|Mama's Place, Magnolia Cemetery|
I realized as I read the post that I am going through the same transitional period now as I was back then. I did move "home" but everything has changed so much in Charleston over the past six years that it doesn't feel like "home" anymore. I think it really stopped feeling that way when my mom died. She sort of embodied that feeling for me, so when she passed it was very hard to find that place of comfort again.
Now that I'm back, I am going through that limbo again - I don't know where I belong and I miss all of those people I grew to love in Washington that I don't get to see almost every day anymore. I miss the long days of summer, the cool chill in the air as fall approaches, and even the possibility of snow in winter for the holiday season. The heat in Charleston is easing, but the autumn nights are still too muggy and warm for my taste. No matter how much I want this place to feel like home, it just doesn't.
As I read later posts, I realized my outlook and experiences improved over time. Once I began to explore the area where I lived in Washington more and gained my footing, I fell in love with my new location. Granted, I had never been out of South Carolina and as far as I know, my mother had never lived anywhere on the west coast, so maybe that helped me get through the transition. I don't know. However, being back in South Carolina where the familiar and unfamiliar weave together daily I never know where the day will lead. Some days, I am grateful to be close to family and old friends, and other days I miss Washington so much I want to gas up my car and head west ASAP.
One thing I learned re-reading the older posts is that my faith things will get better is the one thing that still holds true. Life is short enough and I (*hopefully*) still have a lot of life left to live. I don't want to live it wishing I was somewhere else or stressing that I feel so out of pocket in my own hometown (which I do). I feel like I don't belong here, but I don't know if I would feel differently in Washington. I loved Washington and I miss it, but even there I missed my family all of the time. Maybe the problem is that I don't miss a PLACE; maybe instead I miss a PERSON who was integral to that feeling of belonging and home - my mother.
Now that I am back in Charleston, I find myself thinking of my mother so much. I think of our times at Folly Beach, all of our favorite restaurants, and even some of the places we lived before. It also brings me back to how different my life was before all of the Cancer stuff. It was pre-2006 and I had reached a sort of peak in my career in hospitality as a manager at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. I was actually making more money than I'd ever made in my life, and living downtown in an awesome 2-bedroom townhouse below Calhoun (an amazing spot for a barely-out-of-college-kid). I lived with my best friend, I worked all night and had my days free, and my mother had just moved back from Houston. Then, my mother was diagnosed with Cancer and everything spun out of control.
Fast forward to this time ten years ago - so just 4 months after she was diagnosed with what was supposedly Stage I/II Esophageal Cancer - and you'd find my mother just finishing her first round of chemo and radiation. It had been a grueling summer for all of us, starting with a botched feeding tube surgery by an incompetent Physicians Assistant in June. My mother almost died during that fiasco, but somehow still managed to recover enough to go through 8 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. She was as tough as they come, so I wasn't that surprised she weathered through like a seasoned pro.
I took a massive cut in pay when I changed jobs, but it was necessary to ensure I was there for my mother - and I would do it all over again if given the choice. I struggled with my new job and the schedule I was keeping: 7am treatments and then working 12pm-9pm every day. My mother lost weight, struggled to eat (until we found pancakes with LOTS of syrup seemed to be palatable to her), and mostly slept the days away until she finished treatment. I gained weight, eating what she couldn't, and worried nonstop if this was it. I was 27 and not at all ready to live a life without my mother.
We had hope we'd gotten the best of Cancer. We had been through what we thought was the worst of it and the world, though tinged with pain and sadness, still seemed bright and full of possibility. We didn't know what was to come. We didn't know my mother wouldn't see me turn 30 or my brother's family grow to include three lovely children. We didn't know how much it would all change in a decade. Seven years later, I recognize I am still so unsure of myself every day. The life I had wanted and gone after included my mother, so finding a new path without her has been a tremendous challenge. I have had successes and failures along the way, and I keep hoping it will get easier but it hasn't so far.
I am so fortunate to have my father, aunts, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, nephew, and cousins to love me and remind me I have a place with them. I just miss my mother so much, especially now that I am back in her old stomping grounds, that it's hard to focus on the people around me who love me and are there for me. I'm trying, and I'll keep trying forever-and-a-day.