23 November 2008


i spent my childhood as something of a nomad. my parents seemed to move every few years, from town to farm, farm to town along the northern Rocky Mountain Front. it wasn't until i was a teenager that we settled into a house my dad built himself, within two blocks of what would become my high school. (i trace my inherent shyness, always feeling like the new kid, to those days, but that's another story.)

my family remained in that house in town after i graduated from high school -- i was 18, my brother was 10, my sister was 5. through two years of college, then two years in the military, i always knew where home was. shortly after i moved out on my own, a young adult entering the migratory pattern south to tucson, arizona, my parents bought a small farm just outside of town. twenty acres of land along the county irrigation canal, with a scenic view of town to the east, and the magnificent ranks of the Rockies marching down the western horizon. the farmhouse was two stories with a full basement, shielded from arctic winds by a nice grove of trees, with a huge garden and an array of aging outbuildings. what struck you first, last and always was the quiet. the only sounds that claimed your thoughts were birds (western meadowlark, red-winged blackbird, pheasant, house sparrows), and the wind. you'd swear you could hear the planet breathe beneath that limitless dome of sky.

even though i had never had my own bedroom in that farmhouse, it became home for me, in the ancestral, family sense. i had my own home in tucson, but my parents' place would always feel like the more fundamental Home, the place where you can always walk in the door and know that you'll be welcome, part of the family. it remained so for 35 years, persisting through the seismic shifts of a struggling parental marriage.

this past spring, their marriage underwent a sea change. nominally "separated", my mom moved into her own apartment in town, leaving my dad at the farm. their long-range plan was to clean the place up, sell it, split the proceeds, and my dad would find his own place in town. though not exactly a surprise, given the strained atmosphere between them for decades, this move was decidedly a paradigm shift. it gave me insight into what my own son must have gone through, when his mother and i parted ways. except my son was only five, while i'm sixty-one.

the difference being that in my parents' case, parting ways ultimately seems like it will be a healthy and healing experience for all concerned. there are no discernible traces of the internecine warfare that my son had to try to understand at so young an age.

last sunday, i received a call from my dad, letting me know that a tentative buyer had firmed up plans, and they had signed the necessary papers to transfer the property. my dad now has until mid-december to pack, clean, and move a lifetime's accumulation of stuff to storage, and to find a place of his own in town to live. seems like he should have insisted on more lead time, but it's not my decision.

here's what's surprising about the news of the sale -- i'm feeling suddenly adrift, homeless, uprooted. it isn't a rational response, i know, but there it is. there'll never again be a single, discreet family home to return to. it all feels abrupt, and disquieting, as though the world has become an unreliable, unsafe place. i suppose the feeling will pass. millions have gone through something similar. still, this is new to me, and it all feels vaguely threatening. as though one sunny day, someone suddenly repealed the law of gravity.

well, i've been through much worse in this colorful life of mine. i'm glad that my mother is, and always has been, so resourceful and assertive and looking out for the future. and i'm glad that my father will soon be relieved of the burden of trying to keep up with a house and acreage that have become too demanding for a man in his 80s. within a few months, all the legal and financial details will have been resolved, and each of them will have settled into their new reality.

as for me .... i miss the farm.

No comments:

Post a Comment