To feel at home, stay at home.
Suitcase (photo: Megan, flickr)
Today - six days after I arrived home - I finally finished unpacking my suitcase. It's hard to say why it took me so long. I took most of the clothes out as soon as I got home. However, I waited until today to finish unpacking the socks, miscellaneous toiletries, books, and other items. Partly, I've been busy and partly I've been tired. I've also been distracted and discouraged by all that needs to be done after two months spent away from home: appointments to make, bills to pay, friends to phone or email, and a very messy house to attend to. To be honest, after the joy of being at home faded, the doldrums set in. Living in two houses, with two families, in two places several thousand miles apart is disorienting and frustrating. What it comes down to is the fact that no one can be two places at once, especially when those places are on opposite sides of the continent. My solution, if you can call it that, is to go to my parents when there is a crisis and stay a few weeks or a month. This time I was there two months minus a day. This pattern began in 2010, when my son got old enough to be on his own more often. Now, two years later, it's beginning to take a toll on our finances and our family.
Since I've been dividing my time between Michigan and Vancouver, my Vancouver home has filled unfinished projects, unread books, stacks of paper, and general clutter. In Michigan, this isn't as big of a problem because I share the house with my neatnik father who can't bear to see anything out of place and is prone to throwing things away. The week before I left, for example, I set some grapes in a strainer, rinsed them, and left them to drain while I went upstairs to get something. While I was away - only a matter of minutes - my father saw the grapes, didn't think they looked good enough to eat, and threw them away. I had been planning to salvage the best grapes to put into a fruit salad. Oh, well. (photo: Kay Latham, flickr)
When I get home to Vancouver, I have sometimes discovered things sitting exactly where I left them weeks or months before. At times like that, it's hard to feel like I live anywhere. One day I'm in Michigan and it's sunny and 55 degrees; the next day I'm in Vancouver and it's 35 degrees and raining. One day I'm in the Eastern Time Zone, the next the Pacific Time Zone. In Michigan, cars rule the built environment; in Vancouver buses and pedestrians are everywhere. During my recent stay in Michigan, my mother was in a rehab center and my father was very quiet, unless he got annoyed at something or couldn't hear what I said in response to a question shouted up the stairs. In Vancouver, I have a teenaged son who is often on the computer while the television plays in the background, and may be talking on Skype, his cellphone, or our land line. Our cat clamors for attention, friends drop by, and there are more family chores to complete. Some days I just want to stay in bed and sleep because it's all a bit too much. But, for now, it's hard to see an alternative that is both workable and affordable.
How do you juggle caring for aging parents and your own family?
Meanwhile, I'm particularly enjoying one of the new songs we're rehearsing in choir: Nearly Midnight, by Canadian singer-songwriter David Francey. It's a lovely song about someone coming home late at night. Coming home, those two words have a lovely sound and now if I could only feel at home, all would be well.