Monday, July 13, 2009

The Lack of a Home

It struck me as I was recounting all of the places that Leif lived in his 33 years, and came up with 24 of them, that such instability of a home wasn't a good thing, either. As a military family, we usually had three years in one place, sometimes four, and only once, two. That meant that for the first 20 years of Leif's life, he lived in 9 places with us, and one of them was the old stone house that remained a kind of rooted base for us, that he lived in two out of the nine times I'm counting. It was after her left home that he really became peripatetic, and each time he moved it was either to find a better or cheaper place. Probably the nicest place he lived in his adult life (other than the houses we owned at 710 N. 9th Street in Manhattan or our home here in Florida) was the apartment he and Nikko had in the army housing area in Watertown, New York, but it was also one of the places he was unhappiest.

The stability in his life was always us. Nothing else remained constant or anything he could count on. I hope he felt he could count on us, but I know as a grown man he didn't want to have to.

Living in 15 places in 13 years is too much change, even if he initiated the moves. It means there is no real home, no identity or the sense of place.

Once of the things he and I once talked about was that when I was growing up and in earlier generations, girls and young women were taught that it was their responsibility to make a house a home. I know there are those who would now say that was sexist and is outmoded, but I don't think so. I do believe that it is also a man's responsibility to be a part of that, making a house a home, and I don't think what I'm talking about has much to do with whether one sex or the other does the cooking or the laundry. Household chores ought to be divided equitably and by who does them best . . . or is most willing to do them. But making a house or apartment FEEL like a home is something I still think a woman needs to do. Otherwise, a man and a woman living together are really just roommates, regardless of whether they are married or having a sexual relationship. A home is different than just sharing living space. I don't think Leif ever felt he had that kind of home. The PLACE one calls home is less important (even with a lot of moves) than the atmosphere within it.

A part of that (not the most important part, but a part) is housekeeping. As I've mentioned, Leif was a terrible housekeeper if left on his own, but would willingly work WITH someone else to clean and straighten a place up. I have a threshhold of clutter that drives me nuts and makes me depressed if I don't do anything about it. I think Leif would pass way beyond that to the point where he was depressed and it looked like such a horrible task to try to tackle the mess that he just ignored it unless he thought a new woman in his life might be coming over and then he would clean it up.

I once gave him a certificate I made up on the computer for his birthday, which was good for eight not-necessarily-consecutive hours of housework cleaning up his place. He laughed, but he made good use of it, and he did work while I was there working. We got a lot done.

Each time he moved into a new place, he would fix it up pretty nicely and had some pride in how it looked, but it didn't take long for clutter and apathy to take over, and without a mate to either clean it up or engage him in doing it with her it just looked like to enormous a task. Leif would insist he didn't even see the mess, that he had a male "target mentality," so that he only saw what he was looking for or working with. Maybe, but I don't think so. i think he just ignored it and lived with it, but I can't believe it was the way he wanted to live or would have if he'd had the right companion.

It makes me sad to think that he never really had a home as an adult. Places to live, yes, and brief periods where he liked them and was happier, but living with someone you aren't getting along with, or living alone and being lonely, is not having a home. How I wish he had had at least that. It might have made a difference.

The photo of Leif was a self-portrait taken on April 26, 2003 at the 710 N. 9th Street house in Manhattan, Kansas.

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