Starting a journey is typically exhilarating, but ending one can be bittersweet. The trip I took recently involved an airline flight, but the journey was transcendent.
My mother turned 90 in November, and every member of the three generations who came after her attended the celebration in North Carolina. The turnout for her party, held at the church we joined almost 50 years ago, was gratifying considering that her attendance has been sporadic in recent years.
My wife stayed at a hotel with our daughter and her 4-year-old son, because her husband needed to stay in Texas due to an untimely plumbing emergency. Otherwise, my wife would have been with me at Mom’s house.
I was two weeks away from my first day at Howard Payne when my parents relocated there from New Mexico. If Mom can remain in her house until August, she will have been there 50 years.
It’s where my younger sister grew up, but my childhood memories are tied to other homes my parents owned during my first 18 years. Still, the bedroom furniture has been mine since elementary school. I “lived” there one summer during college, and it’s been the “home” to which I’ve returned throughout adulthood.
After our marriage, my wife and I were assigned a room with a full-size bed whenever we visited. “My” room had a twin bed, and Mom slept there after Dad died in 1985.
Our son took “my” room for this trip. He had to return to Texas after the party, so “my” room was vacant. With Mom sleeping downstairs, and my wife at the hotel, I walked across the hall from the master bedroom with its full-size bed, and stepped back in time.
My desk and dresser drawers are now filled mostly with my parents’ personal business papers, cancelled checks, and wrapping paper. I perused a richly-bound presentation book holding dozens of letters from Dad’s employees and co-workers when he retired 30 years ago. It was almost hidden under an old pair of my paisley pajamas, neatly folded and pressed. The design and slender size suggested I had worn them during high school.
However, two drawers still held my stuff — mostly undisturbed after almost half a century. I found a scholarship offer dated January 1968 from a recruiter at a Tennessee college I never considered attending. There was a student microscope in a wooden container. A Brownie Starmite camera I got for Christmas in the 1960s was securely stored in its original box. I browsed through a surprisingly relevant “Mad” magazine from January 1969. Other keepsakes and memories kept unfolding.
The hour was late, and I had a plane to catch the next morning. I stretched out on a bed so comfortable and familiar. I couldn’t remember the last time I slept there.
It’s the place where, as a young adult, I sleeplessly wrestled with major decisions in life — matters involving goals, jobs, and marriage. Choices I made there led me to the place I find myself today. And when Mom does move out — probably sooner than later — this sanctuary will no longer be available to me.
Thus, I found myself contemplating another chapter in life’s journey. But surrounded by familiar furnishings and snuggled in that comfy bed, I realized that while major decisions indeed loom, none had to be made right now. I was at peace, and sleep came easily.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.