When I was growing up I thought of 23 Broad Street as 'my home'. I thought this because it was the one thing in my life that didn't change. That house was always there, Aunt Annie was always there, my Uncle Dan and three cousins were always there. We grew up in that house, me and the wolf pack, even if I only did get there once or twice a year.
The nature of the dead end street morphed over time; neighbors moved away or died, but the house was always there. A bunch of years ago, my Aunt Annie and Uncle Dan sold the house at 23 Broad Street and moved to a small development on the outskirts of town. No yard to keep up, a smaller house (sorta), neighbors close by (all the time), and a place to grow older with less bedrooms.
Grandma Bess lived there too. She lived there right up until she died, and I'll tell you, that dying business took the air right out of Aunt Annie's lungs. When Grandma Bess died, the second bedroom became an office full of Aunt Annie's stuff. Aunt Annie has stuff. It's miraculous.
Downstairs there is a room that's maybe 400 square feet or a bit more, with a full bath and a door that exits onto a terrace. I don't know what they did with it before my cousin came home, but when he did come home, it was a really good place to land.
There are five of us in the wolf pack. I am first and Danny is last. There are ten years between us. Danny would walk through walls for just about anybody. I wonder who would walk through walls for Danny. I would. He stayed for five years, right up until COVID forced him to make a choice. His parents or his girlfriend. I've met the girlfriend, I'd keep her too. Danny moved out about a year ago but he left the man cave behind. It is so full of Danny that it's hard for me to breathe sometimes. The first night I spent in that room, he slept on the couch upstairs so I wouldn't feel alone. I sat in his recliner and just looked at the room. I cried for a good thirty minutes before I went to bed. Danny's man cave is about the biggest hug you'll ever get. I could clean out every last bit of him and he would still be in the walls.
Annie says I've been up five times now. That means I've slept in Danny's bed, which is really our grandparents' bed, at least fifteen nights. Probably more. He left an enormous sweatshirt sort of thing on the back of the recliner. I washed it for the first time this weekend because I'd worn it enough to be pretty damn obvious. I put it back on the recliner for next time. I scrubbed the bathroom and swapped out the Irish Spring body wash for appallingly girly soaps. I rented a rug cleaner and did my damned best to get the man cave spots out of the carpet. Not happening. I washed the barware (holy crap, that dude's got STUFF), and stacked it all together. I thought about how I was going to get all the books onto shelves. The piano is NOT a bookshelf. Dammit. I thought about how I was going to keep and display all his STUFF such that the room could be reasonably maintained (dust, oh lord, the dust). I thought about rehanging some of the prints on his wall. Dude does not decorate.
Removing these things is not the goal. I have moved into Danny's room, sorta, but it remains Danny's room. I need that.
When I arrived on Thursday, my resting heart rate was down from 120 to 104, which is another bloody miracle. That took an enormous effort on my part. Between Thursday night and Tuesday afternoon, with no thought at all, it came down to 87.
A resting heart rate of 87 is a viable resting heart rate. That's when my brain starts to come back. I felt it happen.
I go home to Rochester to see Aunt Annie because I can bring her from a dead stall to at least 35 mph in less than half a day. I go home to see Aunt Annie because she can bring me from a dead stall to 60 mph in under twenty seconds. I don't honestly know what we did for five days but I know we wore ourselves out. I slept early and hard and when she got up in the morning all I had to do was hold out my arms.
Every four weeks, give or take an ER visit or two, I head north. Every four weeks I get a shot of the thing that keeps me alive, and maybe her too. And also, maybe him.
Find your people and give yourself up.