Home Sweet Home

I started this differently in the first version. We’ll get to that. Before that, because I’ve been homeless more than I’ve not, most of my life the operating assumption is that to be comfortable I need to go out. I am most at home in a café or a bar. We had a pretty hefty snow storm that started on Friday and snowed until late yesterday. It is Sunday morning as I revise this post. The sun is out, the thermometer creeping up from freezing. We will dry out over the next few days. This weekend is one of a sparse few where the smart move was to stay home. For much of my life that’s not my first impulse. Home was not there or not safe. I needed to go out.

mountain farmhouseI stayed home. I’ve been in my house since Thursday night. I’m fine. But it is news for me to have this house and all that has accrued within it. My dominant melody has been in a minor key for most of my 56 years. It was noting that I have this house in a bad snow storm that was the impulse for this post. It is the morning after the storm and I am warm. Maybe not special news for you. Not my first snow storm being not homeless. But because I’ve been homeless more than not, still a reason to be happy that I’m home.

Next, I have a hard time with compliments. Worse is writing about my wins. I’ve said elsewhere that if you want to make my cry, praise me. I can deal with crap. Giving me shit hits all sorts of resonances that make me happy. Arguing with me is even better. The house I grew up in had as a regular feature these dress-downs where every perceived psychological flaw was discussed in surgical detail. Calling me on my shit is familiar ground. I am right at home with that. Talking about my success? That’s hard.

It’s 9:30pm on a Friday night. Outside the weather is doing what it often does in Richmond, Va. It started snowing around 10am this morning. It was snow until about 5pm. Then it switched over to sleet and that’s what it is doing now. I’m at home in the house I rented over a year ago. I’m happy.

Yet, as I write the above paragraph I want to beat it back, to roll out all the blues, all the reasons to be sad, to worry about how it could fail. The exercise in this post is to do the opposite—to talk about my good news. Leave me a comment to let me know how I did.

I left home at age 19. I was sure that my Dad represented all the things wrong with the world. I wanted something different for myself. So, Navy bootcamp fail. Line cook at a nicer steakhouse fail. Burger flipper fail. Sell my precious oval windowed VW Beatle to get the money for a bus to California, my grandma and a start. That was 1979. It is 2016 as I type this. I’ve been a tenant in this single family home for over a year. I’ve had a place to live of my own for about 13 of the 37 years since I told my Dad what I thought of him and he told me what I could do about it.  I managed to keep an apartment or townhouse with my son and his Mom for the seven years we were together. I struggled to stay in my Tyler Street townhouse for about 3 years. I lived on campus at Cal State Easy Bay for the three years it took to finish my degree. So, for almost a quarter century I’ve been either homeless or nearly so.

As I type this the local AM talk radio station has their afternoon drive host yammering about the snow storm blowing outside my window. The 6 electric baseboard space heaters are on blast. My fridge is full. The water is on. I have FIOS. My car runs, is legal, is paid for. I have achieved boring. I’ve not been homeless for the longest single span of time in over a decade. I can say home is sweet home. That’s a cool thing to say.

Last night my buddy and I joined the thousands who ran to the store to resupply for the next few days while it snows and we are asked to stay off the roads. The line for the cashier was easily an hour long. Parking was nigh impossible. It was a madhouse. It was fun. He got the few things he thought he’d want through Sunday and maybe wouldn’t be able to get. Just to say I bought something I got a chocolate bar.

hopeI was ready a few days ago. One of the gifts I have from my grandma is the cooking techniques she used to squeeze the most possible out of a grocery haul. Familiar things like making chicken broth out of the carcass of a broken down fryer, strategic reuse of leftovers, and baking instead of buying. I have chicken soup in the fridge made from leftovers. I haven’t started the dried beans yet. I’m good through Monday.

A few years ago my son and I were talking. I was in my frequent worry mode detailing the things I feared. Details change but generally it revolves around being homeless again because of a lack of money. Money is a big recurring theme in my journals. You’ll find little slips of paper around my house where I’ve scratched out some arithmetic trying to comfort myself. As I was in full song, midrant, he said, “Dad, it always works out.” He shut me up with that. It works out. I was full of his words for months after that. I worry, sometimes my worries have merit, but in the end, things work out.

Nearly a quarter century of life homeless. Over a year living in a single family home. 3 years living in a hotel where the trajectory of most of my neighbors was toward further dissonance. That hasn’t  been my trajectory for the last 14 years. It’s better than, “things work out.” It’s been, “and then things get better.” I’m good. If this is the peak of the narrative, if as I fear, it can’t get better than this, at least I have today, as I sit typing with Penn & Teller’s, “Fool Us.” on cable TV, in a warm house with a full fridge and more than a few reasons to hope that it will get better.

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