Barkley, Lily, and I are in the living room waiting for Leah to wake up. It’s morning on the last day of my vacation. I am feeling a little bit blue. I decide to talk it out with them. Lily, a dog with so many feelings it’s scary, lays content on the couch. Her stare alternates between directing it at me with soulful eyes, and watching doggie television outside the sliding glass windows. While Barkley, a dog who won’t sit still for a minute – I am convinced he has the hyperactive part of my ADHD – switches between tilting his head while I speak and jumping off the couch because something caught those bulging eyes. They are different dogs, and yet their relationship works.
ME: I am feeling kind of down today. This is my last day here, with Leah…my last day in the part of the country that has given me so much peace, joy, understanding, and acceptance about my life. It’s a place I would never have known to charter unless I had a reason, and I’m glad I had a reason.
Barkley hits the ground as if he is in another round of Parkour, while Lily’s eye burrows into me.
ME: I think the first thing I felt when I got here eleven days ago was the quietness of the place I’m renting. It is so silent here, and silence stills my brain. The trees cushion the sounds, and the running lake masks them. The birds sang me a song as I unpacked my car. The leaves floated around me in a dance of freedom. The sky’s blueness took a solitary breath from me as a hawk flew above, watching me from a distance. As soon as I pulled up, moving my hands in victory for having made it, I knew this place, if only for eleven nights, was mine, and I would commit fully to it.
Lily shifts her gaze out the window, and her ears perk up at the sight of a squirrel. Barkly, settles into a ball on the back of the couch, refueling for his next lurch off of it…and there will be a next one.
ME: When Leah came to meet me here, and the two of you did your dance of excited familiarity, and Leah and I hug, letting time catch up between us, my heart squeezed in unfamiliar contentment. It was a feeling I had not had since Peter died. Yes, it had happiness in the moment, but it was more. It was a feeling of fulfillment. It was as if this place and the victory of getting here on my own, had come together and filled me with a gratification I had not felt in a very long time. Of course, I needed to see my daughter, and I needed to prove things to myself, to learn things on my own. It did not disappoint. Finger Lakes proved it held so many lessons and feels for me. This trip started to take off the training wheels of a life lived alone, and I began to feel contentment in that.
As predicted, Barkley lurches off the back of the couch, stretches, yawns, and jumps back on the couch to return next to Lily. Lily shifts in semi-annoyance. Barkley takes the hint and goes back to lay on the top of the couch. They both close their eyes.
ME: Lulled by the story, huh guys? Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll continue. I’ve already talked about the kisses God left and finding my connection to God. I’ve spoken about the lessons learned especially the one that Life is for me to live alone, at this moment, and I’m making friends with it. I acknowledged my wanderlust and like my ADHD, I know now I will lean into it more. And I am prepared now to do more, take on more, accept more challenges, because getting to this place, the actual act of driving here, has shown me I can do more than I think. People have said I did that when I survived Peter’s death. But surviving and actually doing something are two different things. Surviving is semi-automatic, at least for me. While doing is conscious and requires effort. It’s like the Universe is saying to me, “see, ask and now that you know you are capable, ask for anything…you got this.” This trip has chipped away at some of my hesitations and my reluctance. It has given me courage. If I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have seen all I have seen, learned all that I learned, embraced all the embraceable, and believed in all that is in me to believe.
Lily grunts in her sleep. Barkley’s eyes shoot open as if a gun went off, then slowly, Barkley drift back.
ME: It will be difficult to leave my daughter and not have her accessible in my life. Technology does fill gaps, but it can never take away the greatness of proximity. And yet, she has shown me over and over that her brilliancy needs to be here for it called her and she followed. I am not going to stand in the way of her progression. I cannot. I love her too much, and my job as her mom, to mess that up! Nor do I want to.
Barkley starts a soft snore. Lily sleeps on.
ME: I know I will take with me all I have gained and work hard on putting it on top of what I have in my own place. I will carry with me all the lessons and faith and peace I have been given and release into my every day. And as I pull away tomorrow, with the nostalgia that will burn in my belly as I drive, the struggle in leaving the beauty behind, and the already missing my daughter sadness filling up in my chest, I will also take away pride – pride in my daughter, pride in me. I don’t know yet if I can call my place “home”. Home, to me, was where the kids lived, and anywhere Peter was during our time together. Now, I need to find my new definition of home, but maybe this time, as I take all of what I was given back with me, I can find a bit more of it. If not, I know I can come back here…. another time.