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Home Is Where the People Are

"Are you sure?" I asked my uncle. I looked around the basement and waited for the catch.

Ohio bound.

"Sure, I'm sure. Take it," he said, dusting off the black leather. "You've got room in the truck and space in the new place. It's yours."

Suddenly, Pop Pop's living room chair belonged to me.

It was last month, and my boyfriend and I were en route to Ohio, where we now live and where I go to school. We had said our goodbyes to New York friends and coworkers and neighbors. We had packed our lives into a 14-foot U-Haul, and driven over the Manhattan Bridge, through the Holland Tunnel and far away from the city.

We made it to Pennsylvania, where we were staying with my aunt and uncle who live in Pop Pop's old house. Their  town marked halfway between our Brooklyn apartment and our new Ohio one.

I figured we might take a dresser or two, maybe a side table. It had been almost exactly a year since Pop Pop passed away and, gradually, my aunt and uncle were making the house their home, updating the floors, switching out wallpaper, and rearranging pictures. Life was moving on, as it should.

I didn't consider Pop Pop's chair. For years, it was his favorite spot in the house. He would spend hours there, reading the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and small local papers. My mom and aunt say he watched The Three Stooges there when they were kids. I remember Seinfeld and CNN.

Chair time with my sister.

When Pop Pop started having difficulty standing up and sitting down, we replaced the chair with a power-lift recliner. It had been in the basement since - until we stopped on our way to Ohio.

Now, his chair lives in my study. I read there. I think there. I sit there, and curl up and call family and friends.

It's not easy moving to a new place, or moving on after a loved one dies. I write about ways to help older adults feel less isolated and more connected to the world. You know what, though? We all experience isolation and loneliness, to some degree or another, throughout the courses of our lives. Not to downplay the severity of social isolation, particularly among older people, but I believe it's a commonality we share, across the generations, and it's comforting to recognize that. We're together in times of transition. We can understand one another and empathize.

Pop Pop's chair is my favorite spot in our new apartment. We are far from the city we once called home, but what's here - the chair, my grandmom's desk, the tin ceiling tile I bought with a dear friend one day at Brooklyn Flea - these pieces, these things, keep everyone close by. It's a collection of my people.

What heirlooms make your house feel like home?


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