This is a post that others have waited for with great anticipation. I’m not sure if it is the pressure of knowing that friends and family look forward to this post or if it is my own, internal understanding that in cases such as this… there are no right words. Writer or not, like anyone I know that there are moments in life where you can’t force it and before you know it, the moment is lost without explanation.
So this is how I have decided the story best be told…
Last night, over dinner at Mommesneck on Potsdamer Platz, I danced around a question with Stark. I wanted to make sure that the question didn’t come out like an accusation or an assumption waiting to happen. Such quixotic moments can go anywhere between couples when most of the time, it’s just a question. “Can you…” I paused to check my tone and figure how to word the question, “I guess I mean to ask why,” pause, “or really what is the reason behind this trip.” Before he could reply I added a quick, “According to you. I mean, for you. In your opinion…” I truly wasn’t skeptical. I just wanted to know.
He looked at me oddly but could tell that this was not some womanly trap and that for a reason that maybe he didn’t understand, that either way, it was just a question. “Umm. Well. The main reason I guess was for you to visit your family and see where your Mom grew up. What about you? Why are you here?”
“To go some place new. To work away from home. To see where I came from and find out more about my Mom that maybe I didn’t know while visiting family. So ya, the same-ish.” I explained, “I just wanted to know because so often in our past when something important has come about, we have had entirely different points of view as to what it means or the purpose behind it and I don’t want to assume why you are here – that it just was because you didn’t make it here last year or that it was entirely because of me.”
“I have to have several reasons for going anywhere, but ya, this was mostly to bring you to your family.”
Through the somewhat inexplicable roller coaster that has been the last few days of my helter-skelter emotional hesitation, it was good to feel lucky in that moment. To me, lucky can only be felt in moments of safety without the weight of other’s jealousy or description. Luck is something I get to feel when I realize how the past has added up to being here today. Luck is not the feeling of being spoiled or hanging onto a relationship that somehow I do not deserve being in. This seems to be the definition of anyone who doesn’t know. To me, luck is knowing how I got here and how we both deserved these ups and downs we experience together. Luck is knowing if I hadn’t opened that door, taken that job, or gone one more turn around a parking lot — that we would have entirely missed out on each other and these moments of closeness and laughter.
So in these moments of feeling so blessed, my mind filters through the choices we made to be here today. And with that, my mind filtered back further to the way life fell apart in the first place – how my life crumbled in such a way that I was forced to rebuild and be an entirely different person and the one that sits here today, “lucky” to be loved by someone so willing to not only go on these adventures with me but pave the way there in more ways than one.
My Mom died on New Year’s Eve when I was 16, just two weeks before my 17th birthday. Her death was unexpected and quick. I will not go into the details of those last moments here as it is beside the point. None the less, those last moments were tragic. My siblings didn’t live anywhere near us and my Dad was set between a mix of responsibility for taking care of my Mom and a complete breakdown over the “what if” of it all. We all have different stories and different points of view, but the way it all happened leaves me to be the only one who was there from start to finish – taking on the emotions of those around me as well as my own. I was confused. My actions were completely sporadic between nervously joking and the complete reality that she wasn’t coming home, ever. I have shared many of these moments. But some I have not shared.
I never shared the memory of saying goodbye. After Julie and Josh arrived and standing at her bedside, choosing to turn off the machines that final morning. It had been the longest 24 hour battle of our lives and the battles seemed mostly internal for us all. I stood at the foot of her bed in my brother’s arms, safe. At least I felt safe until the moment after a family prayer, where everyone touched her face, her hands, and for me, her feet. As I wrapped my fingers around her toes, just like any other time throughout my life, she flinched. She jumped as if I had tickled her and my heart leapt just the same. I turned to my brother and said something, the words I do not know exactly. I said something like, “No! She’s alive! She’s going to be ok!!!” I was overwhelmed with relief and ready to leap into her arms once she woke and scolded me for tickling her so. But my brother held me more tightly and explained that in this case, the mind is gone and the body remains – even with reactions such as ticklish nerves. It was in that moment that I cried my first real, hard tears. All was lost.
For years I held on to that last moment of hope that I felt. I was religious. I was determined. I made mistakes only to try harder. I created a larger than life persona for myself and tried time and time again to live in a way that would make her proud. The harder I tried, the harder I fell and the more, to some, I would have been considered a failure. It was ten years later when I went back to Texas to help my Dad with the final sale of our home in Texas that I finally dealt with that last, overwhelming feeling that she’s never coming home. I had been to college. I had seen my Dad remarry. I had done everything that I was supposed to do all with some sort of inner-explanation that I had been abandoned through those moments in my life where she should have been there for me, but that someday she would forgive me. Someday she would call me or be the one to answer the phone. But as I sat in our back yard in Texas, starring at a stone that we dedicated to her in the garden, I knew that I had sat there before many times… waiting. But the garden looked nothing like she would have had it and the things we were packing were hardly even her own anymore. This was not her house. She had not been here. And the very act of shutting the doors, leaving things behind that we had created together in the end, made me realize that I was not just like any other student who had lived these years away from home just to return with some great reunion. Instead, I was still a child who still did not understand in it’s entirety how my Mom wasn’t home. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I did not belong anywhere. I no longer had anywhere to go back to – no home, no real existence. To me, it was a dawn of a new era where I would be forced to find myself once again. I was changed forever.
Six months later I met Stark and this last weekend, per both of our expectations in embarking on this adventure together, I found a place that I can go home to and together, we went home to Wiesbaden, Germany.
My Uncle met us Friday evening at the Frankfurt Hbf train station. It took us a moment to find each other, but when we did it was as if these last 12 years had never passed and somewhere, deep inside, we knew each other completely like old friends and close family. We hugged instantly and through the arms of my backpack, he hugged me as tightly as he could for a long time.
“It has been so long. I missed you,” he said to me.
I wasn’t sure if he meant that he literally missed me coming off the train or if he had missed me throughout all of these years, but either way was fine with me. It was nice to be missed and even greater to be hugged by someone I regard as highly as my Uncle Ingo.
My Uncle Ingo holds a special place in my heart that is hard to describe or even understand. The only way I can describe it is that he has the same soul as my brother, Josh. Josh and I have been the best of friends through thick and thin. We take care of each other like family should and we speak to each other like best friends – sharing more of our own story then we would with most people. My Uncle Ingo, having that same spark as my brother is someone that I instantly trust and know that I can be honest with and have fun with. So that’s exactly what we did.
For the rest of the afternoon we were on an adventure with no timeline or goals. As we drove, we smiled at each other – unsure of what to say. We went through the basic questions of, “How have you been?” and avoided too much boring detail. We talked about the last time we saw each other, how long it has been, and what his family is up to these days. Between moments of conversation, we listened to his music – everything from Bad to the Bone to the greatest hits of Phil Collins. What was every day life to my Uncle and his CD changer, were moments I will always remember; moments that made me secretly smile to know that he was as familiar to me as these old songs although I hadn’t visited either in such a long time.
We first went to the area in which he lives, Ober-Klingen. He took Stark and I to their little, local castle where we hiked from the base of this now, dormant volcano to the top of the castle fortress. All I could do was smile. I have fond memories of always hiking with my Uncle since I was too small to make it over all the obstacles he found. We spent quite a long time at the top of the castle, looking over the valley as he explained to us their population and how old they were. From up there you could see for miles of green forests in one direction and green fields in the other. “This is the only area of Germany that is still like this,” he explained. “I love it. I love being here.”
As i looked over the valley, it was easy to understand why my Mom had such an attachment to living in North Carolina. We drove through tall trees on small, winding roads to his house. The road was very familiar to being home, in Hillsborough.
For the next little while, we spent time at the house with my cousins. I met the rabbits (so cute!) and the snake as well as the bearded dragon who eventually ran off the kitchen table, onto the ground, to blend into a tree in the side of the house where apparently he has been lost for hours before. While Anna was showing me the rabbits, Ingo found an old family album from his visit to the states in 1987 and showed it to Stark. As Stark flipped through, I pointed out who everyone was and remembered a handful of the things we had done in those pictures. I’m not sure why I remember 1987 so fondly and then can’t tell you much of anything about my life again until 1996. There’s a whole era of my life missing.
We had dinner as a family that night, once my Aunt Susie was done working with her sister. We all ate at a restaurant that Anna works at during the summer 2 or 3 times a week when she is not in school. The food was wonderful and I finally had a taste of AppleWeine (which is non-alcoholic btw) which Frankfurt is apparently famous for. Dinner was full of laughter and stories. As the night went on, our long day of travel started to wear on us so Ingo took us back to Frankfurt where we were staying.
(To be continued…)