But Where Is Home?
By Paul Graves
This is the latest in a long series of occasional letters Paul has written to his grandchildren beginning in September 1997, after Katie was born.
Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,
It was a non-stop treat for your grandma and me to spend part of early August with you and your parents in Hillsboro! Even with the appropriate COVID restrictions in place, we could enjoy each other and some outside activities.
This was almost a thematic visit for us. We had three graduations and two summer birthdays to celebrate. The theme? “Transition.” Every one of you is going through one kind of transition or another.
Katie’s college graduation led to a human relations job. Andy’s high school graduation now takes him to college in September and a possible career in social work.
Your mom’s graduation from nursing school resulted in a great job at the hospital in Hillsboro. Claire is a college senior who is already planning on graduate school in forensic psychology. And your dad just turned 50, always a transitional age for many reasons.
As I thought about your many transitions, I couldn’t help but reflect on our 2019 Sandpoint transition from our former house to our new house. That journey is now “immortalized” in my new children’s illustrated story about our adventurous cat, “Sox Looks for Home.”
His efforts to return to our former home three times (across a very busy state highway) resulted in some “fun” adventures that showed us how determined Sox was to find home. He tells the story, so it’s an almost-true version of what really happened.
I doubt if he really asked the longing question on the last page: “But where is home?” Yet I know variations of that question pester almost everyone at some time or another. Including you three!
I know each of you are excited about your immediate and long-term futures. Grandma and I are also eager to see how those futures unfold for each of you. And we will stay eager and hopeful for you as long as we live. Having said that, we also know you are moving into life-phases where “home” will take on many different looks. Each time you try something new, or enter into some new relationship personally or professionally, you’ll be looking for another metaphorical home.
I just read a long story with an unusual centerpiece. It was an artificial life-size palm tree that was “planted” at a family’s home. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for local birds to build nests and begin families in the branches of that fake tree. For birds, home is always where they find a place of refuge.
A place of refuge is certainly one important dimension of home, isn’t it. In that regard, birds, cats and people are alike, always looking for a safe space, a home. We carry that desire within us for our entire lives. The ancient Hebrew nomads certainly looked for “home” in their wandering ways, even when they settled in their Promised Land. One of their psalms, Psalm 84, is a favorite reminder for many people today, partly because it describes birds made their homes in the shadow of God’s presence.
Our spiritual journeys always have a unique mix of satisfaction and disease to them. Sometimes our searching is more obvious to us. In those times, we can more quickly relate to Sox’s last-page question: “But where is home?”
At other times, our searching is more unconscious, maybe even dormant. Then something happens that prompts us to wonder if we’re where we really want to be. That’s when being comfortable with Sox’s question might be a very good thing.
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Paul Graves is a retired and re-focused United Methodist pastor and a long-time resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he formerly served on city council and mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he’s been the Lead Geezer-in-Training of Elder Advocates, a consulting and teaching ministry on aging issues. Since 1992, Graves has been a volunteer chaplain for Bonner Community Hospice. His columns regularly appear in The Spokesman-Review’s Faith and Values section, and he also writes the Dear Geezer column for the Bonner County Daily Bee and is the host of the bi-weekly Geezer Forum on aging issues in Sandpoint.