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Goodbye, Mom.


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Going home

by Phil Houseal
Nov 23, 2016


I just got back from my 30-something-th pilgrimage to my small hometown in Iowa. I never call this a vacation; it’s more of an obligation. But especially so this year as the purpose is to attend an auction liquidating my parents’ household belongings.

So I took inventory of my impressions of the trip, made while watching harvested fields and leafless trees slide by, and early darkness descend.

Wide swaths of Texas and Kansas have no cell phone coverage. And they really really need it.

It’s amusing when seeking wi-fi coverage in Kalona, Iowa, to discover a tech with a sense of humor named one of the options Amish Paradise.

Watching strangers bid on furniture you sat in and plates you ate off is like attending your own funeral.

Sorting through boxes of childhood memorabilia is like writing a story–which parts do you leave out? I don’t need my 4th grade penmanship book, but I can’t quite toss it on the burn pile. There is no museum of me.

How did the trail riders know where to go without GPS?

Visiting with your mother who knows who you are but doesn’t remember your name is disconcerting, but also an opportunity. So I told her my name was Bernard and that I was her favorite.

I also told her now that she can’t outrun me I plan to get even with her for all those times she swatted our butts with a wooden spoon.

People who work in geriatric care facilities are saints.

Your childhood home without furniture is still a house; but your childhood home without people is a mausoleum.

Objectively assessing the financial status of high school classmates 40 years later, the most successful went into sales; the ones now anticipating social security were artists who followed their dreams.

It ruins the moment when your mother is telling you her secrets to life and “The Price Is Right” is on.

Not sure which makes you sadder when revisiting your hometown–things that have changed, or things that haven’t.

How would you answer if your mom asked, “Are your parents still alive?”
I said, “Yes.”

As you travel north in winter, it gets dark earlier. We know this theoretically, but it is comforting to see it confirmed in practice.

Geese really do fly south for the winter. See previous comment.

“Stuff” accumulates to fill the space available. The Germans settlers had it right–don’t build closets, attics, or basements.

Everywhere, there is beer.

Almost everywhere, there are wineries.

People who do manual labor for a living don’t consider writing a real job.

Fredericksburg is an amazing place to come home to.