Finally Having That Feeling of Home
In March of 2011 my brother-in-law, Paul, was diagnosed with ALS. He was one of four boys in my husband Pete’s family. Everyone who knew him— family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers—were devastated by the shocking news. He was the most gregarious, generous, loving (and more) man to be around. He was one of those guys who “lit up the room” just by walking in.
Over the next three years, we made frequent trips from our home in Connecticut back to Minnesota to visit Paul and spend time with all of Pete’s family. It was horrific watching Paul deteriorate as ALS stole his life, minute by minute. On June 23rd, 2014, ALS won and took him away from us. Though I know this is true for myself, I believe there are so many others who would say that not a day goes where we don’t think of Paul.
Paul’s funeral and celebration were held around the July 4th weekend. We flew out from Connetiticut as soon as we could, attended all the gatherings, and spent time with friends and family. I will never forget the end of Paul’s funeral. As the family was walking down the aisle to go to the receiving room, a long-time friend, Katie, grabbed my arm. She’s six-feet tall with big eyes and a perpetual smile. She can be very commanding to a short squirt like me. She grabbed me, looked me in the eye and said ever so sternly, “I love you!” As if I hadn’t cried enough that day! Her words really put me over the edge.
We returned to Connecticut later that week, and Pete and I felt such a void in our souls both from the loss of Paul, and from leaving family behind. Throughout the coming days, I began to feel a huge push for us to pack up and move to Minnesota. I have a sixth sense when it comes to those who have passed and this push felt like Paul’s hands on my back. Wait. Me? Live in Minnesota?
Throughout the previous 25 years I had visited Minnesota numerous times each year with Pete and our children. I loved it, but never, ever wanted to live there permanently. The cold weather doesn’t like me and I don’t like it either, so there! Plus, I already knew enough about living in the freezing temps because we had lived in Chicago for 14 years before moving to Connecticut. In my opinion, Chicago is the coldest place on earth, but Minnesota comes in a very close second—it just has less wind.
Let’s see. What did I like about Minnesota? I really appreciated the family values most people displayed. And I have always seen a tremendous work ethic. Then there’s the moniker that I believe to be true: “Minnesota nice”, which describes the incredible people who endure the winters each year.
But me? Was I worthy of living in Minnesota? I mean, I have a strong work ethic, solid family values, but the cold weather? Nope, it will wipe me out. Remember, I’m the sun-shiny California girl who likes to bake in the sun.
So why, at the end of 2014, did we pack up our home in Connecticut to head west to the frozen tundra? What changed my mind so drastically? It’s simple. I have lived many, many places in my almost-54-years-on earth. My mom moved me at least 15 times before I entered high school. As a child, I didn’t recognize how such a transient lifestyle impacted me. But today, I now understand why I had some of the emotions that I had as a kid, and made me more aware of how Pete and I put down roots. 14 years in Chicago, seven years in Connecticut, and now five years in Minnesota. Each house had mostly felt like home, but nowhere has it felt as much as home as Minnesota. I still hate the cold (that will never change), but it’s the people who I am surrounded by that gives me that feeling of home. They provide the warmth I can’t get from the weather.
Because Pete lived almost all of his life here, everytime we visited I built friendships with his friends and their wives. So, now that I am a resident, those women are my go-to friends that I couldn't (physically) go-to before. Tyanne, Stephanie, Andrea, Brenda—all wives of Pete’s former teammates that, fortunately, are women I can call in a second and they would have my back. I also have new Minnesota friends who would have my back just the same. Paula, JoAnn, Beth, Amy, Lori, Sara—they are all solid Midwesterners and the reason why I will never leave this great state.
Girlfriends come and go. Some love you at times and other times they despise you. Occasionally, it can be tough to figure out which ones will have your back and which ones will turn theirs. Although, it’s the ones who grab you by the arm in your lowest state of grief that lift you up with three simple words. These are the ones that are the keepers and the ones you should surround yourselves with. You bethcha!
I love that you were with me today. Hope you come back soon!
Lisa A.K.A. Loopie