I’m currently sitting on the couch at my dad’s house in Parma Heights, Ohio. He’s on the other couch, doing a word search/snoozing. It’s summer, not a time of the year I usually come back to visit. However, when my older sister was diagnosed with breast cancer before Christmas, I’ve been back three times: the yearly Christmas stay, a few days in April during her chemo, and now 2 weeks after her double mastectomy. I’m trying to find harmony in my life between family, grad school, and living a 2,000 miles away. I ponder my choice to live in Colorado, where the mountains call to my soul, versus being with my family in Ohio, a place I like and enjoy but currently does not feel like wind I need underneath my wings to fly. I question myself, I question society, and I do so over and over. In terms of choices, I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong one.
Are these the questions that come with being 30?
I turned 30, with my twin sister, on June 28th in Chamonix, France. My family had sent cards from Ohio to Colorado before we left. To celebrate my 30th in France with my sister was a dream I couldn’t even have imagined as a child from a suburb 20 minutes outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Actually, living in Boulder, CO wasn’t even something I imagined, with seemingly never-ending mountains and adventures starting just a few miles from “home” with Pacer…which brings me to my first question.
Home. There’s so many different ways to define home. I’ve tried to define it before. I’ve leaned towards the saying “home is where the heart is” and turned that into “home is where Pacer is” in one of my first blogs on this site. So even though I’ve only lived in temporary spaces with Pacer in Boulder, not all exactly “homey”, I guess I could call them home. I’ve also referred to the mountains as my home, as well as the Colorado Trail, where Pacer and I slept for a month (though always miles ahead from our last camp spot). Actually, whenever I go back to the Colorado Trail, it feels good, like home I guess, though I can’t define it. And when I go back to Ohio, to my family, and still to the homes I grew up in (my parents are divorced), I say I’m going back home too. Are all these places my home? Or are none of them home? Does a home have to be permanent? I have an answer I’m leaning toward, despite it not being correct according to the dictionary’s definition of home.
The second question has always been on my mind, though it has increased its intensity with the number three at the front of my age and with my older sister’s health. But for this question, I need to back up a bit, as I can’t fully put it into words.
I left Ohio over three years ago. My main worry then was my dad’s health, though he was doing well before I left and currently remains to stay steady. And the mountains, adventure, and grad school (though I didn’t quite know it at the time) were calling. I believed that, for the most part, my parents wanted me to follow my heart and to be happy, so I left. Still, I knew that in that choice, I would be missing family birthdays, watching my younger cousins grow up, and not be there in family emergencies. That part still isn’t easy.
Now my older sister is still undergoing treatment for cancer, and while my parents are still relatively healthy, I consider their future. I’ve always admired cultures that take care of their elders and bring them into their home, rather than sending them to a nursing home. One of my sister’s doctors is moving to PA to be closer to her parents. A friend of mine moved back Colorado to Ohio to help her mom. And a few weeks ago, the Boy and I met a couple in their 80s who were selling the gorgeous cabin they had built together because they could no longer take care of it, especially with their kids out of state (albeit, it was the parents who moved back to Ohio after years spent in Colorado). When the time comes, I don’t want to just send my parents to nursing home unless it is something they want. Nor do I really think it would be fair to move them across the country to be closer to me. But could I have them live with me? I’d like to think so, though the world we live in makes all the options difficult. Unfortunately, society values our time and money, rather than the preciousness of our lives and those of aging parents, our wise elders. Again, it seems like there is no right answer, though I do know each answer is individual to each family.
A dear friend called my the other day while I was shooting hoops in my dad’s driveway, just like I did as a kid. My friend offered me praise that I did not ask for or want to accept. They said they admired how I was handling my life in CO and family, that I was doing what I needed to do. Before their call I was questioning “but is this enough?” not far from my old question (that I always think I’ve squelched until it pops it’s ugly head back up again) of “am I enough?” But their words seemed so confident and sure. They believed in me more than I believed in myself. Their words made me feel a bit more confident too, that I had made the right choice, at least at this moment in time.
I realized that maybe things aren’t so black and white. Maybe I’m not choosing adventure and myself over my family (plus, my twin, uncle, and cousin do live in CO)…and even if I am a little bit, maybe that is okay too. Maybe that/this is just where I am in life, and maybe it is all okay.
(The “home court” and Brandywine Falls, CVNP- a place where I spent most of my time during my last years living on OH)
And as things change, I’ll evolve, and continue doing the best I can and try to make the best choices with the tools I have.
Tomorrow, I fly back to Colorado. I’ll be back with Pacer, in the mountains, and I’ll be at home.
The goodbyes have been said, emotionally, but no tears have been shed. My heart just beats a pang of sadness. I realize that is beautiful too, that I am lucky and so grateful to have a family that I am going to miss and love so deeply. Everyone thanked me for my help, though I told my mom “I feel bad that I can’t be here more.” But no one seemed to judge me the way I judge myself. The lesson revealed? To be grateful for the time I do have, with family, in the mountains, lying in my bed with Pacer. All of it. Because time is ticking. We’re all changing, growing, moving. The same yet different, just like Brandywine Falls.
Are these the thoughts that come with 30? I was going to say that my 20s came with more freedom, but that’s not true, as I believe my freedom is my choice, which includes my move to Colorado. Care-free may be a bit more accurate. I’ve inherited the “worry gene” (not scientifically accurate, though there is a gene that relates to sensitivity) from my mom, so I’ve always worried about my family (though I’m really trying to re-frame my worry and use my energy for things I can do something about, and surrender the rest). Now, the concerns are just a bit more at the forefront. I could brush the away, but I rather confront and explore them. Because I think they have more to tell me about life, it’s beauty, even if it comes with a bit of sadness.