63: Finding Home

63: Finding Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Finding Home

Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms.

~William J. Bennett

There’s an old adage that says, “You can never go home again.” While I don’t know the origins of the saying, I do believe it holds some truth. Leaving home changes you. It alters your perspective. It sometimes even changes the fundamentals of who you are.

When I was in college, I used to love going home for the weekend. I would visit with all of my old friends from high school, but hanging out with them seemed different. Like somehow we had all changed in that short period of time.

Halfway through my junior year, my parents sold the house I grew up in and moved to a different town. It was only thirty minutes from the old house, and truth be told, the new house was much nicer. But it still felt like I had lost a big part of my childhood. I could no longer lie on the bed in the room I’d slept in as a child or study at the desk where I’d learned to read. I couldn’t look out my window and see the backyard swing set where my sister and I had pretended to be Mary Lou Retton. I couldn’t go “home” anymore. I still went to visit my parents, and I still enjoyed the time with them. It just wasn’t the same.

Four years later, my mom and dad split up after thirty years of marriage. It was devastating for all of us. My first child was just six days old when they told me they were getting a divorce. And that’s when the real loss hit me. My newborn son would never know my mom and dad as I had known them. He would never go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas, but instead, he would visit one of them and then the other. I cried for what he would never have and for what the rest of us had lost.

We’d lost our sense of family and I felt I’d lost my center — the last remnants of my home.

Just a few years later, my mom got remarried to a great guy named Doug. He was sweet to Mom and great with my kids. I liked him a lot, but he wasn’t my dad. “Going home” now meant visiting Mom and her husband. That’s how I thought of him. As my mother’s husband.

That all changed the day that my own marriage fell apart. My husband called me on the phone and said those three little words no wife ever wants to hear.

“There’s someone else.”

I dialed Mom’s number with shaking hands. How could this have happened? I thought over and over as I listened to the ring of the phone. Finally, someone picked up. But it wasn’t Mom; it was her husband. The whole story tumbled out and Doug listened with patience and compassion. He promised to do whatever he could to help me in the coming months.

At that time, neither of us knew to what extent his promise would be tested. Within a few months, I could no longer afford the mortgage payment on my house, and my two children and I had no choice but to move in with my mom and Doug. As he unloaded box after box of stuffed animals, toys, and clothes, Doug just smiled and said, “My grandkids are moving in.”

At first, it was strange living there. Before moving into their home, I had never spent more than a few hours at a time there — or with Doug. Their house didn’t feel like “home” for me. It was simply a roof over my children’s heads.

But gradually, Doug’s kindness made me feel comfortable. When he and Mom had dinner plans, he almost always invited the kids and me to join them. He never made me feel like I was intruding on their time or their space. He seemed to enjoy having us there. He called me “kiddo,” like I was really his daughter. And more than once, he said he wished I were.

My children and I lived with my mom and Doug for almost five months. Although I hadn’t grown up in their house, I grew tremendously during my time there. I cried a lot, but I had a big, strong shoulder to do it on. I struggled, but I didn’t do it alone. And because of some wonderful listening ears and caring hearts, I began to heal.

During that time, I discovered that when you’re deciding who your family is, biology is the last thing you should consider. Doug was no longer just my mother’s husband. He’d become my second dad, and because of his kindness, their house became my second home.

You might not be able to go home again. But sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you can find a new one.

~Diane Stark

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