Some say you can’t go home again. But all my life I have returned and returned.
I grew up in rural Ohio near Cincinnati and left the area when I was thirty-one. Southwestern Ohio is an extraordinary place of natural beauty with many rivers, lakes and and rolling hills.
My husband and I met at a local college, connecting in all sorts of ways: in studies, in opportunities for community service, in organizing efforts for civil rights and peace, and in day-to-day participation in a diverse student body. Wilmington College is a small Quaker school and both of us were in a work-study program to help meet the cost of our tuition. We began our relationship when I was a freshman, but decided to marry when I was a junior and Lewis was a senior about to graduate.
After our marriage we soon transitioned to live back in Cincinnati where both of us had lived and worked in our teen years. Before long, we were in the thick of life of an urban landscape: trips to parks, connections with neighborhood organizations, the ups and downs of having all kinds of neighbors next door. Fossil collecting, skiing, canoeing, and river boating were some of our favorite destinations and pastimes. In the winters we frequented the beaches of Florida.
We had no children yet to keep us at home and carrying the responsibilities of parenting–so we could go on short and long vacations up and down the East Coast, especially the seaports and small towns of New England, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
After our first son was born I took a job in a nearby small city to work as the director of the Child Welfare agency there. However, the position was a political nightmare and I decided after being there only a year to resign and that is how we happened to move on to West Virginia which was commuting distance away from my husband’s job in a mental health center.
We soon made many friends with people our own age and became connoisseurs of Appalachian life and traditions. We grew to love the mountains, lakes and rivers around us and great variety of natural places of unique beauty. We discovered the best areas for camping and skiing and hiking and the festival life of West Virginia’s many small towns.
When the local economy faltered in the late 1980’s we moved on to the East Coast where we could count on a better economy and provide our children advantages of the nation’s capitol area.
We lived together in Southern Maryland the next twenty-one years and raised our sons here. They each have stayed in the area and we relish our times of extended family life.
Over the many moves and years we kept very close to family and friends back in the Cincinnati area and when my husband Lewis died last year, they immediately came here to be near and offered their comfort and support. Just weeks after Lewis’ death I learned that my long life friend Carol, one who had come to Maryland to be by my side at the time of Lewis’ death, had been diagnosed with the early stage of in situ breast cancer.
After months of deliberation and use of naturopathic methods Carol finally undertook a surgical alternative and began care in a National Cancer Treatment Center program. She had surgery and immediately thereafter had a very close call with an onset of severe pneumonia. It was a touch and go experience for her as she turned her professional life upside down to adjust to the demands of her rigorous medical routine.
In May we decided together that it was time for me to pay her a visit. We went over many possible choices of timing and even changed the “plan” once to postpone my trip to Memorial Day weekend. It happens that Lewis died on Memorial Day, so driving on that weekend at the time of the first anniversary of his death became a definite challenge for me in every possible way.
The distance is five hundred and fifty miles each way, and the roadways home take me near the places Lewis and I lived together in Ohio and West Virginia. On the route home, I wept and kept driving more than once. I even got a speeding ticket in rural southeast Ohio.
Finally, I arrived safely at Carol’s in time to spend a quiet evening together, to share our stories and fears, and to laugh together about the craziness of our lives. We went to see Robin Hood at her local theater and had dinner at a favorite Mexican eatery.
We connected and enjoyed the opportunity to be close and cherish our time together. She had just had a chemo injection days before my visit and I was amazed and heartened to see how good she looked and the sparkle that stays in her eyes.
I took some three brief side trips, including a visit with friend of mine in West Virginia who was disabled from an aneurism, another to the home of a ninety-four year old minister and friend of our family who lives in the town where Lewis and I were married, a brief visit with my late husband’s ninety-two year old mother, and finally a visit to the grave of my parents.
At another point in my journey I diverted my course a few miles to drive through the town where Lewis and I lived when our oldest son was a toddler. Our home was in the quaint downtown area and on the Register of Historic Homes, and having left it so suddently I guess made this driveby a quite painful experience because of a flood of old but fragrant memories: how hard we worked together to fix up the place, the beautiful small park where we took our son to swing and an anxious moment when he wondered out the front door and down the street around the block and enter an ice cream shop where he was brought home by a kind neighbor.
I took a picture of it now in all its current care and beauty and thought for a long time about our life in Chillicothe and how it had become a turning point in our lives and led us to move to West Virginia.
Lewis’ work was a commuting distance away and just across the river from West Virginia and I jumped at a chance to work with the mental health center in nearby Huntington. That ended up being a good choice.
We hopscotched the Ohio river in our daily lives for a number of years before we moved on to Elkins, West Virginia our last home before we settled permanently here in Maryland.
Memorial Day weekend in Ohio is always, weather permitting, a time to plant the summer crops. The farmers are up and down the roads with their implements often taking space in the lanes in both direction. Farm folks never hurry or fuss at these farmers because we know they are dealing with pressures of planting and have to move when they can and the weather permits. I love to see them do their work and couldn’t help but capture these reluctant farmer road hogs in action.
The final photo is taken as I crossed the Little Miami River. I stopped on the bridge and took several shots and chatted with the couples as they came under the bridge. I told them that when my husband and I were in our twenties we had spent many wonderful days there. Their response: “It is a great day, today, so you ought to get a canoe!”
They are right. I need to move on, to put my canoe in the water and enjoy what is left of my life’s brief days. Grief takes its toll, days and nights continue their ebb and flow in my life, and I am left to move forward. I will know that I can go it alone and I can go back to Ohio whenever I need to feel the comfort of home.