Sunday, January 31, 2010

Where the heart is

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the Big Changes in life recently was moving out of our home of 25 years just before Christmas 2009. This was facilitated by the heroic efforts of our wonderful children, many of whom essentially gave up their own Advent time and Christmas preparations in order to get the new house ready and us moved into it. But that effort is now well over, and though the books need to be put back on the shelves and I've a list of petty tasks to polish off, we've been settled into the new place for over a month now.

Here's the odd thing: I consider myself a sentimental guy, with deep and lasting attachments to people, places, and things that have meant a lot to me. As such, I was bracing for a lot more emotional trauma as we moved out of the old house. It fell to me to make the final visits, to call to shut off the utilities and to be present when the workers arrived, and to make the final walk-through with MDOT agent to sign over the house. I was the last one in the family to see the rooms that were once filled with family life now empty, cold, and littered with debris.

Emotional impact on me thus far? Zero, as far as I can tell. Getting out of the old house, including those last sweeps for anything left behind and the final walk-through, were just items to be checked off the list. It's not like I was callous about the change, but there was so much to do, and closing out of the house meant we could get the ball rolling with MDOT for the moving payments, and I've still got that list of tasks on the new house, and so forth. Closing the door and walking away wasn't difficult in the least.

Oddly, part of me feels like a traitor to admit this. After all these years, and all that house has meant to us, I feel like I should feel more loss at leaving. Ellen hasn't been back, or even past the house, since we left in mid-December. A couple of my daughters have told me they don't want to go back at all, so they can preserve their memories of the house as a home, a live and welcoming abode of love. I can understand why they'd feel that way - I just can't figure why I don't. I've even driven past the old place a couple of times, and haven't felt a twinge of regret or homesickness. It stands empty in the middle of its empty neighbors, awaiting the spring when they will all be leveled. I certainly don't want to be around to watch that happening, but it surprises me that I don't feel more now.

Maybe I'm getting cold- or hard-hearted in my old age. Or maybe I'm maturing. I've always acknowledged that places and things are not as important as people and relationships, yet I've had this almost maudlin connection to things that carry significance from my past. Maybe my emotional responses are finally catching up to my understanding of things, and I'm able to detach from the things I should be detaching from so I can better cling to the things to which I should be clinging. Jesus is still the same at the new house as the old house. Not only is my wonderful family present in the new house, but they had a significant hand in turning it into our new home. At a practical level, the new house is a much better place. My reason recognizes this, and this time it seems my emotions are agreeing.

I don't know what the future will hold. Perhaps times will come when I'm swept with waves of nostalgia for the old place, especially after it is no more. Maybe part of me will yearn to come down the old steps and prepare coffee in the old kitchen just like I did thousands of times across the years. But maybe not - and if that does happen, maybe I'll have the wisdom not to nurture those feelings, wallowing in them as if that were something noble. The old house was a place, given to us for a time by God for His purposes. Now in His grace He's given us a new home. We were thankful for the old one in its time, and we're thankful for this new one as well. I hope that my thanks do not turn back in a perverse clinging to a mere thing after its time has passed.

Now, if I can only remember this lesson when it comes time to let go of the old "house" of my earthly life and move on to the "new home" the Lord has for me - whenever that move may be.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

I love this post. I've driven back by places I lived previously (although none for 25 years, of course), and I was always surprised to find that I had no sentimental attachment. I think back fondly of a house or apartment, but my attachment lies with the people who were there and the events that occurred there. I never had a sadness at going back--more just a surprise that I DIDN'T really feel sad.