Columns / Discourse / October 9, 2013

The rift that wasn’t there before

Just this past weekend, I decided to visit home, a small town called Rochelle about two hours away where my Mom and little brother, Sam live. I had a great time, seeing my family and settling back into my old roots for a few days, but as nice as it was to see everybody again, I couldn’t shake the profound sadness and longing that washed over me. I had only been at college for about a month, but already I felt disjointed, disconnected from everything, like the entire world had moved on without me, and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it back, nor could I stop it.

College is supposed to be the start of a new life, but what I never realized is that it’s also the end of an old one. I wasn’t a kid anymore. I was a visitor to the house I used to live in, and the longer I stayed there, the more I realized that one weekend was never going to be enough. I wanted them back. I wanted it all back. Everything I had been so eager to leave suddenly felt like a godsend, because now it felt real, so painfully real.

All those dreams I had set out to fulfill weren’t just dreams anymore. Now, it was like a Rubiks cube had been shoved into my hands and I had to get it back in order, and after four years I was going to be stuck with whatever I had. Four years to get published. Four years until I have to get a job, and maybe never become what I wanted. I know it’s stupid, but I’m scared that if I don’t start soon, then I never will. I think I know why they call them your roots. Sure, it’s where you first started growing, but it’s more than that. Roots nourish the plant, feed it, and no matter how hard you try, they’re always going to feed into who you are.

For instance, I’ve got a heart condition. My older brother, Andy, is in the Air Force. I have a surgical scar on my chest and an Air Force teddy bear on the desk in my dorm. Every time I see that scar, I can’t help but remember my mother, and how she never left my hospital bed during all those surgeries. The bear reminds me of my brother, seeing him graduate boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. My mom and I used to watch M*A*S*H* a lot when I was younger. It’s one of her favorite shows. When I went back home, I was reminded of the episode when Radar (my favorite character) goes home, and leaves behind his teddy bear, and I understood how it must’ve felt to be him.

I was a kid when I left home, and I came back feeling like an adult. I never imagined how hard it would be to let go of my childhood, but I had done it, and was just now coming to grips with it. Just like Radar, my teddy bear was gone, and sure, I could visit it. I could pet it. I could even pick it up and hold it every once in a while, but the one thing I couldn’t do was pick it up and act like nothing ever happened. I used to hate it when people told me every day was kids’ day, but they were right. One day you’re five years old, wishing you could just grow up and do all the cool things grown-ups get to do. The next, you’re coming home from college for a visit, and you walk into your room, and you just stand there, crying and staring at a teddy bear.

Tony Rogde-Hinderliter

Tags:  College home Lackland Air Force Base military Radar rooted roots

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