Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Pain of Coming Home

After completing my basic training, I was advised ‘not to go home on leave’ while in the service. “The pain of leaving again just isn’t worth the trip back home,” several RAs (regular Army) friends told me.

Never the less, after basic I returned home. I had a week to kill before traveling west to my next assignment. It was a surreal experience because all my friends (and girlfriend) were still in school and had little time for socializing. The short time period hardly permitted any substantive projects or endeavors. I was like a fish out of water. It was almost as if I had jumped off the train of my past life but it was still rolling along and I was sidelined in the process.

Six months later another transfer came through. This time I was heading south; Louisiana in the middle of summer. That stay at home was another week of torture. My girlfriend was busy in school. Old friends were scattered about and mostly unavailable. I swore I would never do it again and I didn’t.

After that second venture home, I stayed away until I was discharged and returned home for good. I spent my leave on trips to Mexico City and Acapulco. I spent weekends in Washington, D.C. and Beaumont, Texas just to get off base. It wasn’t ideal but it was a break from military life and it wasn’t home. My friends were right; the pain of leaving was just not worth the trip back home.

Recently I returned home early for a workshop and some business meetings. The same phenomena happened to me. Returning home briefly on business / pleasure brought back all those old feelings. I was out of my element once again.

Rosemount Book Festival

It was the Second Annual Rosemount Book Festival. Unlike the first year, I didn’t set up a table to sell books but I did my writing workshop instead. The workshop went well as did the meetings with several folks talking about theatrical venues for this summer. I got to see my grandchildren on several occasions and a couple of quick coffee connections if ever so briefly. Once again, those old feelings came back.

In some very surreal mysterious way it reminded me of several incidents when the same feelings crept back into my consciousness. After graduating from high school, I was working one summer at the CYC, Catholic Youth Center, in downtown Saint Paul. I was on a crew cleaning their gym. Six months earlier, I had been there with my girl dancing some slow dance and wondering about my/our future. It brought back a wave of teen angst.

Another time we were at our children’s band performance at a football game. I saw several seniors who had graduated that spring back at the game reliving their past. ‘Glory Days’ by Bruce Springsteen immediately came to mind.  I felt sorry for them.

In a recent blog, I talked about ‘living in the past’ and my revisiting old haunts, times and relationships in an attempt to connect the dots that define my past and present life. This time it was different. I wasn’t trying to reconnect with any old feelings or past experiences. Instead I was like a stranger in a strange land. I was like a fish out of water. I was out of my element.

It wasn’t just the sun-drenched Mountains in my backyard verses the snow piled up at home. It wasn’t just the bone-chilling temperatures that were average and comfortable for the native Minnesotans. It was deeper than that. It was the feeling that I was on temporary leave from my other life. I had been taken out of my regular routine of writing and exercise and reflection. I was on leave from life as I had come to define it.

We’ve become one with the community down here and unlike snowbirds or visitors; we live as residents and not seasonal visitors. That comfort level and familiarity with my surroundings made a return to Minnesota even briefly a bit of a surreal experience. Much like, I realize, being on leave from the service.

Like life in the service, it was a temporary experience. Soon I’ll be able to transfer my background scenery and another space for writing and now woods to tramp through. The settings will be different but I’ll be home once again.