Make Yourself at Home

January 6, 2013

My parents' home, late 2008.
My parents’ home, late 2008.

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?”

17 People reacted on this

    1. Oh, Erik, I’m so sorry to hear about your Great-Grandfather. It’s hard to deal with.

      Glad you subscribed to The Brain of a Jedi!

  1. What a moving post, Beth. Prayers continue for Renn. I feel at home when I can touch Cupcake. If she’s there, I know I’m “home”, even if we’re in a hotel. I remember when my sister was in the hospital, I kept bringing her videos of our dog (Smoki, at the time), I guess, subconsciously trying to make her feel at home.
    🙁

    1. Thanks so much, Genevieve. I can understand Cupcake making a place feel like home for you. Thank you for sharing the story about your sister. *hugs*

  2. Beth, you are such a good friend to Renn, Bethany, and all of us. What a touching post. This really put things into perspective for me. All I can say is, thank you.

  3. lovely post, Beth, very touching. My dad passed in ’05. In Jan. It’s still hard but we celebrate his memory by…going to the local casino!!! He loved to gamble. So I started this way to “spend” a day with him. Often we win $100 or so. Each of us gets only a $20 to spend. Anyone else have a nice way to remember a loved one?

  4. Very moving post, Beth. You reminded me that my father passed three years ago next week. I believe in the beginning it’s good to have someone stir your memory, so you can release some of the sadness and hold on to good memories. That’s why my brother’s gift of 8 hrs worth of 8 mm my father took of the four of us growing up were so important to me. I saw home as I remembered it (not what it looks like today) — that part always lives in our heart and minds. I forgot how attractive my parents were. It was heartwarming to have it all captured permanently on DVD.

    1. My dad died on the 15th of January 2011 — so next week will be a week of memories for both of us. The gift your brother gave you is priceless. How wonderful to have that to look at again and again.

  5. Such a thoughtful, moving post, Beth. You’re making me cry, so if I make more typos than usual it’s because I can’t see (and because of the claw :)) I, too, have Renn and Bethany on my mind, and as a dyed-in-the-wool homebody, my heart aches for anyone who can’t be home when they want to be, or feels as your dad did that he couldn’t remember his home. Trite but true, home is where the heart is.

    1. Thank you so much, Susanna. There have definitely been some tears here, too. I’m very much a homebody as well, as were both my parents, so it was heartbreaking for me, and for Dad, when he realized he’d forgotten he had a home.

      Home is, indeed, where the heart is.

  6. This post really hits home with me on some different levels. I have spent a lot of time with kids in hospitals. Sometimes it’s their 1st time in such a place and they are scared and unhappy. But sometimes the hospital is more home than “home” is. Those are the kids that fascinate me. The kids and their families who spend all their days in hospitals with doctors. The doctors become part of the family. Amazing adaptability!
    And then from another view — when I was a pup, I lived with my family and had a great home and then had to go off to “college” to learn to be a guide dog. Wow! I didn’t know what happened! The Mom Person just left me! But I knew that she’d be back!! And here we are! Home. The word has a lot of meanings.
    Sorry for the ramblings! I guess you touched a nerve for me! Thanks for sharing! I’ll be thinking of Ren

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