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A house left behind, a good home life remembered

By Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

I didn't look back. I said, "To hell with that place," and I buried it and moved on.

Until last week, when I went home.

I honestly don't know why I went there. It wasn't something I looked forward to -- quite the opposite. Even the night before I left, my wife was asking if I was sure I wanted to go.

"Yeah," I said. "I need to."

Since my dad died in June, I've wrestled an odd mix of grief and vivid, wonderful memories, darkness and light, sometimes one right after the other.

Dad loved that old house. I was in Florida on vacation anyway, so I felt compelled to take a look at what dad called "the old stomping grounds." I owe it to him, I told myself. I guess I couldn't admit it was me who needed to return.

My mom went with me. We stared at the house for a bit then drove down to the lake, to the swampy inlet where I used to fish. I remembered days when little mattered.

I followed the road through the development, turning right, left, right, right and left again and winding up at the house where my best friend used to live. I drove on muscle memory along the path my bike had carried me hundreds of times.

I retraced a miles-long walk a friend and I took one steaming hot day as kids, an adventure that marked the farthest either of us had ever strayed from home.

I saw the neighborhood pool, still glistening in the sun, and remembered jumping into my dad's arms, and the taste of chlorine and mom wrapping me in a towel when we were done.

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