"How often do you get to see your parents?" I asked the limo driver.
"Only every few years,” he said.
We were in bumper-to-bumper traffic en route to LAX where a flight would return me home to Chicago. I had started this query as a diversion, and because of an itch I had packed along with the contents of my suitcase.
"How do you feel about that schedule? Does it work well for everyone in your family?” I was settling into the smooth black leather seats of the luxury car, and grateful for the driver’s willingness to share.
"I don't like it," he said. "I wish they lived here full time. They're getting older -- my father had small strokes a few months ago and it would've taken me 10 hours to get to Peru.”
I hadn't thought about that, about an adult child's reasoning for wanting his older parents to live closer. Could it be that part of my California daughter's wish to have me live in her city was partially based on this concern?
The possibility of a move was started as a seasonal idea. "Maybe I'll come in February and instead of staying my usual four days, I'll spend a few weeks," I said. "Get away from Chicago's winter."
"Listen, Mom," she said. "You may not believe me, but when I told you I’d love you to move here, I meant every word of it."
“Well, if I ever did move here, I wouldn't want to live with you. I wouldn't want to be sitting around waiting for you to escort me somewhere."
"Who said you could live with me?" She was joking; I was sure of it.
"Maybe I could rent a small apartment? And a car?" As we talked, I could feel the discussion moving from italics to bold. Was I considering a sunbird's getaway, or something more permanent?
By now, I was playing my own devil's advocate. "Actually, with Tommy and Buddy gone, there's really nothing to hold me in Chicago,” I said. “I got rid of most of my possessions when I moved to my rental. It'd be one load of a cross-country moving truck."
"Oh, oh," said my other daughter in earshot. "If Mom's thinking about it, it'll happen."
"No, no," I said. "I haven't decided anything. We're just talking here. But, it would be nice to see my grandchildren grow up. And maybe with me here, you'd move, too?"
"I have a life in Boston," she said. "But, it would be great to have you and Sis in the same place."
The discussion ended at that spot, but continued to swirl around on my ride out of Los Angeles, onto my plane, and when I landed at O’Hare.
“Good to be home,” were my first words as I settled into the cab that would take me to my apartment in River North. Home, where did that come from? What had happened to my temptation to move to California?
My sentimental feelings about the city where I was born, and had lived nearly my entire life, continued as I entered my building’s lobby.
“Welcome home!” said the evening concierge. There was that word home again. Was he somehow privy to the back-and-forth going on in my head?
And when I unlocked the door to my apartment, my declaration, “I’m home,” was automatically shouted out.
I dropped my luggage and cozied into the couch to survey my doll-sized estate. Paintings on every wall, our wedding photo and pictures of our dogs arrayed on a built-in bookshelf, my small office desk and bench, floor-to-ceiling windows with their awesome display of the river and night-scape -- all exuded a warm familiarity. “I love you!” I blurted out.
That’s when I realized how much I had come to adore my new place, which has quickly become a refuge and cocoon cushioning me from the sad events that propelled me to this new life. How could I ever leave this solace?
How could I leave a friend I’ve cleaved to since sixth-grade grammar school, to dozens more friends won over the years, to treasured relatives,?
And, how could I leave a recently joined synagogue study group that is helping me refresh my spiritual self?
The path was clear: If concern for my health was a factor, I’d assure my faraway daughters that my strong support group would be at the ready in case of a medical emergency; no need to immediately hop a plane to be at my bedside.
Then, I’ll book one week -- two weeks top -- in February. Afterwards, I’ll return home, to Chicago, where I belong, and where I'll continue my new, independent nourishing life.