I know now why Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. All those tears.
It’s pre-dawn on a summer Saturday. My husband is still sleeping. Rain drips down the face of the midwestern sky as I rock one last time on the porch swing of our home of 16 years. I fit right in.
I am so sick of myself I could scream. Mike has happily retired and I will soon. It’s an eagerly-awaited season of life. We are relocating this coming week to a place we’ve long admired. My mom is moving with us. It’s all good and I am immensely grateful.
But here’s the thing: I want to take everything and everyone I know to our new state except me. I am sick of my sentimentality and of crying anytime someone utters a kind word to me. I have a terrible time letting go of the familiar. Of knowing and being known.
My husband and mom have been sick and we made trips to urgent care and the pharmacy yesterday. I will miss my coworkers who texted their concern. I will miss the excellent medical care here. I will miss Mark, the shy graying clerk at Walgreen’s who has waited on us practically the entire century already.
“We’ll miss you, Mark,” I said last night, choking up. “You have served us so well.”
“Aw, you’re my best customers,” he said, ducking his head. “I’ll miss you too.”
I CAN’T EVEN GO TO THE DRUGSTORE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
Get a grip, I keep saying to myself. You’ve looked forward to retiring to North Carolina your entire life. What is your problem, anyway? Think of the scenery!
Yeah, but what is scenery without people? my baby-self whines. Who will be my people?
It feels like starting junior high all over again. Who will I sit with at lunch? Without kids in school, neighbors within shouting distance, a church waiting for us or colleagues who will know if I don’t show up, how will we make friends?
Oh you will, everyone says reassuringly. You guys are so outgoing.
I wish I shared their confidence. Will anyone really want our help, want us?
They don’t need you, silly, the voice says. They are tired of newcomers, arrivistes, cultural immigrants. Yankees go home!
But where is home? In less than a week a new family will own the keys to the dwelling place that has sheltered us and countless others for nearly 20 years. Last night our living and dining room furniture didn’t look back as they climbed into the trailer of a wonderful young couple in our church who has just moved into their first home. The sofa, table and chairs were thrilled to go; they already love their new owners just as we do. Do you expect your favorite armchair to woodenly wave goodbye? Stupid girl.
We stopped by our former church last night to drop off a donation. Mike still has his key (don’t tell.) We admired some improvements, peeked into his old office, stood one last time in the sanctuary that sheltered us spiritually for so many years.
He shut off a few lights that had been left on, checked the doors, pulled a weed or two outside. Waved to the Burmese refugees who grow their vegetables in a corner of the church parking lot.
It’s mid-July in the heartland but January in my heart. I feel like the Roman god Janus – two faces looking hopefully into the future and wistfully into the past at the very same time.
My advanced degree in theology has totally retreated out of sight. I am afraid that the heavenly father I love and serve is growing very, very tired of my infantile tears, like a parent who gives good gifts to his kids only to have them long for the old ones.
God has opened the way for us to move to a beautiful new place. He’s given us the extraordinary gift of a lovely home there. People are warm and friendly with accents that fascinate me. I’ve been a southerner wannabe much of my life.
SO WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?
I have no answers, only questions. No assurances, only faith. No promises that our new home will feel like home. Not for a while anyway.
But what I do have is the only promise I ever need. The only dwelling place that will ever last.
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalm 90:1
It’s enough for me. More than enough.
Time to exhale the past and inhale the future.
Time to go. And to find the good in goodbye.