You Can Go Home Again.

A few years ago, Monica McGoldrick, a family therapist and Director of the Family Institute of New Jersey, wrote an interesting book that caught my attention from the moment I read the title: You Can Go Home Again: Reconnecting with Your Family.
Beginning with the premise that understanding your personal family history is essential for making informed choices, she offers an innovative method of combining genealogical research with self-awareness that leads to understanding one’s family patterns. This new understanding makes it possible to connect with one’s ancestors and to recreate better family relationships for oneself. Although the writing is a bit dry at times, as it is apparently targeted to the educated lay reader and professional, the causal readers will find that this book is very helpful in researching and understanding family information and patterns of behavior. For me, the greatest take away was ‘those who learn from the past are not condemned to repeat it’! Oftentimes, a family’s history of estrangement, alliance, divorce, or even suicide, reveal intergenerational patterns that prove more than mere coincidental. It was insightful and I needed to know that I can go home again.


This past week, I did just that; I went back home, but this time with a focus on just being present and not trying to change anything or anyone; including myself. It was a wonderful time, and in many ways a very sad time, as I sat in the front yard of my family home – a home I had known since I was less than 5 years old – and listened to my mom reminisce about the days now gone. I went back in my mind’s eye to the day we moved into this new neighborhood, one that was so brand new that most of the lots were still covered in mud or trees, the road was barely there and one could find lots with only new foundations poured for a future home to be built upon them. Those homes, now fully built and aged some 45+ years, are now almost all owned and occupied by ‘others’, all but one – my home – is all that holds one of the original occupants from so long ago.
A generation has since come and passed through the walls and lived on this street we so warmly called home, Clayton Avenue. I stood in our front yard, holding my mom’s hand as we walked back into the only home that I can really remember well, and as I turned I saw the two long rows of homes, one on either side of this simple, one block long street, and remembered the faces that once were, now vanquished only to my memory: my father, Alton, Mr. & Mrs. Longley, The Spencers’ and Miller’s, The home of the Mr. & Mrs. Dedad and my fist best friend, David, Joanne, the single woman down the street, and Foy and his wife Marie, my mom’s best friend in all the world. Tony, called “T”, and his wife who was one of the last, Marianne, just gone this past month now and resting next to her husband; a husband she missed so dearly. The Flatleys’ and Grandma DeDad and that long-time wooded lot we affectionally called, “The Woods”, where I built my first ‘fort’ with David and our friend, Robby. Yes, the rows stood the test of time, but the people, they are now all gone…all gone, but one now, my mom.


Later, we visited my dad’s grave at Laurel Hill Cemetery. My family and I stood there and then after a prayer and a few tears, we got down on our hands and knees and cared for the chores of weeding, edging, and then placed mulch and flowers capped by one U.S Flag to mark my father’s care of us and his nation in WWII. We stood together – as a family held together through the years of love and pain, disagreement, illness and being frightened, misunderstanding, agreement and hope and let down, through moments of great joy and heartache – and then we held hands and wept for the one not there among us, at least not the way he once was; the way we wish he still were…
Then, we gathered our composure and I wiped my eyes dry and looked up and down and saw two rows – standing strong – but this time, not of homes, but of tombstones marking the graves of those now held as part of my life and legacy and the manner in which I see the world today: my father, Alton, Mr. & Mrs. Longley, The Spencers’ and Miller’s, Grandma DeDad, T, and now Marianne; my Uncle Jim and his wife Hazel, their son, Richard, one day me. Yes, it was insightful and I needed to know that I can go home again.


We built something so wonderful here at Saint Miriam. It is a home to many of us, just as strong and as needed as that one I grew up in on Clayton Avenue so long ago now. And that is where I will focus what days I have left on this earth, because that is now home for me and is the most valuable asset I have to care for in all the world.