I’ve had my Dad in my thoughts quite a bit lately. It’s nearly two years since he died. In the two years before his death, he went through so much relating to “home.” In late 2008, at age 95, he had a fall and broke his hip. That propelled him into hospital, two months later to another hospital (briefly), to the same nursing home as Mum for one brief week, then to the nursing home that would be his permanent residence for the rest of his life. His memory had been failing before all this happened, but the effects of anesthetic, morphine, and just the shock of the injury and the abrupt change in his life, meant that the memory loss became much greater. Such things are hard on elderly people.
One of the most difficult times for me was when some memory had returned to him and he said, with his voice breaking in emotion, “I forgot I had a home.” That tore at my heart. Eventually he did remember the apartment where they had lived since 1991, but other memories were hazy, and he didn’t recognize much of the city if we were out, nor did he remember where his home was — he thought it was out at the farm where he had grown up, and where we had lived for my first 16 years. No longer having a home, or a clear memory of it, can really “knock a person for a loop.”
Often, circumstances take people away from their sense of place, whether that’s physical or emotional. This blog post isn’t going to talk about true homelessness, which is another wrenching thing in our society. I just want to talk about the times when our thoughts of home are from a distance.
When we’re on vacation, this is a joyous time and often we “don’t want to go home yet” at the end of it. But there are other times that can be a bit of a struggle. Perhaps a hospital stay takes us away, perhaps renovations make home uninhabitable for a time, perhaps we are transitioning between the old place and the new — perhaps we’ve taken off on a new adventure and are not quite sure where or how we will land.
Renn, a five-year-old whom I’ve mentioned on this blog before, is heading back into hospital today for tests and more tests, as his doctors try to find a way to help him. He is much in my thoughts in this time away that he is enduring. You can read more about his experience on his mom’s blog, The Brain of a Jedi. Others I know are dealing with other situations that take them away from their sense of their own place.
In times like these, the phrase “make yourself at home” comes to have a different meaning. I think it’s important in these times away to try to keep something familiar near at hand and near at heart, to make whatever place you’re in, “home.” It might be a picture of a loved one (or much-loved nature photographs, as with my Dad), it might be a familiar night-time or morning ritual, it might be a special Star Wars blanket, such as Renn is taking with him. Whatever works to make a person at home away from home, that is what is needed.
I wish Renn and his Mom, and others who are dealing with times away, strength and hope and a feeling of home, wherever they are.
How do you “make yourself at home?”