I called an old friend today. I had not spoken to him since early spring and at the time we ended our last call I had promised to be in touch the next week. I broke my promise. David (aka “My darling Life Partner”) had some health issues arise and so I lost track of time and well, just got around to calling him today. Sad but, true. Anyway, we talked for over an hour. I called him at the beginning of my exercise walk at the park. I finally had to end the call when my phone kept beeping that I had no more juice. Besides which, I needed time to digest the conversation.
All day I have vacillated between pure awe, sadness, humility and quite frankly, the need to cry buckets of tears. In fact, while listening to him on my cell phone I had to fight the urge to find a quiet space in the park, curl up and sob- not for grief of this dear man’s plight but, sheer humility. The man’s words truly humbled me. You see he spoke about becoming homeless, only he called it “houseless”.
Swirling through my head all day have been images of the beautiful fabrics I have worked with, the gorgeous furniture and accessories I have placed in homes of clients, the money spent on materialism. Kenny brought me back to the basics. How deeply thought provoking.
But, let me take you back to how we became friends to begin with.
An unlikely friendship.
About twelve years ago, give or take a year, I built a new house. It was my first home after selling the house I lived in during my marriage. Kenny was on the construction crew for the overall townhome project.
Kenny was always friendly, always smiling and was kind to my kids. After I moved in he even began to do some custom work for me in my house. He built the cutest brick doggie door you can ever imagine off my deck and did wonders in my backyardscape.
But, coming from two very different walks of life, we had very little in common or so it seemed on the surface. There didn’t seem to be much there for a friendship to bloom.
It did though. Turns out, we are more alike than we are different. I suspect most of us are once we get past our egos, our need to keep up with “The Jones’ ” and the superficial side of life – but, hold that thought for another day.
9/11 sealed the friendship.
Our friendship grew after a very specific event. 9/11. Need I say more? Does bringing up September 11th bring back a flood of memories of where you were and what you were doing at the exact time you learned about the attack?
I was out of town doing some work. In fact, I was in Richmond, VA with an artist (Karen Peppers) doing some custom work in my brother, Don’s home. His home sits on over 30 acres out in the country, away from everything. I still can hear him racing in the door screaming, “Turn on the TV. New York has just been attacked by terrorists.”
We all stood there stunned and then of course, turned on the television. The silence was eerie. But, I soon thought of my kids, Ben, Sammi and Jimmy at home in Charlotte. Sammi was home from college watching Jimmy- no worries there.
Until now… I was terrified that I was away, even for Ben although he was living on his own. What if terrorists attacked Charlotte?
I called home. Sammi said the construction crew on the site had stopped working and Kenny had come by to check on them. In fact, as soon as the news spread about the plane crash, he became as glued to the television in my house as did Sammi and Jimmy. Each day until I got home, he checked on them. He even ate meals with them. I will always remember his kindness and after that, he became part of the family.
We lost touch for a while after I moved to Chicago until our phone conversation this past spring. When we talked this past spring I was stunned to find that he was divorced and living in Texas. He was just as surprised to hear I was now living in the Chicago area. Then, today while beginning a long exercise walk at the park I thought of Kenny and so I called him. More surprises- he told me he had moved back “home” to Pensacola, FL. Also, he filled in all the gory details of becoming “houseless” after leaving Charlotte.
Kenny said, “Jamie, I am finally home.”
He didn’t mean physically. He meant emotionally. Anyone walking past me on the trail surely saw the shock on my face. I couldn’t get my mouth to close and I felt like my eyes were bulging. But, I could feel Kenny’s big smile!
“Jamie, you don’t need a house to have a home. I have never been homeless, just houseless.”
He went on to say that his wife had built stronger walls around him with her anger and abuse than the walls in their actual home. He said he had to leave it all after one last massive episode and so his red truck became his home as he made his way from Charlotte, NC to Texas and finally to Florida.
Home sweet home.
His truck gave him shelter. But it also gave him the home he was craving. He said to me, “You see Jamie, home is a safe haven. It is a place where you can live without fear. My truck gave me that. Even in the cramped quarters often sleeping upright in the seat, I felt more at home than I ever did in the house I had with my wife.”
Months after living in his truck in towns working throughout Texas, Kenny said he made the decision to really go home – to extended family in Pensacola, FL.
I’ll always, always remember his words, “Jamie, when I crossed the state line into Alabama, I took both hands off the steering wheel and say, ‘Thank you God.’ Then, when I crossed the line into Florida, I raised my hands again and shouted, ‘Home Sweet Home’. I am finally home.”
Thank you Kenny for your words. You are one of the wisest human beings I have ever been honored to know. I am deeply indebted to you for what you have reminded me of in such a profound way:
Home is not a place or a space. It is a feeling that gives us the sanctuary in which to bloom.
Welcome home, Kenny…
Home is where the heart is.