We all know what it’s like to want to go home. I’m at work and I want to go home. I’m on my dream vacation (I wish) and I want to go home. I’m out running errands and I just want to go home. And when you have been moved out of your your home by your own children and into one that is not your home, you are eventually going to say it.
“I am tired of being here,” lamented my mother this past Friday.
“You are? What would you like to do about this?” I asked.
“I want to go home.”
I said nothing in reply. All I could hear was my shallow breathing as I stood in the doorway of her room in the assisted living center. She said her truth and then stared at me, waiting for my reply. But I became mute. Unusual for her, for she loves to fill up silence with chatter, Mom said nothing to my non-response.
For what seemed like an eternity, we did not speak. We just looked intently at each other’s forlorn faces. Then, after what seemed like ten minutes but probably was only one, we changed the subject with an action instead of words. She grabbed her walker and left the room. I locked the door behind me and followed her down the corridor. As we approached the elevator she announced, “Let’s go. I need to get outta here.”
So we left. We got outta there. I drove us to T.J.Maxx where we could amble up and down its aisles in our stupor.
It’s been five days. I still sit in the emotional aftereffect of this short conversation between my mother and me. I write this post from a raw place. I have been warned to not write here on this blog from too many “raw places”. Today I am going to ignore this warning. Something tells me I will ignore this warning a lot. Oh dear.
Today I will not write from a “looking back perspective” except to say that in the last two years my mother has never expressed a desire to go home. She did not say it on the day that my siblings and I moved her away from home and into assisted living. She never mentioned it while imprisoned in what she called the hell-hole of rehab. Because my mother loved her home and because we literally tore her away from it, my siblings and I have been quite surprised by the fact that Mom rarely talks about her last home. In fact, she often remarks about “how great she has it” or “how beautiful this place is” or “how lucky she is to be here.”
And yet, just this past Friday, she said with a simple sadness and a kind of tiredness:
After she said it, we changed the subject and “got outta there”. Why? I believe it is because we experienced a uncertain kind of knowing, a terrain we hadn’t yet navigated together. Mom and I have never really had a close, intimate relationship. But in that moment, you could have cut the intimacy with a knife. It was a thick, rich, firm intimacy, a type of knowing we have rarely experienced. Mom has never been one to intuit my thoughts. But in that moment I sensed she did. While my lips spoke not a word, my internal voice was screaming.
“So do I Mom! I want to go home too! DO YOU HEAR ME?!? I want to go home too!” [I often scream at others in my head.]
We felt awkward in this moment. We did not know what to do with the intimacy, the knowing. But we did know that saying anything other than nothing would have covered up a gift that was being unwrapped. So we changed the subject and “got outta there.” Some might say we went into denial. I say we honored the sacredness of a moment and chose to build an altar, to set out our stones of remembrance in the aisles of T.J.Maxx.
In that moment, my mother knew me and I knew her. Yes, Mom and I are on our own unique journeys. And yet, we both, at the same time, want to go home. At its basic level, Mom wants to move back to her beautiful home, the place where she was free to come and go. And me? I want to move back to my figurative home, the one where I too felt free. I deeply miss the time where I was not overseeing every detail of Mom’s life, having to be what I call myself in a previous post — The Mean One.
Yet (and this is a very big YET), I also think Mom and I spoke to each other a deeper longing, a more secure home. We spoke about our rooted hope. This was NOT about what we hope FOR. Instead we spoke about what we want to put our hope IN.
Am I making any sense? I’m struggling here, which is why I ask. At the risk of sounding like a lecturer and in my desire to simply share our story, let me say all this in another way. In that moment when Mom said, “I want to go home,” she did want to literally “go home”. Yes, she hoped FOR that. Yet, she was speaking more about what she wants to put her hope IN. It is certainly good and right to hope FOR outcomes. There is nothing wrong with saying “I hope my cancer goes away” or “I hope my child graduates from high school” or “I hope to stop having Alzheimer’s.”
We should never stop believing that healing, restoration and renewal can happen. In fact, Mom and I plan to continue to advocate for those inflicted with Alzheimer’s. I will ALWAYS hope FOR a cure. And I will hope FOR more aid to be given to caregivers. But what Mom and I want on a deeper level is what I call a rooted hope. This kind of hope acknowledges and honors what we hope FOR while at the same time knowing firmly that there is something/someone that will ultimately and finally set all this gobbledygook straight! My sister died of cancer/suicide. On that very day, I did NOT get what I hoped FOR. And boy was I mad and very VERY sad. But in that loss I have learned that I do not have to stop hoping because the one IN whom I put my hope is not done yet. This certainly doesn’t answer all my questions about life. But it does answer one.
And the one it answers is this: IN what (or in whom) do I put my hope? I get to choose. You get to choose. And I want to dialogue about our choices. I do!
But, here is where our story may get dicey for some who are reading. I do have a Christian worldview. So does Mom. But not all reading here may. We need to stop apologizing for our worldviews. We need to welcome each other. Even if our world views are worlds apart, we need to stop, dialogue and listen to one another. Mom and I don’t believe in cramming our beliefs down anyone’s throat. Yes, both Mom and I do believe in the historical reliability of the Gospels, and of the whole of scripture (my words more than hers). And yes, we choose to put our hope in what we believe is someone who is certain, someone whose life and story is true (in our humble opinion) and that someone is Jesus Christ.
Yikes! Call us crazy, but please know we just want to share our story for the purpose of advocating for those inflicted by Alzheimer’s. We can’t tell our story divorced from our worldview. Please know we are just wanting to be us: Mom and Laura. We realize our story is small, but we think it is a story found in a grander narrative. All people are loved by God, all of us decided to be lost and God is now reaching out to all people so they might be found again in him. Our story is a story about going home.
In that moment when Mom said, “I want to go home.” I believe she was speaking about Christ, the One in whom she has chosen to give her life. My mother took me every week to church. She bought me my Catholic school uniforms and taught me the sign of the cross. My mother showed me the love of Jesus when she defended me against my father’s tirades. As much as she struggled to SHOW me love in all the ways I needed, she was Jesus to me. She showed me the path towards home. We are all journeying away from despair, and towards home. Mine and my mother’s home is in Christ.
Robert Benson expresses this so well in his book, Between The Dreaming And The Coming True:
“Until there is a good-bye, there is no hello.
Until there is a journey away, there is no coming home.”
“Laura, I want to go home.”
“Me too Mom. Me too.”