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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Unsettled; Chapter 21: "It's Good to be Home"

It was late Sunday night when we pulled in from our camping trip to Georgian Bay and Dad pushed me feet-first through the milk chute, but because there was some exhilaration involved in squeezing through that metal square to let my family into the house, I was slightly more awake than my siblings as they filed up the three stairs to the kitchen and headed toward the bathroom.

"You guys will unpack the car in the morning," Dad whispered, careful not to wake the neighbors.

When Mom approached with Jimmy sound asleep in her arms, Dad gently took him from her. His little face peeled away from her moist forearm.

"Look at me. I'm soaked," she said, pulling her blouse away from her damp skin. "I wonder what it is that makes him sweat in his sleep. All you kids did it," she added stepping past me at the door, "Especially when you slept in my arms."

"Twice the body heat," Dad mumbled.

He paused on the first step and tried to turn out the light by dragging Jimmy's bare foot down the switch, but it missed.

"I'll get it," I said, locking the screen door, but just before I turned out the light, something caught my eye outside the door on the ground. It was Duke's old dish near the downspout, and I suddenly felt half-guilty that I had been able to forget what happened the night before we left for vacation. The topic had not come up once while we were away. It had been a factual loss; the sadness we felt the night he died was real; but it was nothing like the kind of grief that's rooted in the heart. (It would have been much different, I suppose, if Duke had been an "inside" dog or if we had shared years of play in the country.)

Dad carried Jimmy to his crib in Kathy's room, and opened the window at the far end of the house where a large fan was secured in place. He turned the fan on high, went into their bedroom without turning on the light, opened their windows, and sprawled out on the bed. (Poor Dad. He actually had to get up early the next morning and go to work, an event the rest of us would all sleep through.)

We let Kathy and Mom be first in the bathroom, a courtesy that had evolved through the years (since she and Mom were the only girls and we boys sometimes forgot "the toilet seat rule"). Paul and Dave were sleep-standing with their foreheads against the door jamb, waiting in the dark hallway for their turn. There was a bathroom at the far end of the basement, but even in our teens not one of us brave enough to use that one alone... especially at such an hour of the night, and besides, we were all basically sleep walking.

You know the feeling: There is a half-asleep state we can deliberately hold when trying not to fully wake, and in that foggy blink of time our bodies perform whatever functions they must in "auto-pilot" mode to ensure the soundest of sleep to follow. The knowledge that a soft bed is a moment away minimizes every move and suppresses all non-essential thought, and any attempt at dialogue is met with a grunt or weak "Shhhh..."

Mom, always the night owl, was the exception to this rule. She had remained awake for most of the trip, and though there was no conversation, every half hour or so she'd blurt out, "Don..." to make sure he wasn't dozing off. He would jump a little, re-grip the wheel, and say, "I'm fine." It was only that last hour or so from the A & W near the Blue Water Bridge to our driveway that Mom had actually fallen asleep, and in that final hour of the trip, Dad managed to retrace the familiar trail home in a minimal state of attention that so quickly turned to sleep that he was snoring by the last toilet flush of us boys.

As I pulled back my bed covers and flopped face-first on the sheets, I could hear the sliding sound of aluminum screens. Mom was opening all the other windows in the house for fresh air, flitting from room to room, enjoying the lack of green tent canvas and the "largeness" of our little house, and asking out loud, "Isn't it good to be home?," but we were all drifting back to sleep. The batteries were nearly dead, and we were tumbling in that state when words may form in the mind, but they can muster only enough power to move the lips, none of the other speech parts budge, and not a sound is uttered.

But, yes, I can say it now... all these years later. It is a wonderful thing to be home after time away. No matter how fantastic the excursion, it's indescribably good to smell that smell a house takes on when it's been shut tight for a week; to step back into a place so familiar that you can find your way around in the dark and half asleep without stubbing your toe; to feel familiar textures underfoot and find doorknobs and light switches right where you expect them to be; to be surrounded by a thousand little things--a cup in the sink, knickknacks on the sill, pictures on the wall, shoes on the closet floor, a bowl in the cupboard, spoon in the drawer--all the little things that remind us where we are in life; to curl up in a familiar bed where days good and bad and in between have settled through the years; and to know you'll wake in a place where you and nearly everything you'll ever need are right where they belong.

"Home" is a hard feeling to describe, but we all know when we feel it, and it's never more powerful than when we've been away or have cause to leave. So yes, I can say it out loud, and wish I had answered Mom just one of the times she said it that night... "It is good to be home."
[Writer's note: For those who have paid full attention to this storyline, you may have noticed that I said Dad carried Jimmy to his crib in Kathy's room, and yet in Chapter 9-A, I described Jim and I waking in a shared bunk bed.

This story is being written in "real time" with input now and then from my siblings. A few weeks ago, Dave and I were talking about the many changes that took place in our lives the summer we dug the well, and we compiled enough "recollection" to determine that it was not until after Kathy left for college that we "split up" the boys' bedroom that Paul, Dave, and I had shared for nine years. In a future chapter, I will explain that change, and I'll go back and ammend Chapter 9-A. It may seem like a minor detail, but it actually bears some significance to the "theme" of this story, so I thought I'd better explain it. (Since Chapter 9-A is more than four months old, I suppose anyone who may nave noticed this discrepancy is to be commended. =) ]


Anonymous quilly said...

Sometimes time lines are more easily recreated by a committee than one's solitary memories.

I am still very mush enamored with this story.

4/4/09 8:14 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks, Quilly,
I kind of needed to hear that after being away from the story for a couple weeks.

You know what an adjustment we've been through this past week. It felt good to get back home from paradise and it actually helped write this short chapter, because Julie and I kind of felt like that ourselves last Monday night.

It's funny to hear two siblings connecting "details" to create an accurate time line. In this case, we remembered that Kathy's room became a "guest room" for some missionaries for a few weeks when she was away at school, and it was then that we made the switch. More about that later.

4/4/09 10:03 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Welcome back Tom. I do understand about home, having felt like mine was in Detroit for so long. Now that I feel like the proverbial stranger in a strange land (again) we are slowly casting about for a new place to go home to.

We, Joann and I were in GR last week...interesting side of the state you got there.

5/4/09 5:06 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Hi, Mark,
We're on the lakeshore northeast of GR, but that is the nearest "big city." On its worst day, it doesn't have the traffic of the Detroit metro area. We do like it over here. You should see the vast sandy beaches and dunes in the summer.

Funny thing: growing up I only came over to this sided of the state once (for a state wrestling tournament in '72). We did all our living and vacationing in "the Thumb," the U.P. or Canada.

5/4/09 6:15 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

My Mothers parent were Canadian our vacations were either Niagara falls or TO where my father could smoke in the movie theaters. I think they would have been better off carting the five heathens to the wilds of the outdoors. But my father grew up without plumbing and he wasn't going back,not even for a week.

6/4/09 4:36 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

We went to Niagara Falls once as a family on our way to PA for a family reunion at my Uncle Roy's house in Lancaster County, so come to think of it we did take a few, fun vacations in that direction, too.

Took a quick trip around the lake to Chicago to see our daughter at college there. Last night it snowed! But as I type, I'm looking out our room window at the Sears Tower and its slightly shorter buddies all around (a few blocks away) and I'm happy to say the sun is shining (for the moment). The girls are off shopping. I'll save that joy for another time. =)

6/4/09 3:30 PM  

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