This ongoing series was inspired by my 87 year old mom who often says she wants to go home. When I ask her where home is the answer varies each day. Often she cannot tell me where it is but just knows it is not where she is at. The road images in this series could have been captured many places in this country. Some of you may feel as if you have driven or walked these same roads though logically you know it is unlikely. They may evoke a memory, make you feel homesick, inspire you to hop in the car and go on a road trip. I sense in my mom a longing to return to an earlier time, a familiar place that remains elusive in her mind. I would give anything to take her there.
We live in a mobile society. Often we spend large periods of our lives residing in different places. Sometimes it is hard to decide what place to call home. Is it the place where you are currently living or is there another sense of home that is connected with an earlier time that resides in your memory and heart?
My mom suffers from Alzheimer’s and her short term memory is gone. However there are some long term memories that she can still access. I wonder if the place you are born and grow up in is imprinted on your brain much the same way that newly hatched ducklings imprint on the first living thing that they encounter after birth. Do those first encounters remain attached to your brain when all other memories fade away?
My mom has lived in several places since she moved from her childhood home in Dexter, Maine, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. All she remembers now is Maine. And all of us who talk to her on the phone reside in her imaginary Maine, also. Though she is living in a nursing care facility in Pennsylvania she alternates between thinking she is at a bed and breakfast, the airport or at the house of a childhood friend.
One thing is for certain, she does not think she is home. Several months ago when my mom could still articulate well, I asked her what it felt like to have the memories disappear. She said she can sometimes see the memories floating in her mind just out of reach. She knows they are there but when she tries to reach out and grab them she can never quite reach them. I think that when the memories start to go you find yourself grasping for something familiar and what is more familiar and safe than home? The problem is that without any memory you do not know where home is.
When I talk on the phone with my mom now, she has a difficult time carrying on a conversation. She is cheerful and upbeat, asking how I am doing (though I am not sure she knows who I am). She almost always asks me if I can take her home. On the occasions that I have asked her where that is or where she wants to go she can’t come up with an answer. She clearly does not know where home is but knows it is not where she is at the moment. Today she told me that she is ready to go back to Dexter. When all other memories of home have left her, that pull to her childhood still remains.
So now when I am out on back roads or walking down paths in local parks I find myself asking, ” If I were dropped here from the sky and did not know where I was would I be able to look around and find the right path home? And….Is home a physical place or is it a place in time?”
More images from this series can be viewed in my gallery section on my website. More Images