Yesterday My mother and I made the journey which is now familiar to her to visit my grandfather in the hospital. I know the road well from childhood drives with my father, but this particular journey was new to me.

There is no snow on the ground in northern Illinois, which makes Christmas feel like any old day. I enjoyed the subtle beauty of the brown earth meeting the blue sky, aging barns and farm houses dotting the landscape. Does everyone find such beauty in the land where they were raised? I can never tell. The feeling of being home, the love I have for it, the comfort I take from it is so strong in me.

We drove through Lacon, the town where I know the main drag but none of the side streets. Past the river and along the railroad track where I once saw the aftermath of a derailment. We didn’t stop at the Italian restaurant which cheats on it’s taxes by opening the register without logging payment. (Everyone knows everything that goes on in a small town.) And finally we stopped in Peoria – a drab town where people watch television so they don’t notice the drabness so much.If it plays in Peoria….

My grandfather is doing well, although I wish he were doing even better. He is recovering from heart surgery, and it is a slow recovery. We had expected that, but it doesn’t make it easier. I wish I could stay and spend more time with him, with my grandmother, my great uncle, the kids…. These are my largest regrets. It is difficult to be part of a clan, but separate. But what could I do there that would make me happy, allow me to live fully? After all, family is not the whole of one’s life.