Mom – I see her beauty in my little sister
“I know they say you can’t go home again.” (From The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert)
The next line says, “I just had to come back one last time.”
And I did.
My memories begin in Sheffield, Illinois. The earliest one is of me leaning over my baby sister and promising her I would take care of her. We lived in a house behind the tavern where our mother worked as a bartender and cook. I was being protective of my sister because there was a fire beginning on a line coming toward the house. Everything must have turned out fine because we lived there for some time after that.
I only remember one doctor from those days. His office was almost downtown and as far as I can recall, was actually a house. One fall day I decided to trek from Kewanee to Sheffield and check out the museum.
A little backstory: After living in Tucson, Arizona for over five years from 1983 to 1989, we moved back to Kewanee. I began writing in Tucson and I was itching to go back to where I grew up to take some pictures and write.
I drove around and saw that the downtown looked familiar. I drove past our houses – the one behind the tavern and the one on Atkinson Street. From there I went past the school, then headed back toward town.
At the museum I was glad to see that they had at least one whole room set up to replicate the doctor’s office. Well, who’s to say it was exactly the same? As a kid I remembered the toy room and the front desk where the nurse took our information. Ah, and the lollipop jar.
I was in the doctor’s “office”, writing and snapping pictures when I heard someone behind me. “What are you doing?”, she asked, arms crossed and a suspicious look in her eyes. This was the museum’s director or whatever she was called.
I told her this was my doctor’s display, he treated me, my sister and mother. She wasn’t impressed. In fact, she told me I wasn’t allowed to write anything or take pictures.
I was too flabbergasted to protest much, and she wouldn’t leave me by myself so I recorded what I was seeing in my head and when I got to the car I wrote down what I remembered. The woman stood in the front window, arms still crossed, her face still a scowl.
What she didn’t know was that this same doctor came to Kewanee shortly after we moved from Sheffield to tell our mother he could no longer treat her. Mom was heartbroken and scared out of her wits as she called out after him to please stay with her as her doctor.
Mom had been recently diagnosed with Scleroderma and the doctor had no clue how to deal with that, so he left her – and us.
I didn’t go “back home” that day to make trouble or dredge up bad memories. Nor did I intend to smear the man’s name or reputation. I simply went there to solidify some childhood memories and I met up with someone who tried to stop that, whether she realized it or not.
I know the song says that some say you can’t go home again. I say you can – even if it’s only so far.
Thursday, February 14, 2019