The road home has changed over the years

It is a road I traveled many times. As a child, Pa would be driving, and talking about going home. I never quite understood, because I thought his home was the farm we all lived on; but I knew he meant the farm his parents still lived on.

Now, Pa did not grow up on that farm, he grew up in Milwaukee, the oldest of eight children, so when they sold the bakery, where the ghost lived, and moved to the farm by Tichigan, he was already working in Milwaukee, and he stayed there.

Those trips of yesteryear were in older cars with no four-lane highways, and so what now takes three hours took a bit longer then. There was no GPS, so at times we were not on the right road, but as long as we were going in the right direction, Pa did not care.

Once we reached our destination, I knew that there would be hugs from Grandpa and Grandma, plus all the aunts and uncles, and then there would be hours of fun with cousins. Oh, how I loved those times when Pa got to go “home.”

Now, all these years later, I go alone, and what was once “Pa’s home” is now a subdivision, and I can’t even pick out which house it was. I did not drive down that road this year, I traveled through Big Bend, and Tichigan, but my destination was Waterford, to the apartment where Aunt Gertie lives.

Somehow, even though so many years have passed, and most of the landmarks and roads have changed, my heart beats a little faster, the closer I get. My cousin, Arlene, and I met for lunch, and then we went to Aunt Gertie’s apartment. She moved there last year and celebrated her 104th birthday in July.

Her smile melts my heart, and her hug makes me feel like I am “home.” She is my last connection to the past generation, and often talks about my dad. When I called her to tell her I was coming, she was telling me about my dad telling his mother he would pay for piano lessons for Gertie if she wanted to take them. She said she did for a time, but didn’t keep up with them.

That afternoon, was spent together, visiting, sharing our memories, and laughing. My aunt said that her friends are bringing her treats, like cookies, or quick breads, and worried she was eating too much. Arlene and I both agreed that at her age she shouldn’t worry about her diet.

She talked about her husband, Wally, who had passed away many years ago, and how much she still misses him. Both my cousin and I could understand that, since we are both widowed.

I brought up the pictures she had taken at my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, at the hall, and then the next day at the house. I told her how much it meant to me to have them, to look at and remember. I had never seen those pictures; until she gave them to me three years ago, they were on slides, but I had them converted to pictures.

The anniversary was in 1954, I was 11 years old, and one picture is of kids in a straw pile, including me, Arlene, and several other cousins. A couple are of people leaning on cars that were parked on the front lawn. The cars looked sparkly new, but now would fit in at an old car show.

Aunt Gertie is easy to visit with, in spite of her age. Spending time with her takes me back to my childhood, with joyful memories flooding my mind. All too soon it was time for her to go in to dinner at the assisted living facility she resides. The parting hug was extra special. ’Til next time, dear aunt.

Tigerton’s Leah Lehman, who calls herself a “small town country girl at heart,” offers memories of the past and observations of current events from the the viewpoint of someone born in the 1940s.