I'm wrapping up assignments at the office, and making ready to go home to Ohio. It's only for less than a week, but I feel more trepidation than I have in the past.
I would have characterized my first twenty years of living in "the Nation's capital" as a sort of Babylonian captivity, as if to raise a glass once a year and shout, "Next year in Jerusalem!" Or in my case, "Next year in Ohio!" It's been over a year and a half since I last went home, the longest I've ever gone without the trip, and a far cry from when I would return two or three times a year.
I suppose the change occurred around 2000, or shortly thereafter, when I realized that I would probably never return, even after retirement. Sure, my retirement income would go farther there. It could do that in Baltimore as well. There were other factors as well. The culture at the workplace became much more bearable about that time, when a generous retirement and early buy-out program divested the ranks of my particular agency of much of the riff-raff. (It would appear that the most effective victory over one's enemies is the ability to outlast them.) What was left were a higher proportion of folks who were actually qualified for their jobs by any reasonable professional standard. No more living in the Twilight Zone every day. What a relief!
But the biggest change was in me. I simply got used to the idea. I suppose every family with enough siblings has at least one who may be identified as "the lost child," the one who never quite fit in the box like the others. Among the children of Ma and Pa Alexander, I suppose that dubious distinction fell to yours truly. After awhile, you find your own definition of family.
But it comes at a price. My parents aren't getting any younger, and decisions are made from time to time by the family where my opinion is not sought, including those areas where I would have the advantage. There's a price to all the choices we make in life. I pay the price of having a future, one that I could not have found in my chosen profession at the time, not without moving. And yet...
I still miss the lights of the city along the Ohio River, coming around the bend of Columbia Parkway and seeing the jewel of skyscrapers in the distance. I want to walk along the streets of Mount Adams, that hill overlooking the urban center. I want to walk into a fast-food restaurant and look across the counter from someone whose command of the English language is remarkably like my own. I miss ordering six chili dogs with shredded cheese and mustard, and downing them all in a matter of minutes, while Sal sits there in amazement, wondering how such gastronomic feats are possible. To this day, I still make friends in a place I left half a lifetime ago. They are usually other musicians, other dance enthusiasts, other church-goers. Come to think of it, some of them are other bloggers.
I have friends and colleagues from all over the world in my adopted setting. I've met people that my siblings will watch on the evening news. I've seen events that my nephews will read about in their history books.
They say you can't go home again. Maybe you don't have to.