|I like this painting because it reminds us that what is painted isn't what is actual.|
I had a weekend that reminded me why I live where I live.
I have lived the majority of my life in Kansas. It was my mother's home and so, when her soldier husband was done moving the family from Boston to Germany to Korea to Fort Bliss to Fort Gordon to ..., she chose Kansas for the family to retire to. I was about 4.
I pretty much had the Norman Rockwell childhood. Scouts. Little league. Public School. Public swimming pool. One screen movie theater where I ushered. Church every Sunday. It was a great childhood, but I always told myself I would move away so someplace 'else'. What I didn't know what the it was already too late.
I did move on and joined the 'family business'. In the military, I saw the South and was offered opportunities I wouldn't have had in my small town. I was sure I was never going back.
I was wrong.
When I did move back, temporarily I told myself, I found myself married with kids. The military again offered opportunity and escape and I jumped at it. The second go at life in the service was different-I was married with small children in an organization that demanded that it be my priority. I had been a good solider. I was still a novice at husband and father. I chose to focus on what I was good at. When I left the military, I was divorced and hundred of miles from my children. It took a couple years, but I realized that I could start over by going home.
I couldn't give my kids the exact Rockwellian experience I had, but it had to be better than no experience. It was awkward. If was humbling. It was difficult to rebuild a life in a place I never thought I'd return to.
But it was also the best decision I've ever made in my life.
That decision gave me a chance to mend some of what I had damaged. I like the word mend. To mend means to fix while acknowledging damage occurred. It is no longer brand new, but it is usable again. It gave me a chance to take a breath and figure out what it was I was supposed to be doing with my life. It also put me in the company of someone who, it turns out, gets me and loves me in spite of it. It gave me a chance to parent again; this time knowing that you can't recreate Rockwell. Rockwell's world never really existed except on a canvas. It pointed to optimism and a sense of duty to something bigger than ourselves, to a future prepared for now.
I still wonder the 'what could have beens'...I'm a middle aged man, after all. However, I also know I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. This weekend reminded me of that.