The Long Road Home


. . . what I want and all my days I pine for is to go back to my house and see my day of homecoming.  and if some god batters me far out on the wine-blue water I will endure it, keeping a stubborn spirit inside me, for already I have suffered much and done much hard work on the waves and in the fighting.  So let this adventure follow.

Homer, The Odyssey

Forty years ago, on July 3, I made my first trek from St. Louis, Missouri to Fort Worth, Texas, a twelve-hour drive, to open a new chapter of my life as I entered graduate school. Of course, I assumed I would return “home” in a few years and begin my profession. Instead, I began it in Texas and only recently retired from it.

The intervening four decades have been marked by that back-and-forth highway odyssey of sustained windshield time and interior thoughts allowed to flow like a river through my consciousness. I suppose the most constant theme has been that notion of “home.” Where has that been?  Coming to St. Louis has always meant coming home, and seeing parents and siblings–all of them still living–and feeling the welcome embrace of homecoming. Yet, all the while here, while enjoying the comforts and conversation and new /old sights surrounding me, I’ve been conscious that my home is far away, and the day will arrive that I return. And so, this morning, that day has again arrived. Before me lays that unwinding road, with the undulating windshield cinematography and the unspooling thoughts drifting through my mind. As always before, I expect I’ll find comfort in all that.

As usual, I awoke too early this morning, without an alarm, and Dad won’t be getting up for breakfast for about an hour. This affords an exquisite opportunity to sit on the carport and gaze at yet another splendorous display of lemon yellow sunlight pouring through the tall trees surrounding my parents’ house, and listen to the winds and the chorus of the birds.

Dad and I always go to Dave’s Diner for breakfast on the mornings that I am up here, even though I sleep in my sister and brother-in-law’s house a half mile away.  Yesterday morning, while returning home, my 88-year-old dad, a Korean combat veteran, dropped a CD into the console, saying, “This is the only song I care to listen to anymore.”  It was Billy Joel’s “My Life”! And so, I awoke this morning with those lyrics still pulsating through my head. My dad is quiet, with a great deal of space always surrounding him. How my heart vibrated to know that these are the kinds of thoughts that matter to him, at his age. We always wonder what kinds of notions lie at the bottoms of deep pools of silence in the ones we love. Yesterday, by just playing a song, Dad parted the waters and gave me a glimpse of what was at the bottom. I’ll be thinking a great deal of that while I’m on the road.


My Dad

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”


Thanks for reading.


6 Responses to “The Long Road Home”

  1. Patricia Says:

    I was moved by your post today. Thank you for your blog, which always brings me a measure of quiet introspection. I am a watercolor artist too, and count solitude and books as both real and necessary pleasures.


  2. davidtripp Says:

    Patricia, thank you very much for that response. Your words were a soothing balm as I am now driving across the country. I would love to know more about your work and your interests, because you seem to be echoing the same values that I hold.


  3. Dian Darr Says:

    What beautiful insight about those silent moments in your Dad’s life. You ended this writing with one of my favorite poems, “Ulysses.” “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” was the motto of my high school class. At the time, the words did not mean near enough to me as they do now. Thank you for this writing.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you always for your encouragement, Dian. The time with Dad was really special and I’m still glowing from those moments. I really look forward to you, Ron and I doing the “Ulysses” thing soon!


  4. Skeeter Murley Says:

    I understand your feelings and emotions of going home. I’ve been in the DFW area for 30+ years, but still think of home where I was raised and where my family is.
    Both of my parents have now passed, and it definitely changes things. I hope you enjoy your time with you Dad. Give him a big long hug for those of us that can’t do that any longer.


  5. Xraypics Says:

    David, I read this in a spare five minutes at work on Wednesday. It caught me unawares. I had to take a few more minutes to recover. It was a window, an insight into your life, One that opened up a path back into mine – days gone by, moments with my dad; a deeply loving, but very private man. He could be difficult. He opened up to to me, just in little fragments, during his last few days. Oh that I could have had that for longer, but I treasure what he was able to give me. thankyou for that poignant reminder. Thanks also for the Ulysses quote, not looked at for many years.


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