Friday, September 6, 2019

When homesickness hits home

I still remember the departure like it was yesterday.

It was around this time in 1981. I was leaving for my freshman year at Ohio University. My parents were about to experience their first night as empty nesters. 

My buddy’s car had been packed, gassed up, ready to roll. I climbed in and took one last look at the folks, two of the best, most-loving parents any boy could ever hope to have.

They were bawling!

Did I pause to comfort or reassure?

An unfeeling little bastard even then, I told my buddy to floor it. I distinctly remember thinking, “This is the greatest day of my life!”

And it was. The shackles were off. I was embarking on a time of discovery, self-fulfillment and unbroken pursuit of simple human happiness — what kids today call a “gap year.”

Mine’s been a gap life.

Last week the shoe was on the other foot. We took Josie to Saint Vincent where she is studying history. 

If you’re unfamiliar, Saint Vincent is about 4 miles from our home. When the leaves descend we’ll be able to see her dorm room from our back porch.

If you think that’s idyllic, you’re mistaken.

For a sweet girl whose most indelible impression is sunny poise, that little dorm room might as well be on Pluto.

She’s feeling homesick while barely leaving home.

Has it ever happened to you? Ever felt that forlornness over the recollection of something that once was and may never be again?

Homesickness is maybe our most poignant emotion.

It’s indicative of heartfelt appreciation for where you’ve been and uncertainty it can be duplicated anyplace else.

I wish I could assure it can and it will.

Ah, life, so full of sweet soulful suffering.

I asked my older brother if he ever felt homesick in Athens. He began attending there in ’79 and the great times I had visiting him assured I’d go there. Never even considered any place else.

To my surprise, this popular accomplished leader — a bartender and ladies’ man — had been homesick. He felt marooned, out of  place, in over his head.

How did he get through it?

He summoned the world’s greatest drinking buddy.

He summoned Dad!

There’s never been a man better suited for that kind rescue mission — cheering up a sad son in a midwestern college with a party school reputation. I close my eyes and can see it now …

“Rachel, the boy needs me in Athens. He’s homesick. I figure I’ll be back in 2 years. That’s a long time, I know, but I think anyone who stays in Athens that long is automatically handed an Inter-personal Communication degree."

I’ve had some well-meaning friends suggest it’ll be to her long-term benefit for us to tell her to tough it out, to in essence change the locks.

To them I respond with, depending on our degree of friendship, varying levels of caustic profanity.

No matter what they teach her at Saint Vincent, she’ll never be in a position of having to lead troops into battle.

She doesn’t need to be tough. She doesn’t need to be calloused. 

She needs to be happy.

That’s Rule No. 1.

I advise her if she starts feeling sad, she can always come home. 

Come home for dinner. Come home for lunch. If you’re in your dorm and you see some particularly entertaining lunatic on “The Price Is Right,” come home and we’ll watch the “Showcase Showdown” together.

Come on down!

The mindset mirrors the musical advice a loving father gives his daughter in the peerless Alan Jackson 2015 song called coincidentally, I guess, “You Can Always Come Home.”

It says, yes, by all means pursue your dreams, find your own path, but if you stumble or lose your way, darlin’, you can always come home.

Homesickness is an interesting word that means the opposite of what it describes.  

I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but today I’m proud to say I raised a child who’s homesick rather than one who’s sick of home.

Many of us are today saying prayers for those left homeless in Alabama, the Bahamas and other places devastated by Hurricane Dorian.

It’s petty, I know, but I’m including prayers that God will provide solace to all those freshman who are struggling to fit in until their hearts catch up with their ambitions..

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DianeKacz said...

I'm not are! 😢❤️

Chris Rodell said...

Wow.. Just saw this. Sorry, Diane! And thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!