Thursday, November 19, 2009

There's no place like home

Alice and the Cheshire Cat

Alice: Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cat: That depends a great deal on where you want to get to

Alice: I don't much care where.
Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
Alice: So long as I get somewhere.
Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

Six months into being divorced, 14 months of living alone. I have muddled my way through many of the issues and faced a lot of demons. I have, in a relatively short time and with the help of some very good friends and family members remembered who I am and what I used to be....before I got married. The days of being scared to death, glued to the couch, frozen and unsure are over (I hope) and I guess that I have found myself in a position that not many people my age find themselves in. I have the power to choose my future. I mean, everyone does, really but most people have obligations, chosen or not and are living their lives to support decisions made years before. Many are happy and satisfied with that but I wasn't and so now I am in a place usually occupied by 22 year old's..What comes next?

Let me backtrack a little bit here. Most of you know my history but let my give you my perspective on my life....I was born in Guam, then lived in Tulsa until 2 years old, St Louis for the next five years. Then London for two years and on to Los Angeles for five years. Then back to St Louis for 4 years, four years in Tulsa going to TU and then I moved to Kansas City to "start" my life. That's where I got married and Becca, Kyle and Jessie were born. By this time, I was 27. Life in KC wasn't so great so we moved back to Tulsa for a few months, and then to Bartlesville where I spent almost 10 years and where Katie was born. By far the longest that I ever lived anywhere. I loved it there and having to leave was one of the major heartbreaks of my life. But, on to Omaha Nebraska for 18 months, then Alta Loma California for about 3 years, and a quick 100 mile move to La Quinta for the next two years. I hated, hated hated California and actually welcomed the move to Arkansas three years ago even though it was as miserable and painful as every other move has always been.

All I ever wanted was to be able to answer that question "where are you from?" with a place, and not a 20 minute story. I know, I know....It could have been worse. But everything is relative right? If the worst thing that ever happened to you is that your cat died, then that's still the worst thing...The worst thing for me was having to move. (My hat is off to you Marianne, if you read this...I could never, ever do what you do and you do it so well and with such calm and confidence that you and yours will make any place you end up in "home") It takes me two years to settle into a place at least, figure out the lay of the land and find a good dry cleaner and vet. Get doctors for everyone, enroll in new schools, and the worst part.....find and start ANOTHER new job.

Through all of my life, there was one thing that I knew for sure, one thing that never changed and that I could really count on. That thing was that my family was from Oklahoma, Tulsa to be specific. I was from Oklahoma! Both of my parents grew up there, all of my Grandparents lived there and it's were we always went back to. We spent a lot of summers in Colorado with Mom's sisters and their families who all had relocated there. I grew up spending lots of time with my Leroux cousins in the Rockies and ohhhhh, what stories we could tell.....But most of the family reunions were in Tulsa. I went to the same University that both of my parents graduated from and my Grandmother's house was the closest thing to "home" that I ever knew. My parents always made sure that we had a comfortable and beautiful home, wherever we went but Grandma's was a place that I knew would always be there, and could never be ripped away from me.

The end of my marriage was almost perfectly timed with the death of my last Grandparent, the two events were only 3 weeks apart. It had been happening slowly, it took about 5 years to occur but I didn't realize it and one day shortly after I got divorced I discovered that no matter how much I wanted it not to be true, my family was no longer based out of Tulsa. Grandma was gone, Meemaw was gone. Grandma's house was sold and driving by there was actually a more exquisite pain than thinking about the ranch in Bartlesville (which, to this day, I have never been able to drive past, since the day we left). There would never again be a Lucas or Leroux family reunion in Tulsa because the Matriarchs had passed and the new rulers lived in different places. The Queen is dead....Long live the Queen! Just as I was starting to feel comfortable and "at home" in Arkansas, there was suddenly no real reason for me to have to be here. For those of you who don't already know, where I live in Arkansas is about an hour and a half from Tulsa and about two and a half hours from Bartlesville. The perfect distance, close enough to visit often but not close enough to be in each others faces.....My Mom still lives in Bartlesville and has survived two separate bouts with cancer in the last five years so being close was important to me. My Dad had moved to Tulsa two years ago for medical reasons from New Mexico.

Now, you might think that my parents living this close would be reason enough for me to stay in a place but Mom has been talking about moving to Ohio ever since my family moved away from Bartlesville. She would really like to be around my sister Kelly's kids while they are growing up. Dad and Ellen have a very nice life with a lot of friends and obligations (and dogs) and I have never really gotten the idea that my presence or absence from their lives made much difference at all to their quality of life at all.

I never would have considered moving to Ohio with my Mom for a lot of reasons even though she's been talking about me going with her since I became single. The first reason was that I never liked Ohio....Every time I was there it was cold, cloudy and humid in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. There are way, way too many people in Ohio for me. I've lived in some really big cities and some really small towns and I much prefer to have the term "traffic" mean that there is a John Deere in front of you at the stop sign instead of that there has been a ten car pile up and the freeway is backed up for miles.....All of that was just excuses, really. I just never, ever wanted to move again. It's late in life, but I want some roots already!! I want to live where I'm comfortable and happy and I was really starting to feel at home in Northwest Arkansas. It's beautiful here (compared to Oklahoma), the weather is good, (I hate cold weather) and it's close to where I always considered myself to be "from".

I guess the most important thing that happened over the last year was that I was able to connect, or reconnect to many of my Lucas relatives. Don (UD) and Max played a very important roll in my recovery and the beginning of my single life. We spent a lot of time together in Grandma's hospital room getting to know each other and they gave me such a wonderful gift....When Kyle graduated from high school, they came all the way from Ohio to Arkansas for the event. Now, if you're a faithful reader, I'm sure you remember the Graduation episodes of this blog....and let me tell you now, I never fooled myself for one second that they came all that way to sit through the most horrible and boring event ever invented by mankind (outside of the family vacation slideshow) which is a highschool graduation. They came for me, because I asked them to. Let me say that again....They came for ME! It meant so much to me that they were here. I got to entertain them in my own way and for the first time in a very very long time, I felt like I mattered to someone other than my parents and my children.

There were a lot of people who lent themselves to my recovery and the beginning of my new life. Some were new friends, some old. My best friend from High School, Jean has always been there when I needed her. I have always had my family...(they HAVE to love you, right?) and I made some new friends along the way. I can't really go any farther into this without giving credit where credit is due....Kevin Daniels, my cousin Mary's husband was there for me in a very unique way. He was a person whom I had never met but who became my friend on the computer due to our shared insomnia. We connected on FB and for some reason he became the sounding board for me for all of the problems in my marriage that I didn't have the courage to discuss with anyone else. He provided me with a non threatening and non judgemental personality that I could talk to without fear. Not only that, but he provided a conduit for me to become closer to many of my other family members at the same time. No matter what else, I will always have Kevin to thank for being there for me during that time. I also must thank Mary, my young and beautiful cousin who has also become such a terrific, loving and caring friend to me and who has shared her two amazing children with me, helping me to bridge the gap between myself and all the lost memories of my own children's childhood. Thanks, guys, I love you.

So I guess it boils down to this....It's not really about where I want to live but how I want to live...Do I want to spend this part of my life living in a place where I can concentrate on my career and wish that I could be where the party is all the time? Do I spend the next however many years longing to be around my family, or actually being around them? I have the luxury of being able to make that choice. My job will transfer me, and if it won't I can find a new one. The job thing is only as much of an issue as I want it to be. It can be huge or it can be choice. I used to think I was a career girl, made from the same mold as Dad and Uncle Ron but I have learned in the last year that I only need my job because I need money. I would be delighted to spend my days in the yard, the garden or at the gym...and I would be just as busy as I am now and much happier. It's a strange thing to realize, but better to understand that now than to wake up at 80 and wonder where my life went because I spent 18 hours a day at work and didn't have time for anything else.

And sooooo, Ohio? It's looking good. It will take a year or more for me to get there. I have to get one child out and independent....not an easy task. I have to find a position or a job in my desired location. I have to save enough money to move my self (for the first time since 1990 thank God for company relocation packages...) and I have to find a house in a strange town that I know little about. The best thing is that I know I'll have plenty of support. Lots of loved ones who will help me and be there for me and THAT is a first.

For the first time ever, I might actually be moving toward something instead of away from something.

That's all that really matters, right?