Oregon, My Soul

In the 8th grade, my parents moved us from Myrtle Creek, Oregon to Carlin, Nevada. My Uncle Jim owned a drilling company and my father would work for him. During the move, Dad and I rode in a U-Haul truck on an endless stretch of a deserted highway.  In the distance, I spotted Doherty Summit or as my family calls it Buzzards Gap. The summit stood massive and barren. Looking, I wondered ‘where are the trees?’ I turned to dad asking about the trees. He responded, “there aren’t any, just sand and rocks”. My expression prompted dad to say, “it’s not very pretty, is it?” I shook my head no.  He proceeded to tell me how things will look different in our new town. As he talked, I began to understand how much my father loved Oregon. He wasn’t talking about where we were going, but what he was leaving. He painted a picture of Oregon’s beauty, joked about the people, shared his family connections and memories. In my 12-year-old mind, I began to grasp the deep love between my father and Oregon!

We returned to Oregon a year later after graduating from high school I moved away, returning in less than a year. A short time later our family moved back to Nevada where I married someone who didn’t share my love of Oregon. My next trip to Oregon was 20 years later with 3 more visits in the years to follow. As my massive family slowly dwindles, my continual prayer is to go home.

The minute I enter Oregon I become overwhelmed with emotion. It never fails as my car climbs the winding mountain passes tears will brim my eyes. Sitting in the passenger seat I’ll watch the trees grow stronger and taller. The forest grows thick only allowing me glimpses of her deep blue lakes. The sights, the sounds, the smells begin to confuse my thoughts with a mixture of memories and familiarity.  I try to share what’s happening, but the words choke in my throat. Climbing down the other side of the mountain, there are farms with rows and rows of freshly tilled land. Cows will be gathered in the corners of pastures. The closer I get to the town I call home the worse it gets.

This town holds my youth, my history, my childhood dreams. As I drive around, I see the past. My schools. My old homes.  Every corner brings familiarity. A wrong turn brings back lost memories. If I look closely, I can see ghosts. In our old home, my mom tends her flower beds while my brother’s tinker with their bikes. At my grandparent’s farm, grandma is feeding her chickens while grandpa mows. There’s the cafe I worked at in high school if I gaze there’s me as a teen waiting tables. In the green grass in front of my high school, my friends and I sit laughing, teasing, living out the day-to-day drama of teenagers. The foundations of my opinions were shaped here. What was to become my life was started here.

The first place I usually go is to one of my many Aunts houses. There is nothing better than being wrapped in someone’s arms who unconditionally loves you.  A woman who’s genuinely happy to see you.  A person whose eyes bring back pictures of ancestors long-buried. There will be laughter, food, and stories of days gone by. The stories I’ve heard a million times, but my soul longs to hear them a million more. I will be made to feel important, cared about, and loved beyond measure. I am connected.

Another place I will visit is the Roseburg Memorial Cemetery, I know weird! I love that I can go to one cemetery and visit both sides of my family. I sit by my father’s grave and visit. I say hi to my grandparents, uncles, and aunts; it’s strangely comforting.

Eventually, time runs out. Reluctantly, I start my trip home with every mile my heart grows heavier. By the time I reach the state line pieces of me are missing. Once again I’m disconnected.


January Saturday 

Saturday 9 am: Sitting on the floor in my comfy black sweats, back to the sofa, laptop on grandma’s old coffee table, smoking hot cup of salted caramel coffee, I’m ready to work on genealogy. D comes out of the bedroom “What you doing?”

“Genealogy” I answered observing that he was wearing a dress, “You must not be working today?” Dam! I thought I had the day alone.

“You sound disappointed. I have the day off is that alright? It’s like you don’t want me around anymore. You need to put away all your Christmas stuff today.”

“All that’s left is the snowmen I always put them away at the end of January. I got up early and cleaned house so I could work on my genealogy.” I answered exasperated.

“I want all your stuff out of my den.”

“What stuff?” I ask confused.

“Your Christmas stuff and if you’re going shopping go this morning before the storm hits.” he goes over and looks out the window. “DJ needs to shovel the snow. Aren’t you doing your laundry today? It’s your day.” He rambles on with his list of chores.

“I don’t have anything in your room.”

“I want you to take the van to Les Schwab to get the windshield wipers changed. Put all your Christmas stuff in your storage unit. When’s Lisa coming home?” He continues ignoring me.

“I checked them yesterday, they’re fine. My storage is full. She’s staying until at least Monday.” I’m starting to feel cornered.

“I already set it up. You should get a bigger unit for your stuff. What’s for dinner? Tomorrow I’ll go pick up Lisa with the van………………………….” and on and on he goes. I set on the floor

How can anyone have a conversation that only consists of badgering? I want to scream at him:

#1 Our daughter is 22 years old she can come home whenever she wants.

#2 Our son shovels the snow every day. He also checks my oil and changes the windshield wipers when needed. I’m not paying anyone to do it, for that matter, I can do it.

#3 Yes, I don’t want to be around you. That’s why we got a divorce, but I would settle for some space.

#4 Ask! don’t assume it’s okay for you to use my van. It’s mine I’ve made all the payments, and the judge gave it to me.

#5 Put the Christmas stuff under the house. I pay almost $700 a month for me and the kids to live here. I can’t afford another shed.

Last, but the most important, quit telling me what to do. I am a grown women. Don’t plan my day!

But I just sat looking at my computer

“that’s all wrong”

The other day when in an innocent conversation a relative made a comment describing my decorating style as she chatted I thought “that’s all wrong”. It was like the person in front of me was a perfect stranger. A woman I love someone and spend a great amount of time.

On Christmas morning my son told his sister that blue was mom’s favorite color. My favorite color is red, dad’s is blue.

How can people who know you; actually not know you? Well, it’s easy, when all I reveal to them is what will keep the peace, guarding anything that may cause anxiety for my spouse. I do this particularly with the people I love, constantly seeking to project the image of happiness. When you’re with an individual that gets upset whenever you choose something he doesn’t like the result will be dramatic or physical. He will carry on using criticism, badgering, pouting, or passive-aggressive behavior. Finally, you just do whatever it takes to have peace. Over time, you learn to adjust your choices to match what will keep him from losing it.

An example: I absolutely hate pizza, especially Hawaiian pizza. Why? Because when asked “where do ‘you’ want to go for dinner?”  I would suggest a restaurant only to have that choice followed by 20 minutes of badgering until we ended up going where he wanted, usually pizza. After arriving at the pizzeria, he would order his favorite pizza, Hawaiian, if I suggested another flavor the harassment would begin until I caved. After years of this, I learned to just choose Hawaiian pizza. So people around me believe I like Hawaiian pizza.

As I forge forward with my old relationships as a divorced woman, I’ve noticed this pattern occurring in everything from food to my religious beliefs.

I find it difficult to reveal my true self to others when I do I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. This has been an issue since childhood. This needs correcting. I want honest and true friendships.  O.K. now I understand what needs fixed, now how to go about it?