you can’t go home again

In his novel “You Can’t Go Home Again,” Thomas Wolfe’s character reflects:  “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

A week ago, I tweeted the following to a friend who still lives in the town where I grew up:

@hentor:  sadly Ajax hasn’t felt like “home” in years

This past week has been a reminder of that for me.  Recently a friend from high school was diagnosed with liver cancer (ugh, how well DH and I know the brutality of that particular disease) and was given months to live.  Despite the best efforts of the medical profession, he succumbed after a hard fought battle.  The funeral was this weekend.

As he was a friend of both my brother’s and mine and his father – who was my high school music teacher – was quite instrumental in getting my music career started, it was a no-brainer for me to travel from Hamilton to Oshawa to attend the visitation and funeral.

Recent events in my personal life have made me realize that my former home town of Ajax feels different to me and that I now feel like a visitor in the house in which I grew up, despite the best efforts of the Parental Units.

This weekend provided the final punctuation to my realization that you truly can’t go home again, because home is more than a place, it is a sense of being and a sense of comfort.  Ajax and its surrounding environs no longer feels like home to me – because it isn’t my home anymore.

I had no idea what to expect at the visitation, beyond the possibility of seeing my childhood friends again (honestly guys we REALLY need to stop getting together at funerals and find happier occasions to share) as well as a chance to connect with a treasured high school teacher – who through his support and guidance – pretty much shaped my adult life for the positive and gave a confused teenaged Myke a positive outlet for all the negativity he was experiencing.

My friends are great.  One of them, I have known since kindergarten and he has grown to become an actor, comedian and just last week a father (he will be the most AWESOME dad out of all of my friends to have kids).  Another (DJ) was my partner in crime throughout gifted school and high school and one of the few people whom I think I could travel with without wanting to kill.  The final was a friend through high school and university and was perhaps my most consistent friend and drinking buddy through the tough years.

The part that finally (G*d forbid me for using this analogy) put the nail in the coffin for me was the reaction of the man who I had contact with at least 4 days a week for four years.  The very person who guided me into a career and made me believe that I had what it took to become a professional musician and bassist.  That person happens to be my high school music teacher.

Let me preface this next statement by saying that I continue to respect the man fully, understanding that after twenty years of being out of high school, ten years of not living in Ajax and the fact that the funeral is for his son, I can comprehend this particular reaction.  The added fact that I am nearly unrecognizable to a lot of people who haven’t seen me in years due to my weight loss almost certainly adds to this; however…

It was truly humbling (and honestly somewhat disheartening) for me to have been reduced to a mere footnote and a vague memory by someone who was so influential in my life.

This was a person who, for four years, I saw on an almost daily basis (starting at 8am for concert band practice, in a class every other day and in a lunchtime jazz band rehearsal three times weekly) and helped me learn and grow on my chosen instrument, developing my voice and abilities.  Who believed in my abilities enough that I skipped my second year in the junior band, missed the intermediate band altogether and went straight to the senior band and even more importantly got me in the senior jazz and stage band.  The person who took me on my first international tour as a musician, playing pubs, outdoor concerts and the Harrogate Royal Hall with. The person who put me in contact with professionals and got me started as a musician.  I pretty much owe (or blame <grin>) this man for putting me on the track I’m on and he barely recognized me by name.

The day prior to this, I received the following tweet and retweeted it.

@gaypridequotes:   Nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the single person we thought would never hurt us.

This man was one such person, and I was disappointed.  I wasn’t expecting accolades and praise, but hoped for something a little more than faint name recognition (I guess).  I know egotistical of me to hope for more than that, but sometimes one would think that the impact would be at least somewhat reciprocal…there were other teachers from my high school days present as well and, although they had less connection and far less of an impact on me, their response was pretty much the same.

It was this precise moment that I fully understood the gravity of Wolfe’s words.  I finally realized that the “home” of my childhood was no longer my home.  I was also reminded of the need to remember the past, but not to revel and wallow in it.

It was on the train ride back to Hamilton that I finally comprehended this and tweeted the following:

@hentor:  Thought of the day, after visiting with old friends & family, home no longer feels like “home”. My home is truly #HamOnt now!

I guess it all boils down to the fact that home isn’t truly a place, but a state of mind and being when you get to that place that represents “home” to you.  The past is the past, nostalgia, memories and history are things that build you and that you need to learn from.  What is important is when you need to realize it’s time to move on and it’s high time for me to move on.

Welcome home!