You can never go back, but you can always go home, this I believe. When it comes to family, they’ll always be there. No matter how many years you put between yourselves, they’ll always be the people that love and forgive the most. Whether you get in fights or stop showing up to Christmas dinner because your life is “too busy” they’ll always let you back in.
I know, when I was little my best friends were my papaw, for all you non-southern people that’s grandpa, and Mitch, my closest cousin. Mitch and I were nine months apart and, when we were little, he would annoy me with his Star Wars fascination and I would make him play Barbies with me. My papaw kept our family together even though my dad, mom, and I lived over five hundred miles away from the rest of the family. He was a healthy “old” man, I guess. It wasn’t until recently that I found out that he really wasn’t that old, he was only in his early sixties. But when you’re nine years old, sixty is old. I spent the summers in Memphis just being a kid, and never wanted to go home. One summer a few weeks before school started and a few weeks after I came home from my papaw’s house, my dad picked me up from summer camp really early. He told me that papaw had died in his sleep the night before. I was broken, people had died before in our family and I had cried and mourned, but nothing like this. We went down to his funeral that weekend, I just stood there holding my dad’s hand, I couldn’t even cry. That was the last time I visited my family, people that I had seen and grown up with for the first decade of my life, and I just stopped talking to them. They became those family members that I called and talked to awkwardly on the phone at Christmas time, but never heard from the rest of the 364 days in the year.
Time went by, I grew up, they grew up. About eight years after my papaw’s death we got an invitation to my oldest cousin’s wedding. And after all that time of never seeing our family, we decided maybe we should show up, and see how everyone is doing. So we went, the wedding was beautiful, and Mitch was so happy to see me. But what really threw me was that time seemed to have stood still in a way. We made jokes about never coming to see each other, but it was like nothing had changed. We were still the same little kids who had run around down by the lake during the summers and fought about who got to open the first present on Christmas morning. We were older and more mature in some ways, but we were also the same little kids with the same friendship.
Today, I see him and hear from him all the time, even though our worlds try to pull us apart more now than those eight years we spent not talking. During those eight years I always was afraid of going back. I thought he’d be mad at me for staying away or that time would have pulled us apart too much to rebuild our friendship, as happens between people all the time. But family is different, you forgive and forget because you only have one family, friends come and go, that’s just a way of life but family remains forever. You may never be able to go back, but you can always go home.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.