty damn selfish, and the reason alot of young marriages are doomed right out of the gate. Most folks are just not mature enough to accept the responsibility a marriage requires. And I certainly was not.
Going home I had to sort through alot of my old stuff. Some of it was over 2 decades old. I found a box of our old love letters, and I spent time reading through them. For a brief moment, I was transported back to high school and I felt the pain of that final kiss Jennifer gave me when she very nicely told me she wanted to break up. I felt my heart tear in two again. I remembered my first days in the Air Force in basic training, and how in the dark, when other guys would be crying because they missed home (yes men cry, even military guys) I instead cried because I had felt my first true heart break. As this mix of emotions swept over me, I realized that another door had closed that was previously open. Freed of the spectre of heart break I instead felt the warm feelings of happiness that my young teenage love had brought me. Thank you Jennifer, I hope you look back fondly to on those days, and like myself appreciate the good memories and more importantly appreciate as I do, the great event that is first love. More importantly it taught me to start analyzing myself a bit, and I very quickly realized that in the end Jennifer was the one who was right, we were too young and had alot of life to live.
I visited the grave stones of Tim Parker and BJ Arnold while I was home. I took my son along with me for a very long walk and was quickly tore apart by the Indiana humidity. Multiple Sclerosis and humidity do not play well together. I had my cane crutches on both arms however, and Aris my son is really good about knowing that Daddy has to slow down. Aris and I paid our respects, and I said a small prayer and gave thanks to BJ and Tim for giving me the gift of friendship. I told their stones how I wished they were here but that we would be united again some day, and then I explained to my son why I said these things. We walked back home and I felt the sun on my face, heard the birds and insects, and smelled the woodsy smells I remembered from youth. For just a moment, I was gliding on my 10 speed bike, arms out like a plane, racing Tim Parker down Spearsville Road. I felt another door close softly behind me, and knew that I had found yet another reason of why my life is so good. Quite frankly its good because I have been blessed to live so much of it. Blessed to have those memories to cling too.
I watched my father and mother walking with my children. Saw my kids playing amongst the pine trees that I had planted with my parents. Saw my parents hold my kids and slept in my old bed. I must admit, there were several lumps in my throat that week. I gimped around Nashville, and ate at Harvest Moon pizza. Again I was pulled back to memories of sitting with my friends in high school eating pizza at Nonna's. My friends and I always walked the fine line between normal and social outcasts. I was so concerned about having the right pants, the right shirt with a stupid polo guy on it. I was fixated on trying to be cool, but some inner part of me thankfully still made friends that were real. I look back now and realize that for all or our flaws, those friends were some of the truest friends anyone could ever have. In all my travels around the world, only on a few occasions have I come close to making those kinds of friends again. I was fortunate enough to see my Aunt Vicki, who inspired me to read, my cousin Robert, whom I always loved and respected (yes robert its true) for having his funky sense of humor and upbeat nature and love of comic books, and John Douglas, who never fails to impress me with how much in spirit he grows each time we meet. We shared many of our good memories and some of our bad ones, but I think in the end, our time together was to short. That is how you know its a true friend. When your left regretting you dont have more time to spend with them. I know in part, the mystery of my long disappearance was explained, and in some senses a door did close, though I think that door needs to have a wedge in just to make sure it doesnt shut all the way.
In the end my visit was to short, and despite my many health issues due to my MS acting up, I would go back in a heart beat. Coincidentally, going back to Indiana helped me finish repairing the damage I did to my most important relationship, My relationship with my parents. Mom and Dad you will always be the best people I know, and I will always strive to be more like you. I hope in part, someday, maybe my children will do the same.
I was also able to close another door once I got home. I had one other great heart break, and that was with a girl named Emily Wonnacott. My revelation about my split with Jennifer made me reexamine that part of my life as well. Emily was another apple pie girl, smart and pretty, and very positive. I again tryed to smother her by clinging because I was in another uncertain place in my life. We were together almost 4 years, and I honestly realize now that her only crime was not kicking me to the curb earlier. She was driven to become a veternarian, or aquatic vet, and really make a difference in the world, but I was selfish, and the more she shot for her dreams the more I tried to force her into giving them up to be with me. I realize that alot of this was because I had cut off my connection with my parents, and needed some source of happiness because I was so very empty. We didnt split up so much as we just stopped talking, largely due to the fact that I was terrible with my money at the time, and did not take care of myself instead living in denial of my responsibilities. In short, Emily, Thank you for showing me the true meaning of compassion and patience, I now know you TRULY tried to give me a chance to be a better man, but I was to busy wallowing in self pity at the time to deserve it. I really hope whereever you are in life, that it is wonderful and that you made some of the dreams come true.
I sit behind this keyboard, a little teary eyed, a little tired, but quite frankly a little free. Finally I feel the weight of my own self inflicted guilt life off my shoulders. I kind of came up with a mantra if you will of things to tell myself on a daily basis.
1) Cant is not a option, can is the only possibility
2) Our past does not make our present
3) Every day you wake up is a day worth living
4) No matter how bad the day may seem, at some point it will always get better
5) The best part about moving forward is stopping to look behind every now and again and appreciating how far you have come
6) Sometimes, you just need to close the door
Until next time,
Keep your chin up