Sometimes, You Can Go Home Again (Almost)

picture of Fort Riley Henry Gate with "Sometimes, You Can Go Home Again (Almost)" in text and MMC logo

Our older daughter got married recently, and what a happy, amazing day it was. The whole trip was magical, in fact. I have rarely felt so loving towards My G or so tender towards the life we have built together.

We are on the other side of so many things in our life right now: our birds have both flown, we have packed away the last of the uniforms, and we are both done with school and finding work that satisfies us.

Bridges occur in our lives, too. Photo by Yoann Laheurte on Unsplash

It’s a season, and admittedly it is an easier season than some.

Our other seasons have been more unpredictable, difficult, or fast-and-furious. Seasons change, and we change with them. Life moves on. Thomas Wolfe opined that you can’t go home again in his book of the same title, and I was always inclined to agree.

But, sometimes, you get the chance to go back and see “before” through different eyes. You get the chance to visit the past, and even as you recognize how much has changed, you see the truth of who you were and who you continue to be.

That was us. On the way to visit our older daughter, we decided to stop at a midpoint for the night. For sentimental reasons, we chose to stay the night in Manhattan, Kansas, very close to Fort Riley.

Manhattan was our home for 8 years.

It was our first home together, our first home away from our parents, our babies’ first home, and our first taste of adulthood. Our older daughter moved back to the area for her own taste of adulthood, so this was not our first visit in the nearly 20 years that have passed. It was, however, the first time we had visited Manhattan without either of our children. We just had the day to explore.

For a moment, as we ate donuts from Varsity Donuts and explored The Dusty Bookshelf (recently fully renovated after a devastating fire), we stood there – past, present, and future selves – and just let the feelings come.

We were so, so incredibly young. I was 20, my G was 19, and we had no business being married. We knew nothing, yet we felt we knew enough.

Fort Riley was his first duty station, and ironically was his father’s last duty station and the place where my G was born. Our family joke was that my G joined the Army to see the world and ended up right where he started!

two people holding hands in wedding attireAggieville was as foreign to us at that age as it is to us now as middle-aged, empty nesters. We were too young to drink, and then too broke to consider a babysitter and the night out. Even when I attended Kansas State, this was a world away from our personal experiences. Then and now, we might as well be in a whole different country with delicious food and interesting shops but not much in common with us in the daily aspects of life.

We brought both our babies into the world at the same hospital, now considered the legacy Irwin Army hospital, where my G was born. Something else was born on that post, too – our military marriage. I got our first ID cards there, my first lessons in security, and my first chapters in “The Army Always Comes First.”  I learned very quickly to be extremely independent. This was pre 9/11, as different from today’s military as my G and I are from the young couple who first navigated our marriage here.

Fort Riley and Manhattan have both added a lot of things that weren’t there when we were stationed there. Fort Riley has a new hospital building, an actual entrance gate (just past the lovely stone walls that have stood there for over a century), and newer housing for all. Manhattan has stores and restaurants we used to have to travel to Topeka to see, new local favorites, and an amazing Flint Hills Discovery Center that I wish we’d had time to visit this trip.

My G and I have also added a lot of things that we didn’t have all those years ago. We have more patience, with ourselves and others. We have more communication tools (thank God) than we used to. We have more in our bank accounts (also, thank God). Sure, we’ve added some gray hairs and some inches around our middles, but the feeling of strength and commitment we share is worth the physical changes.

I don’t believe we can live our lives looking behind us, because we don’t get anywhere that way.

But I do think that it’s a good idea sometimes to take stock: to stand in your truth, examining how far you’ve come, and make plans for the future based on what you’ve learned. Sometimes, you can go home again (almost).

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Casey Fogle
Casey is the wife of a 25-year Army Veteran, still living in Central Texas where the Army whims blew them. They have spent the last 5 years trying to decide what to do next. She is a mental health advocate, Mom-supporter, and connection-maker whose jobs all fell under "community" in one way or another. Two adult daughters have reassured her that they weren't too scarred by the fact that she always felt, and still feels, like she is winging it daily. Nothing is more exciting to her than sharing something via writing or speaking, and having someone tell her, "I thought it was just me" or that they feel seen and understood in a way they hadn't been before.