I'd had enough of rural Western PA by then, and it had probably had enough of me. I was young and wanted to go elsewhere, to find my own path. I wanted to pursue a graduate degree. My two choices graduate-school-wise were NC State and UC Irvine (as in California). California is certainly "elsewhere" from PA, but too far even for me at the time.
After that stint of graduate school, I stayed in Raleigh, NC. At that time, 1991, the software industry, which I was prepared for, was growing like crazy here. There was a lot of opportunity for a career. Not so much back home, for me; and I didn't have a desire to be there, anyway. Plus, my future wife was here, and she also had career opportunity as a medical technologist at UNC Hospital. We looked at moving back to the Pittsburgh area in 1995, but it didn't work out.
Once you get settled, married, get friends, kids, a church, before you know it you've become part of a community, and up and leaving isn't so easy. Twenty-six years in NC has flown by, I've now lived here longer than in PA.
Once the shit hit the fan back in May 2014, I wanted to be back home in PA. I wanted it a lot.
If I were smart, I'd find and read a book on this subject, it's probably understood. However, as usual, this isn't as important to me as simply understanding how I feel about it myself.
Usually we spend Christmas with my family in Franklin, PA. Of course in 2014 that was impossible: I was in the hospital until early December, and once discharged, had strict orders to avoid people. And winter / holidays are prime time for passing around colds and worse, and I couldn't take it. My dad visited us in NC over the holiday, and it was welcome.
So I hadn't been home in quite a while, two years. By Fall of 2015 I was anxious, like some hibernating animal, to get back there. I wanted to see my family, but also be in that place. Maybe it's a safe place for the scared little kid inside me, to be back in the fold of home. It's not just some place on the map; it's home. And I don't care how tough you think you are, when things go sideways this badly, you want your mommy to comfort you and daddy to protect you.
Under the Family Wing
We went to Franklin this year (2015) for Christmas, and pretty much all of my extended family was there. We stayed with my mom, as usual, in the house I grew up in. Being there brought a long-awaited relief, with much stress and fear falling away. I was on the leeward side of the mountain, finally, away from the shit-storm I associated with my other home.
My family simply treats me like myself, and that is a relief.
Plus, they're not inhibited to just ask what's what, and listen to the answer, even if it takes two hours to give it. With them, it's all good, there's none of the awkwardness I sometimes get with others, no effort (or need) to ignore it.
I hold my family close to my heart, and this includes my extended family. We all grew up together, spent the holidays together, hung out together, hunted together, worked together. There is no question someone has your back, and vice versa.
But there's a lot more to it than that. While visiting I spent some time tooling around with my dad, through the countryside. My grandparents (his parents) used to live pretty far out in the country near rural Cooperstown, PA. We drove all though the (once familiar) back (dirt) roads. We went up past the property that my uncle (his brother) bought not too long ago. I see why he bought it; it's a wonderful place.
Just being in that place was natural and comforting. It looked right to me; felt right. I love the mountains and the woods and the look of cut corn fields tucked away on hillsides and hollows. I wanted to be in that; like when I was a kid, we tromped around endlessly in the woods. We hunted that area. Deer hunting was a great event in my family. I have the fondest memories of a lot of us convening at my grandparents place the night before opening day. We had scouted the woods in the prior weeks, sighted in rifles. On the big day we got up early, cooked our breakfast, and set out into the woods, usually in the snow and cold, in the dark.
These and other fond memories came rushing back. Of course I carry them with me always, but somehow being in the place is better.
Back to Life
It was sad leaving PA for NC again. But, NC is our home now. Our kids were born here, and it matters to them, like PA does to me. It's important for them to be here. I know it's important to them, more important than my being home in PA, for example. One day they will look back as fondly on this place as I do my old home, and I want them to have that.
My job, which I wouldn't trade for anything, is here. The standard of health care is high here, and it's readily available. We live near two major medical research universities. Our friends are here, our church is here. NC State baseball is here, of which I'm a big fan!
We are in the right place at the right time. At home.