Somewhere in our second year of our travels, Chuck and I met friends for dinner in NJ, a state that had been our home for 2 decades. He served at McGuire AFB, both active duty and in civil service, following his retirement, and we raised our kids there.
One of our friends asked us what we were doing as we adventured around the country, exploring National Parks, visiting family and friends. Do you have an end point in mind? To which we responded…we’re just letting each day happen, with no intention of settling down. So you’re kind of just driving around and having fun? We both nodded, smiling at each other. So you’re pretty much happily homeless? We thought for a second and then nodded again. And from that moment on, we called ourselves Happily Homeless.
We rid ourselves of physical possessions, other than what we carried with us, and a few things in storage for the far off day we needed to settle into a sticks and bricks. We set off for 4 years of sitting one foot across from one another, discussing everything under the sun, exploring our country, loving our life together, growing more in Love with each other day by day.
Home is where the heart is.
Chuck was my home.
I was his.
Honestly, this was true long before he and I went full time on the road together.
Perhaps our combined experience of travel made us realize that home had nothing to do with place or material; he’d flown around the world as a flight engineer with the Air Force, and I was raised an Army brat. Home was defined by the people around us. Once Chuck and I no longer had a physical home, once our kids were out on their own, once we began our Happily Homeless travels…our sense of finding home with each other became even more clearly defined.
He was my heart.
I was his.
And then he died.
In the years since his death…which will forever be 7 years, because I can’t bear to count longer than 7… I’ve struggled to find a place where I feel even vaguely at home. Any place that I can call home and that my heart recognizes as such, but my attempts have been futile.
Not because family and friends don’t open their hearts and their homes to me as I wander the U.S-they do. They do so much to help me feel at home with them, and it means the world to me. It truly does.
But there is no place where I’ve felt a true sense of belonging. since Chuck’s death. No place where my heart feels lighter, where I think to myself I’m home here.
My tiny trailer is the only physical place that comes close to being home.
I’ve created a cocoon for myself inside my pink rig, covering the walls with colorful paint and bright fabric. I’ve hung swaths of gauzy materials from the low ceiling. Painted each of the 3 ceiling panels in different representations of a southwestern sky. Decoupaged pictures of me and Chuck into the cabinets, framing them with duct tape that I’ve painted in metallic tones. Laid soft rugs on the floor that is painted copper.
At night, as I’ve camped wherever I am at day’s end, I switch on fairy lights and small candles, set up my beautiful crystal clear gazing ball, put on music, and lay back on the numerous pillows that crowd my sofa size bed, and remember back to the time when my heart was filled with Chuck’s presence. When I had only to reach out my hand to touch him.
I don’t know that I’ll ever find a place to belong again. A place to feel at home.
Because home has never been a place to me. Home was Chuck.
So…what next? Can I change this? Is it possible to change this? Is it only about setting my mind to change it and it will be so?
I wish it were that easy, that simple. Just blink my eyes or wiggle my nose and voila! Home, wherever I am.
It really isn’t that easy, though, is it?
Home is where my heart is.
And my heart is with Chuck.
It’s just frickin’ inconvenient that he’s…you know…dead…