In his poem "Death of the Hired Man," Robert Frost says, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." But that makes home merely a place of obligation, and a home is SO much more than that. A home is a sanctuary where you are wanted and are cherished, a place where you belong.
Regular readers of my blog know that I did not have a home when I was a child. I lived in a house, but it was only a building, not a home. My grandparents' houses were places of sanctuary, where I felt safe, but they did not quite make it into the home category.
My first hint of a home came with my high school boyfriend's family. The Millers cared about me, and I cared about them. They even wanted me to talk at dinner, and I did not have to fear being hit or having my head slammed into the wall. That was a new experience for me, and I did not know how to speak freely. Jim, my boyfriend's dad, teasingly told me that I could not come to dinner again unless I talked, so I squeaked out something, enough to get invited many more times. During those dinners, I felt as if I belonged, and it was a heady experience.
My next taste of home came with Mom Woosley. Her son and I danced for awhile with a love that ultimately became a lifelong friendship, and Mom Woosley became the mother I never had. She loved me unconditionally, and I was always wanted and cherished in her home. I was the daughter she did not have, and while I knew that I belonged in her arms and her heart, I always knew I was a guest in her home, a welcome one, to be sure, but, nonetheless, a guest.
Another glimmer of home came with my roommates Cath and Irma. We three worked in a factory together in our early 20's, and somehow we found each other and became roommates. We lived together almost four years, and we formed a temporary family bond. We loved each other, and, for awhile, we belonged together in our homey apartment, but we were really just marking time until we each got married and went our separate ways, and we knew it.
My brief, first marriage was a mistake, but a mistake that I do not regret, for it led me to my life today. Sadly, my first husband and I did not have one moment when we felt at home with each other. But we figured this out quickly, realized we should not have married but just been friends, and parted amiably, so amiably that my future children called him Uncle Mitch.
Then in 1980, Gordon and I fell in love. The first weekend we went away together I felt something I had never felt before--I felt like I belonged with Gordon and he with me, felt like I had known him forever. Everything was easy; it was as if we were the missing puzzle piece in each other's life. Slowly but surely, we made a home together, a home where we could be ourselves at all times and feel we were wanted and cherished by each other, a home where we belonged.
Our love produced four very wanted and deeply cherished children, and our home was filled with love, joy, and laughter for many, many years. At long last, I had my home, we had our home, and I was grateful every minute for it; I never took it for granted. We six belonged together.
The fascinating thing about a home is that it can withstand the slings and arrows of the outside world because the love inside is armor for the home. It is when the slings and arrows come from the inside that a home can crumble because you cannot have armor on the inside to protect you because interior armor would stifle the vulnerability that is necessary for love to exist. We must be vulnerable to experience love in all its simplicity and glory. So, when a home is attacked from the inside and crumbles, it must be rebuilt on the back of broken dreams. That is what happened to our home when dementia and schizophrenia, both relentless and insidious foes, made their appearances. We four mentally well family members had to create a new kind of home, a home that had lost its trusting innocence in the power of love, but a home that still chose love as its core. We four made a new home, a good home, a home where we belonged, but a home tinged with memories of our lost home.
People say that home is where the heart is, but that's a bit too glib. What if your heart is in several places? Now that my children are grown and with partners, my heart is in different places (except for those joyous times when we are all together). Can I belong in three places, or will I always be a guest in their homes, as I was in Mom Woosley's home? Or worse, an interloper? And what of my missing son? Part of my heart is always with him. So where is my home now? Do I have one?
If home is where you belong, where is your home if you don't really belong anywhere anymore? When your spouse is gone, when your house that was your home is sold, when your children are grown and on their own, where is your home then? A question for the ages! It seems that I must broaden my perception of what a home is, or at least what mine shall be, and figure out a new way of belonging.