I drove by you tonight. I have gingerly avoided that particular way for some time. I would take the long way around, or simply stare straight ahead, so as to not have to look and see you were with someone else. That someone else was occupying what was the very center of my life for the last 20 years.
And these words needed to come. They’ve been stuck in my throat for 11 months, and for as long as I’ve tried to convince myself that it was for the best, that it was time to move, that I needed to get out of there.
But, my home. Ripon. I’ve missed you.
I didn’t want to admit it. I couldn’t wait to leave what felt like the clutches of a small town around my big town heart. How every corner held a memory. How finally I felt like I could free myself of the shame of his long affair. How I felt responsible for harming my children by staying much longer than I should have, or at least left when I knew…or how I harmed them for not staying. For not trying harder.
Tonight, I drove by the street. My street. I slowly looked toward the back of the court to you. No one was there, but I felt my throat close up, and I kept driving to my girlfriend’s house, a block away. I kept going into the night, ignoring a nagging lump in the base of my throat.
At the end of the night, as I dropped her off, I saw you again. Your porch lights were on, and your new owners’ cars were in your driveway. Maybe they put their kids in bed, or were sitting in the spa. But, you were winking at me to move along. Linda, you don’t live here anymore.
First I got mad. That I had to give up my children’s home, my commitment to this town, that I was never really from there. That it was the perfect place, and why did it all happen this way?
I got to Second street, passing the park and remembering small children on the slide …my children. My life. Random memories. Creme puffs at the Senior Center, my running partner’s red front door. When I turned onto Fourth Street, the tears came. The thousands of miles run starting on that corner. Blinking back the sting, I tried to push away the feelings with logic. How can you be feeling this now? You don’t live here.
And I finally admitted to myself that I loved it there. That I wouldn’t have traded a minute. That I didn’t stay one minute longer than I was supposed to.
I got to the top of the overpass. Mile 1. Mile 1 for 5 years of 6 marathon trainings. Where I would get my mojo started. Where I learned that you can do anything. That you can train for a marathon at 4am when your babies are sleeping, and that you will get to see the sun rise at just that right moment. And I let out the tears.
I headed home, just crushed with grief, thinking I made a mistake, that maybe I should just take us back there, that maybe you CAN go home again. I couldn’t shake off the weight in my chest, so I just. Drove. I thought it just wouldn’t go away, this thing I had been avoiding.
Until I turned onto my street. La Loma, Modesto. The most perfect house I’ve ever had, because for the first time in my life, it is mine. It isn’t a husband’s or a father’s. My boy Chet is thrilled to see me from all day alone. I make my bed with my Friday fresh sheets, I wash dishes, and I avoid writing.
Until just now.
My heart ached, until I saw the very truth of my present reality. As I sit here, I realize what I have always known…that I’m in the exact right place at the right time. The words bubbled out and here they are, and I feel better. That place was years ago, and this is right now.
My heart had a workout tonight, and I pushed through it. And now. Simply put, I’m home.