The Impact of 20 Years

In the summer of 1996, I did a cross-country road-trip to join Anne in San Francisco, the city that would be our home for the next 14 years. I deliberately headed a bit south so that I could visit my parents in El Paso, the city that had been *their* home for 24 years and that would remain their home for another 20, until…well…2 weeks ago when my mother and I flew to Chicago so she could live with my brother and his family in Madison, Wisconsin.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of those 20 years. At 32, all of the most important life decisions I’ve ever made with only two exceptions–the decision to move to Minnesota after college and to accept Anne’s marriage proposal–were still ahead of me. I left a job in DC that I loved…and then returned to it and to Washington in 2010. We moved to San Francisco, a city that I loved but that wrecked my health. Anne and I decided not to have children. We retired for a year in 2009 and traveled, perhaps the most rewarding experience of our lives. My father beat prostate cancer only to be cut down by Alzheimer’s and the prostate cancer’s return 12 years later.

After my father’s death, I stepped up my visits home, sometimes returning to El Paso as many as 4 times a year. And when it came time to wind up my mother’s affairs here in West Texas, it was my job, having my mother’s Power of Attorney and little sentimental attachment to the family home, but that didn’t make disposing of 4 dumpsters of my family’s lives any easier. In fact, I can’t remember ever being this tired, this melancholy, this bitter, this lonely, or this homesick.

I’ve been coming here for so long, I have a hard time remembering that El Paso was not the only place I lived during my childhood. Nonetheless, first thing tomorrow morning, I’ll return to Washington, DC retracing the same route I took 20 years ago, and today I’m weighed down by the feeling that everything I do…I do for the last time.