You can’t go home again in Daydreaming on the Porch

  • Sept. 27, 2020, 12:07 p.m.
  • |
  • Public

When the pandemic came abruptly into our lives this past February, It was not a very difficult process for me to self quarantine. I was used to living alone, and although I hadn’t been living in that state for the ten years leading up to the end of January when my mother, whom I had taken care of for ten years, passed away, I quickly reverted back to my solitary ways.

I was alone in this big house, free from all the responsibilities of caregiving. No more part-time aides coming and going all during he day. I didn’t have much time to think of anything else but caregiving. It was all-consuming. And then it was all gone in a day. The life I had known for years.

As the weeks passed and the strange new unknown of the pandemic began to slowly burn a hole my consciousness, the present became a reality I knew I couldn’t escape from. Because of risk factors and a history of depression, I withdrew into myself, while at the same time reaching out online more than ever. As often happens when you get older, the past seems to loom larger than ever in your life. I know it has in my life.

I started thinking of reaching out to my long ago friends, one of whom I had not been in touch with for almost 40 years, and the other, 30 years. I finally got up the nerve to email R— because I knew where he worked. He immediately emailed back. It was like , “Where have you been? We’ve been trying to get in touch with you, but didn’t know how?“

What a rush of happiness I felt. This was a person who was about my age and who I greatly admired for his work with the developmentally disabled. In fact, my first job after college was at that same organization, and he was my boss. We became good friends and remained so after I left that place of employment. Through him I was able to get in touch with another friend who also worked there, who actually got me the job. After sending him and his wife a letter a few months ago, I got the nicest and most welcome email back and was able to catch up with their lives. It was amazing.

I’ve know them both since 1973, which is a long time. The third friend and his wife I’ve known since 1974, and they became the best friends I’d ever had. We would spend hours talking late into the night. We seemed to have so much in common and we’re truly kindred spirits.

That continued for about ten years, but they experienced some dramatic changes in beliefs, politics and social consciousness that were very different from my core philosophy and beliefs which hadn’t changed over the years. I kept up with them sporadically over the next couple of decades, but now that I’m retired, and they are too, I began contacting them more frequently, with mixed results. In the back of my mind, I was in denial about how drastically they had changed, always harking back to the glory days of our friendship and all the good memories. I managed over the years to shut out the painful parts and the lack of anything meaningful in common anymore except those memories.

As for my other two oldest friends, I have tried valiantly to keep email correspondences going but that has faded after an initial burst of happy renewal of old times and the exchange of photos we took long ago. I sent them some of my writing about those memorable times In the Seventies when they were my first real friends. The communication sadly is drying up. They’re “very busy.” How often have I heard that. All three friends from long ago have been happily married for 40 or more years m, and two of them have grandchildren. They do have busy lives, but regardless, I never accept that as an excuse for not keeping up with friends. I’m very loyal once I start corresponding with someone, especially if they are, or were close friends.

Very unfortunately, several months ago one of those friends and I had a very unpleasant political disagreement. In these bizarre times with such a corrupt president who is against everything I stand for, it became obvious that a seismic shift had occurred. I could no longer be in denial about what they stood for.

I talked to my sister and confidant about all this and she wisely reminded me that, as he novelist Thomas Wolfe proclaimed in the title of one of his great works, “You can’t go home again.”

She emailed me these words: “I always think about Thomas Wolf’s title “You Can’t Go Home Again”. Sometimes we need to treasure past friendships (and experiences) for the meaning and beauty they had at the time. Revisiting them or trying to recreate them years later just doesn’t always work out. There’s nothing wrong with that, [but] everything in it’s own time..”

My reply was as follows: “Yes, but sadly, what I’m trying to say is that it’s my folly to persist in thinking things can be the way they once were. A the same time, I don’t want my utter contempt for Trump and Republicans to ruin what’s left of the friendship. From my perspective it’s always been rather tenuous [in recent years], whether they also thought that or not. I also think my harsh condemnation of Trump and Republicans may have burned some crucial bridges…”. Yes, the damage has been done, or maybe I just see things more clearly now.

My visceral feelings in this time of political turmoil leave hardly the tiniest patch of ground for compromise or reconciliation. This is one more little chapter in the story of how our entire country has become so polarized and viewpoints so divisive. It’s become black and white, sadly.

That’s why I fear so much for the country, and that politics and religion can destroy friendships.

As for my other two friends, I did my best to reach out to them, but the sad truth is, again, you can’t base a renewed friendship solely on memories of the past.

I’ve always remembered this sad but beautiful poem by Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

IpsoFacto September 27, 2020

I understand about the friendships and it is indeed sad. I loved the Frost poem. I keep a book of his poetry by my bedside table. If we lived closer I could invite you over to have a nice dinner with my husband and myself. We could all be Democrats together. You’re a very nice man and I’ve always truly admired how you took care of your mother. I have a son. If called upon I would like to believe he would be just like you.

ConnieK September 27, 2020

Love Robert Frost. I grew up in the places he wrote about. I've had mixed results with reunions with old pals. I swerved left when the tea party hijacked the Republican party.

My struggle is with those with whom I attend church. How can a person vote for a corrupt, amoral, greedy leader and claim to be a Christ-follower? It is not an evenly matched yoke.

Oswego ConnieK ⋅ September 28, 2020

Exactly! The question you raise is the central disturbing paradox in all this.

Kristi1971 ConnieK ⋅ September 29, 2020

ConnieK, I totally understand. Supporting Trump is like the opposite of being a Christ-follower. So confusing.

ConnieK Kristi1971 ⋅ September 29, 2020

Thank you, Kristi. I've been through a lot of unfriending on FB because I challenged fellow Christians. They were uncomfortable with the probing questions about morals so they told me I was rude. LOL!

Kristi1971 ConnieK ⋅ September 29, 2020

So be like Trump and turn it back to your behavior. Because they couldn't possibly be in the wrong! Ugh.

ConnieK Kristi1971 ⋅ September 29, 2020

Trump blames others for what he does.

mcbee September 27, 2020

Your sister..or rather, both your sister and Thomas Wolfe, have it right. In most cases, you can't go home again. I have found most trips down memory lane disappointing at best.

Oswego mcbee ⋅ September 27, 2020

I’m afraid I will find that true because memory lane is kind of a pleasant fantasy I want to hold onto, just as I downplay the unpleasant realities of the past.

Wit' or witout September 27, 2020

Good memories are embellished, warmed and softened over time. Different from reality.

Sabrina-Belle September 28, 2020

I had an aunt who I used to visit. Her husband was a lovely man who would help anyone. I really liked him. Then one day he made a racist comment about children at his granddaughter's school. I also used to do a voluntary job with a woman who was pro foxhunting. It's difficult, but I think you have to separate the person from their opinions, none of us are perfect. I told them what I believed and then dropped the subject.

It's funny what you say about going home. I loved my home town but my parents moved away when I was 14. Nowadays when I visit it simply isn't the same town. It's true you can't go home. Maybe you can still find a new kind of friendship though.

Oswego Sabrina-Belle ⋅ September 29, 2020 (edited September 29, 2020)


Normally, I would agree: separate the person from their opinions. But in the case of Trump and those who support him, all the usual standards for comity and open-mindedness have flown out the window. The divide is that stark and unbridgeable. Tragic but true.

I haven’t been back to my hometown in 26 years, but fortunately, it’s the kind of place I definitely want to revisit no matter what.

Sabrina-Belle Oswego ⋅ September 30, 2020

I do understand how you feel. The world seems to be repeating old mistakes. We have those problems here too. We can only hang on to what we feel is right and hope people see sense eventually.

Oswego Sabrina-Belle ⋅ September 30, 2020

You summed things up beautifully!

WhatDreamsMayCome September 29, 2020

My dilemma now is how to convey to my two daughters (ages 31 & 33) that the world has changed. I don't want to be reactionary but I think Lincoln's words, "will die by suicide." ring all too true. I fear it will be a death by a thousand cuts.
If Biden wins the far right will be the ones resorting to lawlessness and laying claim that Biden (and his socialists) can enforce law and order.
Personally, I'd round up Trump and his supporters and charge them with treason.

Marg September 30, 2020

Aw that is really sad but unfortunately seems to be happening more and more just now. Especially in these troubled times. I’m seeing so many splits in family and friends amongst my diary friends just now, it’s horrible how politics can divide people so easily. The Trumpet has done sooooo much damage.

Oswego Marg ⋅ September 30, 2020

Yes before it was the civil “agree to disagree” mantra. But no more...

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