Sometimes I skulk around the facebook profiles of my friends who are still in Korea, read their wall messages to each other and feel a little something that I can’t pin down, but the accompanying thought is “Why am I so disconnected, now, completely from what was my life for a year?” And I almost wish that I were someone who wanted to go back.
I interviewed a woman today who did a three and a half year study abroad program; she lived in Thailand and Turkey and other places, and instead of feeling jealous, my first thought upon reading her resume was, “Three and a half years? But how could she do it for so long?” When two years ago, that would have sounded like the best thing that could possibly happen.
This woman breathed heavily through the entire interview as if she’d been running and never mentioned Turkey.
On Saturday, I stood in the parking lot of the nursing home where my grandmother’s sister lives, in front of the open trunk of my mother’s car, with my dad, guzzling down Sierra Mist to make space in the bottle to add Captain Morgan. And in the space of the evening, my mom and dad and I drank the entire bottle, which we consumed “under our hats,” out of styrofoam cups, mixed and into the soda we had brought along.
Because there is no alcohol storage allowed in the rooms, a nurse had to bring Aunt Esther a styrofoam cup of bourbon. She pays for it, but the bottle must be stored in the medicine room and it comes to her the same way that pills do.
It was the Manor’s pre-4th of July lawn party; all of the nursing home residents were given dinner trays of fried chicken and turkey sandwiches—not a single fruit or vegetable—and carted outside. People from the community came and laid out blankets on the lawn. A big band played, and those who knew how, swinged on the sidewalk.
When, tipsily, my mother, sister, and I went back to Aunt Esther’s room to use her bathroom, we discovered one of her prosthetic legs leaning against the dresser in her bedroom. It might not have been so eerie had it not been dressed up in hose, a sock, and one of her shoes.
And when, at a quarter of nine, weather.com showed a rainstorm only 20 minutes away, they rushed through the fireworks display, which is the closest I have ever been to fireworks being set off. All I could do was wonder why people get so much enjoyment out of simulated fire-bombing.
Afterwards, my mother and I walked to the car with Grandma, who stumbled awkwardly up the hill. “Grandma,” I told her, “You’re still wearing your dark glasses.” And it poured as soon as we got to the car.
We watched Harry Potter in my parent’s room at the Red Roof Inn, while Dad and his mother dozed off, and then Milie and I went back to our own room. We pocketed the extra roll of toilet paper since we’re out at home and decadently cranked down the air conditioner. “I want to sleep under the comforter,” Milie said, and we did.
And we spent the next afternoon back at the Manor, socializing. The old ladies told stories about everyone in the room from when they were young, which was incredibly boring.
This is what I gave up a life of adventure to be able to do, if my life has ever been an adventure. I may have seen more wonders of the world and said thank you in more languages than anyone else in the room, but the thing that is hard to explain is how un-adventurous it feels when it’s you. In that case, it’s just your life that you fail to appreciate as often in Korea, India, or China as you might be tempted to in Baltimore, Maryland, spending a weekend with the family.