I spent my childhood years doing one activity with relative frequency: moving. From the year of my birth to the time I graduated high school; I had moved 12 times and lived in 5 different cities and 3 different states. I have since moved an additional 21 times across 10 cities in 5 states (some of that moving was due to joining the military after graduating high school). This is in sharp contrast to many people I have met in my life (including my wife). I have come to know many people who have never left their home state, city, or neighborhood. I even knew one guy who had lived all over the world only to wind up a block away from the house in which he was reared. I, conversely, still live nearly 1000 miles away from where I was born.
Living such a nomadic lifestyle has lead to a variety of new beginnings at every new residence. Twice, my family spent up to a week living out of a suitcase in our new place while waiting for the movers to arrive with the rest of our belongings. I had to meet new teachers and learn new class schedules. I had to learn a new address and a new phone number. I had to learn new directions to the mall, library, movie theater, and convenience store. I had to learn call letters for new radio stations and where to tune my TV so I could watch re-runs of “M*A*S*H”. I had to learn put my bashful nature aside and make new friends. This meant I had to do things like talk to a guy I met in science class or the girl in my gym class (it wasn’t ENTIRELY a rough transition). I did all of these things while missing the friends I left in my former town and the magnolia tree in my former front yard.
Mind you, this same lifestyle has lead to some unique experiences. My father enjoyed taking us to minor league baseball games. This means I have had the pleasure of watching the Columbus Astros *, Charlotte Orioles, and Savannah Braves. I have experienced 21 Mardi Gras parades in Mobile Alabama and 4 St. Patrick’s Day parades in Savannah, Georgia. I have witnessed the beauty of a thunderstorm off the Atlantic Ocean. I have fled in a car with my family to shelter from an impending hurricane. I have endured multiple cases of cabin fever with my family following a blizzard. I have driven just two hours from my house to witness one of the great wonders of the world: Niagara Falls. I have fished and swam in the Gulf of Mexico. I have viewed stunning foliage in the states of New York, North Carolina, and Georgia. I have lived in bustling cities where subways and taxicabs abound. I have also lived in small towns where a pair of sneakers hanging over a power line is used as a landmark for giving people directions.
Alas, whether we like it or not, we must all move away some day. Some move from their parents’ homes to go away to college or join the military. Some move from a single occupant house or a roommate situation to a new home after being united in marriage. Others move because their occupation has promoted them. Others move to venture into a new occupation altogether.
My wife’s father passed away recently. This past weekend my wife, my sister in-law, my two younger kids and I went to the small town where he lived, cleared out his apartment, and turned in his key. We packed what remained of his belongings into a rented moving van (which we picked up from the town florist). It is true that the passing of my father in-law was truly a loss to many who knew him. However, as I packed the moving van, got behind the driver’s seat, and drove away from his apartment, a couple of things became enviably obvious to me. My father in-law is in a better place and he will NEVER have to move again.
* This is not referring to Columbus, Ohio but rather Columbus, Georgia. A fine town located just east of the Georgia/Alabama border.