Wednesday, September 22, 2010
This has been a difficult summer for my family and me. I spent late July and most of August in the home town I had gladly fled when I was 19. The circumstances that caused me to be there were stressful, my 89- year- old father’s illness and surgery, my step-mother’s fall and fracture of the C2 vertebrae in her neck and the accident I was in just as I was nearing their subdivision on my way to help take care of them after they were both released from the hospital. I felt like life had been smacking me in the face all summer; when someone turned in front of me, I couldn’t avoid hitting him and the air bags deployed on impact. I was smacked down. Again.
My summer literally started and ended with a bang. Beginning with Dad’s emergency surgery and ending with my accident. When you are taken suddenly away from your life the loss is cumulative. The things you miss build up. At first, there was no time for me to think about home. I was just in the moment of whether my dad was going to survive. Then as he passed the crisies stage, I had time to think. My step-mother was dealing with her own fears of losing Dad and then her own injuries; my four step-sisters were worrying about how to care for their mother if my dad was no longer here to do that for her. And there was me, so scared and feeling totally cut off from my support network. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite that lonely.
I have worked hard to build a life in Bloomington, reinventing myself many times, my latest incarnation: writer. The writing community that Women Writing for (a) Change has provided me has been a soul nourishing source of support and encouragement for five years, my Wild Women group of kindred spirits who know my secrets and love me unconditionally, the amazing women who have been my friends here in Bloomington for over 30 years and my work family who care about me and what’s happening in my life all were suddenly not available to me. Even in this world of instant communication, it felt like the bottom dropped out.
My home town is very small, economically depressed, and (basically) conservative. I’m used to Bloomington with its liberalism, embracing of new ideas, and cultural diversity. I know I’m spoiled by the riches that Bloomington has to offer, but I don’t care if I sound like a spoiled brat. I want what Bloomington has to offer. I don’t like being in a place that is small-minded, that isn’t willing to accept “the other”. I’m well aware that it’s not good to generalize and not everyone in my home town is narrow-minded. There are wonderful people there who are good and decent. It’s more a feeling of suspiciousness of anything new or different. The air there seems heavy, weighted down with the fear of change, of “new fangled” ideas. I swear that I can hear the piccolo from the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western s when I walk into a restaurant there, everyone whispering behind their hands, “stranger in town”.
There is one person there who offered her friendship and her home as a much needed place of respite. Terri and I have been friends since the first grade. Her parents were like second parents to me and their home was a safe haven when I needed a break from my mother. She shared her sweet dogs, her beautiful patio with the plants, butterflies and hummingbirds. Terri listened to me vent and we reminisced about old times. She is open and loving. She gave me the healing gift of laughter and probably saved what little was left of my sanity.
I would occasionally get to make brief forays back to Bloomington and although it was wonderful to be home and reconnect with my community, it felt a little cruel to have a brief glimpse of what I had been missing so much. Many of my writer friends had the same reaction I did when I was relaying the stories of the summer; “you’ll have so much to write about.” And that is what kept me going. I had neither the time nor the energy to write, so I just kept scribbling down lines, people’s names, vignettes, and ideas.
My parents are slowly recovering, my injuries have begun to heal and I have replaced Old Blue Jeep with New Blue Jeep. I truly believe there are no accidents. The wreck that I was in is going to leave me better off financially than I was before it happened. And the irony of all ironies is that the gentleman’s name who caused the wreck is Vason Rujiravireyapeno. He is from Thailand and has lived in my home town for more than thirty years. And from what I understand has never been accepted there either. We came a long way to bump into each other and we have a lot in common.
If things remain steady, I won’t be traveling to my home town as often and am ready to resume my writing life. And what does resuming my writing life (my life) mean? Well, I’m sitting in Border’s café with my dear friend Alwiya. She is a Muslim woman from Zanzibar who has a PhD; she’s a mother, grandmother, a professor, writer and one of the most interesting people I know. She is good to her core. She’s writing the riveting story of her father. And as we sit here in quiet community, I look up and see two young women strolling along the sidewalk as they look lovingly at each other while holding hands. None of this would fly in my home town. It would be stared at and clucked at. Here, no one even blinks. Being back in my home town put me right back in my childhood place of not being allowed to be myself, it felt way too familiar. In Bloomington, I can be the me I want to be, not the cookie cutter version of small town expectations. Here I am truly a woman with wings.
Rebekah for The Poplar Grove Muse