One of the things about getting older is learning to treasure what you have when you have it. That day. That hour. That moment.
As we get older, one of the most poignant losses is being able to go home.
The places that have been our homes have been sold, moved away from, burnt down, changed beyond recognition. They no longer contain the people who loved us or any traces of our ever having been in them.
You can't go home again.
We all know this at some point in our lives, and yet we really never get over that particular heartache.
Unless we get Alzheimer's of course, may God forbid it. Bad as that would be, it may offer it's own comforts, should it give us the opportunity to return to our home, if only in our mind.
Which brings me to the point of this post and lovely song.
I have a friend who is blessed to still have her family home that she can visit. It is true, her parent's are no longer in residence, but to be able to sit in her mother's kitchen, to look at the books her dad was reading, is still very, very good.
She came home and I drove to see her.
I drove this road.
The farmers have already been in the fields. Don't you just love farmers?
This road that I have driven since I was 19 years old.
This road is long and indeed winding.
I have grown to respect the potholes.
I used to drive it at 60 or 65, except up hills and around corners, for fear of farm machinery.
I am certain it used to be in better shape.
But, then ,so did I.
Now, in the last 3 years, I have noticed that I top out at about 40. Not out of fear of anything whatsoever, but just to enjoy the memories. The scenery isn't bad either.
I look like I'm driving somewhere on purpose but really I'm many years away.
I'm remembering when we used to drive it in our little hatch back cheapy cars, remembered chiefly for what color they were instead of what model. We could push those cars by ourselves for quite a ways when we ran out of gas. We were tan and our hair was mercilessly whipped around and snarled from having the windows down. Our sunglasses were actually picked out then, and we were willing to pay more than $1 for them. Our hair was big and permed.
The best times are always when you are the only car on the road.
Between 3 and 4 in the morning is the best time for this to happen.
Some things never change, thank God. Just sayin'.
There are family cemeteries. One is on the left here.
So many trips have I made down this road. Trips as a teenager, in the wee small hours of the morning, to be met by my friend's mother, and harangued for coming in (staying out?) so late (early?). It is a testament to your age when you can look back lovingly at being yelled at by any mother, whether your own or someone else's, with fondness.
May you be so lucky, and live so long.
Trips as a mother with my babies, because any mother who cares enough to harangue you for being out and about "at all hours of the day and night, smelling like cigarettes and alcohol! I know what you girls have been doing. I wasn't born yesterday, you know!!" will not rest until you bring your babies for her inspection.
So I drove this road then too.
And then, once I was considered an adult, (notice I did not say "once I was grown up") I basked in the glow of the pride she took in me. (Then. After I had straightened up). And her smile is still there, in her house, for me.
Over the years there have been additional trips. Trips for weddings on nights with huge, full moons. Trips for funerals, with brazen, sunlit fields standing sentinel in the afternoons.
I know these roads like I grew up on them.
In some ways, I did.
I rarely go past a certain point on this road, because this home is the one that has always held the people I love. I have never had any reason but that house to drive this long and winding road at all.
In the last few years I have been haunted by the thought that the day will come when this house will no longer by my destination.
Either I will drive past this house or I will not drive down this road ever again. I don't think I will want to see the changes that will come, as changes always must. I think I might want to keep it the same in my memory.
I am old enough to know that this is just a natural part of life. It comes to us all if we live very long at all. We do not have to like it, but we do have to accept it. In this, we have no choice.
I am extremely aware of the privilege and the pleasure that driving this road has always been for me, and remains to be still.
I am treasuring every moment of it, right there in the moment. I am trying to fix in my mind how good that feeling is, that going home feeling, while I still can. I have learned not to take things for granted, to mindfully be grateful for having them.
My friend's mother is in heaven now, but I know she is with me in that car, in my memories and in the anticipation of being around things that are the same.
The forks are still in the same drawer, and I can get a glass of water without looking at the cabinets before opening them. Nothing has changed much, and how wonderful that is to me.
I still see my friend's mother in her kitchen, laughing. I hear the echo of that laugh in every single one of her daughters.
I still see her father, sitting in the driveway, sipping on his own beer and looking at the place where the "other house" sat. That spot has been empty for years, but not to him.
That house was his home once, for many years, and while I never saw it standing, I listened to every story he told me about it and
I see it too. In it, he was young. They had their babies in that house.
So if you see a lady driving slowly along and you notice her wiping tears away, don't be sad.
Because she is not.
She is just lucky enough to have known them.
She is so very grateful, and even joyful, to be there, to be driving that road, and to be headed to that house, and to her friend who waits for her there.
Always, and through everything in her life, right up to this point, including the haranguing.
"That's where the old house was, right over there......."