What I Miss About Home

What I Miss About Home

Reflections of nostalgia I didn't think I'd feel.

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What I miss about home is everything I thought I wouldn't. Even though I was lonely at home, now I miss the feeling of being alone. There is nowhere I can go anymore where I can just go and sit, or just go and cry, without having the fear that someone will walk in on me. I used to go to bed at night and be completely encapsulated: under covers, behind a locked door. Nothing could bother me there; all the day's troubles stopped uncertainly at the threshold and turned shamefully away. That security, that safety, that absolute peace, is never found away from home.

What I miss about home is the security of my family, the security of having them there for every day and everyday trials. I miss my mother's home office, the one I'd come to in tears or in joy. I miss sitting on the guest bed and recounting my day, distracting her from her work just to get a few laughs. When I'm sad I think of those light gray walls, the picture of swans on the wall that I always thought was a painting. I think of the sound my mother's desk chair makes when she leans back in it. I think of the photos she hung of my brother and me at our old house, and of how the past gave me comfort when the present wasn't going right.

What I miss about home is that here I don't have my mother's office to run to after class or to seek when I'm on the brink of tears. She can listen to my voice on the phone but can no longer see my face; she can no longer tell what pains or what joys me. I can tell her everything is okay, but if she can't see the expression behind my eyes, she'll never know whether it is.

What I miss about home are the nights. Falling asleep with the dog on the couch while my mother plays HGTV too loud on the TV. My father smoking a cigar outside under a smoky sky, my brother giving me a hard time for not putting the football game on. I miss heating up the orange tea kettle and pouring peppermint tea—lemon for my mother, raspberry for my brother—and watching my dad scoop himself a cup of vanilla ice cream. I miss the comfort of laughter, of voices from afar, of never wanting to go upstairs and wake up to the reality of day.

What I miss about home is the open road, the colors of the sunset reflecting brightly in my rearview mirrors. I miss the sound of Billy Joel crackling through my blown-out speakers, the feeling of the wind whipping across my face in the summer. I miss the feeling of flying, of running away at 60 miles per hour. I miss friends in the car, laughing and singing too loud, driving a little too recklessly at twelve in the morning. I miss the escape of my Highlander, of being able to cry or scream or smile without anyone hearing me. No one can guess what my life is all about because I am already moving past them. I miss moving alone, away from the people I always bump into on the subway.

What I miss about home is my guitar, singing in the shower when no one is home. I miss being able to write late at night in my bed, dreaming about everything that waited for me beyond my walls, beyond the sidewalks of my small town, never dreaming that I would dream of returning to that slow, liminal, angsty state we call growing up. I miss Saturday mornings, talking to my parents over coffee and pancakes about college or vacations, anything that wasn't the present. I miss that feeling of creativity that comes from discussing the future, especially now that I am living that future.

What I miss about home is the yearning for everything I have now, the romanticization of the life I am living. I miss the solitude and silence I once scorned, but it's nice to have that to go back to. It's nice that I miss a place I used to hate; nice that the place I was once trying to escape is now my escape.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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A Few Birthday Thoughts

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

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So, it is looking like I am about to leave my teenage years behind. I think that I want to reflect back on this time in my life and think about what I want to keep with me in my twenties and maybe some things I can let go. My teenage years have been full of love from my family and friends; hard work to make good grades in school and creating art. I developed several great friendships that I have held on to across the miles even though I went to college 14 hours away from our previous home. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made in college as well.

It seems like friends you make in your childhood and younger years can really stand the test of time. Maybe it is because when you became friends you were truly who you were. Everyone was genuine and didn't put up walls to protect themselves. You got to know someone on a deeper more personal level more quickly than if you had met later in life. I also think we laughed even more as children and that always creates good memories to look back on. So I think in my twenties I will try to hang on to the "childish" way of making friends. I will try to show my true self and will accept them for who they are, and we will laugh....a lot.

I think a good thing to let go of is always trying to make dead-end relationships work. When we were children on the playground and we tried to play a game together or jump rope and it just wasn't working, we would run off and find someone else. It was easy. It was just natural. Now sometimes I find myself trying to stay in a relationship by being overly nice, giving gifts, trying to find what pushes the persons "good" buttons. I might spend so much time trying to figure this person out that I leave out more solid relationships that are worth my time. So in my twenties, I will try to be more realistic about who to spend my time on. Some people are just never going to stand the test of time. I can continue to be cordial but won't let them rule my time and thought life.

As children, we loved our parents and siblings and would show love to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe it was hugs, pictures on the fridge, good night kisses, playing games, or just quality time spent together as a family. Starting my twenties, I am mature enough to realize the value of these people in my life. Thankfully, I have always known this. I was never the type that was embarrassed if someone saw me walking with my Mom or Dad or being dropped off in the Mom Van somewhere. I always knew these people loved me more than anyone else I was about to meet. But in my twenties, I plan to keep up with my family even when I am eight hours away from them. We are never too old to need the love of family.

As weird as it is to say goodbye to my teenage years, it's honestly helped me to soak in the precious moments of everyday life and treasure them even more. Every year when birthdays come around, it always serves as a reminder how quickly the days, months, and years fly by. I think that has been one difficult part of this birthday season. It's hard to say goodbye to the past, without a clear map of the future. But, I must remind myself that this is why growing up is a beautiful thing- as we live life and experience new things, we are better prepared for what the future may hold. Everything that I have experienced in my 20 years has served an important purpose- to make me into the person I am supposed to become. Yes, life is always changing and so am I... and change can be hard. Very hard. But one thing to remember is God is always constant. He will never change. No matter what number is on your birthday cake, He is always there...the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock that we will always be able to cling to. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Even if we don't know what's in His plans for us in the coming year, it's important to make Him a part of our plans. Rather than worry about change, let's embrace it all- the good and the bad- and look to the Lord to see how He will guide and shape us.

Teenage years- the time has come. I must say goodbye to you now. But, you will never be forgotten. I will hold your memories in my heart forever. Twenties- I am excited for all that awaits me.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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