I have been to plenty of homecomings. I have laughed. I have cried happy tears. I have watched daddies see and embrace their new babies for the very first time. Every homecoming I have ever had the privilege of attending has filled me with apprehension, excitement and eventually peace. The homecomings I have been to have occurred in a variety of settings. Some of these were at airports, some watching a Navy ship slide into a pier, and others have been going back to my hometown. Pre-stroke and post-stroke I have been left with similar emotions each time the big date arrives. The only noticeable situation when these emotions vary since my stroke is when I am heading to my hometown once again.
My hometown has a population of only 3,600. My high school graduating class only had about ninety-five students. We all knew each other. Many of us still keep in touch. After my stroke, I had anterograde acquired prosopagnosia. This meant I remembered everyone’s face from before my stroke. Names were easily attached to these faces. For a few years after my stroke, I worked in this town and dealt with many of its business owners and friendly citizens I had grown up knowing. I was able to take afternoon walks and say hi and name the people I was passing. That was all eight years ago. Since then, many people have changed their appearance. I will still be able to recognize my high school biology teacher who lives across the street from my parents. I will still know the babysitter my children used to stay with as we drive to her house and say hello. My wonderful, previous next door neighbors will surely great me with warm smiles as I stop by to say hi. I fear I will not recognize their faces this time around. Time has passed and age, I am certain, has altered their faces as it has changed my own. These new faces will not be recognized through facial recognition which I no longer have. Rather, these people will be identified through meeting the expectations I have of finding them in specific places.
I am anticipating a few awkward moments as I pass by these familiar strangers. I will smile. I will readily say hello. Sadly, I will not know them. My daughters will not be able to assist me. They are generally good at this. This past weekend we were visiting the Wild Animal Park. An old neighbor and dear friend happened to be there also. As she said hello my oldest whispered, “Mom, there is Miss Rose.” But in situations like this with people from my past, I will not be able to rely on my daughters’ discreet help. I will recognize the look in the eyes of people passing by anticipating my acknowledgement. My questions will be asked. I will inquire as to how they are. New clues will be gained from old friends. I will listen to replies they share to my probing questions. I will laugh, smile and pretend I know them. “Fake it until you make it” is a phrase I have adapted well into my life. This homecoming will not be on a pier. This homecoming will not be based on crying family members releasing tears of relief. Rather, this homecoming will be a returning citizen seeking old friends. This homecoming will be relief finding familiar patterns, seeking answers through questions I am ready to ask and of course some extra special time reuniting with my wonderful mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews and so many others I have never said goodbye to but “see you later” instead.
This is a homecoming filled with apprehension and the usual excitement. Once I work my way back into the community I grew up in, I will surely find the peace and happiness that will leave me content.