Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Returning Home/Finding Home

9 February, 2014

Home is

work in progress.
Mum’s piano stands
in the big front room
next to my brother’s drums
near the place where once
we put the Christmas tree
and probably will again.

Each room I’ve moved
into has taken on
the burden of my love,
stocking its walls
furnishing the floors
and dropping things to be
picked up, made Zen.

The flat on English street
had a wonderful big
tree on the lawn
outside my window,
indeterminate but green
and not going anywhere
as life fishtailed.

The Saudi hotel at last
has given me a kitchen
but the internet goes
on and off, and prayer gets
through the walls
in the gap where the aircon
was not properly installed.

I think of Joel and Dave
in Christchurch, living with
earthquakes – stocking
their walls and floors.
Good home does
for food, sleep, and love what
rain does for tomatoes.

21 January 2012
Gareth Lochhead

I suspect you were always searching for home. That was just your nature, and you were never quite settled in the places you temporarily called by that name.

And yet, when defenses were down and the mind was soothed by a nice cup of hot tea, your talk of home, of the farm, of your family, would leak out in expressed nostalgia and memory. The Rakaia riverbed. Your brother Jethro's keen sense of humor. Your mum's cooking. Loading sheep onto the back of a truck. Christchurch before and after the quakes. Flatmates from earlier years. The collection of things from your travels in the room that is yours, should you ever come back for a visit. 

I stored these things in my own memory, the place reserved for getting to know the one you love. I made images in my mind. Maps. I had little movie clips to go with each story you told. This is what we do when we drink in the life of another.

I know now that to have ever traveled to your home (or mine) with you and have it go smoothly, I'd have to distort facts in such a way that I'd end up inventing an alternate universe. One in which you take your girlfriend home to meet your family. One in which we sit at the dinner table together and polish off the Christmas cake your mum had been saving for you. One in which we hop in the car to have coffee with Dave or a visit with Lynne. Normal things. Easy things.

Being a part of your world was often (thankfully!) not normal, and it was also sometimes not very easy. A regular visit home was not in our cards. It couldn't have been.

So, some of these things I must do on my own. An ambassador of our love, in a way. A life out of order, and as my own parents recently reminded me, I've never been one to do things in the traditional, in-order sense.

This is why I find myself having in-laws acquired after you've gone. A reception of sorts months after we kissed goodbye. A semi-retirement in between jobs. You are providing all the things a girl could ever want, really. Just in a different order. And if I'm willing to accept it and see it in that way, it's pretty sweet.

I came to your home not for closure nor to immerse myself in you. I came not to slide into your place at the table or see things through your eyes. I came not to understand you more deeply or answer questions I didn't yet know I had.

I came home because you have given me another home.

Your last visit home- late 2011 into early 2012.
Home. Pulling off the road to your drive.
Lavington Farm.
Home. At the end of the drive.
Your room, when you were able to be home.

I had known you in this bubble of Korea- in an even smaller bubble of an isolated town in the countryside. That insulated way we met and fell in love did a few things, most of all allowed you to control what and who filtered in. As it turns out, you were a master of "zips"- placing people you knew and many you cared for into separate little pockets.

I have my ideas about why you did this and how you must have found it absolutely necessary, but what it means is that I had skyped with your parents once since you and I met in 2012, I'd met your friends Jono and Marshall on a skype call once, your friend Mike from Saudi once (also on skype) and spoke with your parents and brother on the phone once from my kitchen while washing dishes. 

I knew of the struggles in your school days, your time at uni and at College House, the satisfaction and connectedness you found with others in the Student Christian Movement, and some about each experience teaching abroad; Japan, Vietnam, Saudi, and Korea (twice). I knew about one dating relationship gone sour in Japan, and asked about another girlfriend only to have that met with pictures of her removed from your facebook without confirming she was in fact your previous girlfriend. You didn't like to talk about these things. You had an ability to write people off- such was your nature of feeling so deeply and being in (or out) of something 110%,

I knew when you felt accepted by others and who you felt accepted by. I knew to take stories of when you didn't feel accepted with a grain of salt, as I'd seen some differences in reality and your perceptions. Who is to argue with perceptions? My job was to love. But I secretly came to my own conclusions about those who came under your fire.

And this I was sure of: if someone loved you, if someone raised you, if someone grew up alongside you, if someone fell for you and broke your heart later, if someone worked with you and loved your ideas but ended up wronging you- then these someones were special people and always will be. There is a common thread in the people who have been woven into your life story, and it's one that makes me incredibly proud. We are people who let you in. And you were quite a force to be let in!

In some way I was still letting you in when I traveled your home soil and embraced time and time again those who know and love you. Your love was in those embraces. Your spirit was in the stories shared and the laughs had. You were celebrated, Gareth, and you were understood. I know that you must know this now.

In other ways I was not so much as letting go, but agreeing to move forward with each stop, each visit, each hug. And I could feel this lightness from the moment I got off the plane. Appetite? Back! Go for a run? Sure! Frequent singing? Yes! Dancing in the kitchen? But of course! At your home I laid down my bags of grief and I opened my now-free arms out to whatever the universe has in store for me.

I am ready.

I am ready for this life without you. With pieces of you woven in. And traces of you in things to come. I am not the me I was before we met. How could I expect to be? But this me- the one you touched- the one that bears the impressions of you- I am ready to carry that person forward.

with your mum and dad- Banks Pensinsula
You have gifted me another mum.
Your dad gave me a talkin' to about repaying my students loans. And I listened!

Your youngest brother- You mentioned more than once being proud of him.

Your brother Simon and sister-in-law Nats. Easy to be with.

Your nephew- Hudson Gareth Lochhead. I know you knew I'd love being with this baby!

Your good friend Dave. You spoke of Dave and Joel often.
Dogs! Dave's dogs.
Your friend Annora- introduced to you years ago by Dave. She was on your list of people to reconnect with.

Jono and Marshall. We had skyped once. Now meeting in person.

Lynne- your former teacher, trusted friend, and writer/life mentor.

With Fionnaigh and her daughter (ah! Partner Ellen not in the photo). You and Fionnaigh met at a time when you each really needed a friend. And you showed each other great kindness and understanding.

Another Fiona! And another SCM friend from years ago.

SCM provided solid friendships for you, including Tess, a flatmate from years ago.
With Grant- a friend from College House days, although you also went to the same school. You contacted Grant in 2011 when in a bit of a bind. You must have really trusted him.

With your mum's brother and his wife. You also spoke of them fondly.

With your dad's brother and his wife. You looked up to him.

With your cousin Katrina and her partner. No surprise that I delighted in her!

With some family friends at Purau.
With your mum's close friend and daughter.
How often I heard of the Tipples!
Another gift of this visit- the gift of joy. So much joy.

More joy.

Even more joy.

The zips have been opened, Gareth. And when we all spilled out of our respective containers, we realized not only the extent to which you tried to keep everything together, but also your ability to connect (however secretive these connections could be!)

Those of us who saw you struggle know now that we were not alone in witnessing that. Those of us who saw your joy get to share what we saw with everyone else. We bring to life Gareth the poet, the romantic, the passionate thinker, the seeker, the moody, the unpredictable, the expressive. We can conjure up Gareth the risk-taker, the humorist, the self-imposed outcast, and the caretaker.

The zips have been opened, the ones you created both internally and externally. We see the whole you and are coming to understand the complexity of who you were. Some would say you were meant to blow through this life with a bright flame trailing, causing us to look up and marvel at the light left behind. How beautiful I feel cast in that light, with the faces of others you know illuminated in the same.

Know that we are here. And we are not alone in our missing of you, nor are we alone in our shared joy of you. You have given us each other, and the gifts of connection with you as the thread keep presenting themselves. Over and over.

No one can ever accuse you of not making a difference!

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