I just returned to Oregon after nearly a month in San Jose with my father. Dad is suffering from heart problems and will be having surgery in early December. Meanwhile he needed help, so I ditched everything here and hurried down I-5 to the place where I grew up.
Once I was there, I experienced this weird Dorothy-waking-up-from-the-dream-of-Oz feeling. I was home. The sun was shining. Every day. Every day for 28 days. Here, if the sun comes out, we rush outside to look at it because it’s such a fickle visitor. There, it’s the rain that’s a rare guest. It clouded over briefly a couple times, but cleared up without dropping any moisture.
I love the sun. I spent a lot of time sprawled on the old chairs in the patio soaking it up. Dad’s yard is like a nature preserve, full of shrubs and fruit trees, with three resident squirrels as big as your average cat, blue jays, mockingbirds, sparrows, crows, hummingbirds, and the biggest bumblebees I’ve ever seen. It’s nice back there, and it’s nice being warm. I barely noticed the constant roar of the nearby 280 freeway.
I slept soundly in my childhood room, and I enjoyed being close to the scenes of so many memories. It was also great being near my family, especially my father. I liked the fact that every store or business a body could think of was within a few miles, and I always had four reception bars on my cell phone. That first week, I thought: This is crazy. I should move back home. Now that Fred is gone, why am I staying in Oregon? I can’t afford to live in the Bay Area, where everything costs about three times what it costs here, but I’d have a lot more chance of finding a job there than I would here. I could rejoin my old writing and music groups. It would be great.
Over the weeks that followed, the feeling faded. Even perpetual sunshine gets old. Folks there are always worried about not having enough water because it rarely rains. Everything is crowded, and the traffic is unbearable. A week ago today, I took Dad to San Francisco to meet the surgeons who will be doing his procedure. I don’t like to drive in big cities, and I definitely don’t like to drive in the dark. The directions were good, and I made it successfully to the parking garage next to the hospital. But we got out at 5:30, the height of the evening commute. Stop and go all the way. Red brake lights in front of me, white headlights to the left, eight to ten lanes across. Gripping the steering wheel, afraid every minute of crashing and dying. After a couple hours of that, I told my father, “If anybody asks why your daughter moved to Oregon, this is why.” We agreed that no job is worth fighting that kind of traffic every day.
No, I live here. Right now, it’s raining. Out my window, the big Sitka spruce waves in a gentle wind. My dog Annie is asleep on her chair. And I’m writing in my bathrobe. This is home.
They say you can’t go home again. Well, you can, but it’s never the same, and you might not want to stay there.