Thursday I packed up the kids and the dog and headed north...it was time for a visit to Dad's place. I hadn't seen him since March when he stopped here on his way back home after "wintering" in California. I hadn't been here to his house since October.
Over 1/2 of a year since I had been here....
Walking in the door it hit me...Mom isn't here and she's not going to be. But...she's everywhere here. I'm not sure if that is comforting or uncomfortable, honestly.
Some moments it's comforting...I see her things, the stuff she bought to decorate this house...she's here. The familiar-ness of it is comforting. Sometimes.
Then there's the uncomfortable moments. Her things...her decor. It's uncomfortable because she's not here and those things are a constant reminder that she is not coming back. Doing the things that we did with her...taking a golf cart ride, treating the kids to ice cream, going to the old button factory to look for shells with the button popped out....those things again remind me that she's gone. Gone.
Then I see the changes in the house. Nothing huge, but small changes that my Dad has made since losing his mate on 7/4/09. Her closets are empty...her things are gone from underneath the sink. The deck boxes have flowers, but every time I glance at them I know she's up there bitching about how pitiful they look! The baskets around the yard are the same...planted, but so sparsely that I'm sure she's disgusted.
Then I see the changes in my Dad. In a little over 2 weeks he's going to be 80 years old. He normally gets around pretty well and can do most things for himself.
This time it's different. His leg is bothering him...he's been seeing a chiro, but nothing is really working. It seems to be a muscular issue, but the treatments aren't helping and he's sitting more and more. Even sitting is painful. Watching that is painful.
Dad loves being on the water. But now Dad can't get down to the beach to take his boat out. And, if he CAN get down there, he can't tilt the motor up and out of the water once he gets back to shore. My brother found a guy that can put an automatic trim on the motor to lift it out. I think we've talked Dad into getting that done so that he can enjoy his boat again...that is, on the days that his leg isn't bothering him too bad to get down there.
I want to go home. I like being blissfully ignorant and talking to him and thinking everything is A-OK. I don't like coming here and feeling the emptiness of the house and seeing him struggle. I wonder at this point if he's just struggling to stay alive to spare John, Jeff, Dave, and I anymore loss so soon.
And then, in the midst of all of this, it is Memorial Day weekend. A time to remember those who are no longer here, and especially those who served and lost their lives in combat. I haven't seen John since December. Being here reminded me once again how painfully broken he is. He has Schuyler's stuff (medals, awards, etc) in one spot now. The room is a beautiful tribute, but also a harsh reminder of that loss. Seeing everything and seeing the pain in John's eyes pulls up memories and snips of time during those days and weeks after Schuyler's death. I watch Amber struggle to keep Sky's memory alive and make sure nobody in Kewanee forgets. I see John tear up as he sees the flags, medals, pins, and countless other military memorabilia.
I went to the cemetery while I was in Kewanee. It was just Avery and I. We went and I sat on Sky's bench. It's still a shrine of sorts...people leave all kinds of stuff there...there were sunglasses, quarters, fishing lures, etc. I wonder what he'd be like now...would he be thinking about going back for a 3rd tour, or would he be settling into some semblance of a normal life?
That's what I feel on this visit.
I love my family and I'm so glad that I can come and visit, but this one has been difficult. I feel the losses so more acutely when I'm here, surrounded by the constant reminders. I feel the losses daily at home, but the feelings are so much more intense and the memories flashing through my mind so much more vivid being here.
This trip has reaffirmed what I've thought all along since Schuyler died...
...nothing will ever be the same...