Homesickness

 

I moved to Hilton Head because of my job about four years ago. Before that, I lived in the mountains of east Tennessee. Let me try to explain why I’m homesick.  And then, I’ll try to explain my point.  It may not seem like it, in this short but wandering essay, but I do have a point.  Hang in there.

I moved to east TN in the mid ’90s for a few reasons.  There was no income tax, the steep, rocky land at high elevation was cheap (you can’t farm it), I felt comfortable with the people there (similar to where I grew up in rural SE Ohio), and you could live like a king on a doctor’s salary there.  And sure enough, as I made a little money, I bought 60 acres of mountaintop land.  It was surrounded by National Forest, so I felt like I owned thousands of acres.  I built a mile-long driveway up the mountain to a five-acre plateau, and build an 8,000-square-foot log home there.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Note the skeet thrower above the hot tub on the lower deck, which is perched on a 60-foot sheer rock cliff, overlooking a huge canyon.  We had a great time there.

At 3,300-feet elevation, we never used the air conditioning.  We just kept windows open all summer long, and the cool mountain breezes kept it quite nice in the house, if a bit chilly at night.  I had geothermal heat pumps, but I heated the entire house with a wood furnace.  It was so much warmer that heat pumps.  The only problem was in the spring, when it would be in the 30s at night and 60s during the day – sometimes we’d have to open windows when there was snow on the ground, so we didn’t sweat our tails off in the living room.  There’s no ‘off’ switch on a wood furnace.

I burned about six cords of wood per year.  Which, in case you’re wondering, is a lot of firewood.  Where did I get all this wood?  Well, wherever I could.  Often patients would have a tree down from a storm, and they would call me.  Or somebody wanted some trees removed from their fields or city lot – I would go get them.  Whatever.  I didn’t always have a specific plan, but I always found enough firewood.  Sometimes it fell into my lap.  Sometimes it was difficult.  But I always found enough firewood.  We were never cold in the winter.

It’s funny, when I was splitting wood as a kid, I would fantasize that one day I would be so rich and famous that I would never have to split wood again.  And then, later in life I become rich (by my standards, at least), and what do I do with my spare time?  I split wood.  But you know, I kind of like it.  Very satisfying.  And it had other benefits.

One of my fears, as a doctor, was raising spoiled kids.  But when you heat with firewood, that sort of fixes that.  We cut wood together.  I’d run the chain saw, I’d put one girl on the splitting machine, another girl in the skid steer (carrying the big stuff around), and the other girl carrying wood.  They sometimes got hurt, but they very rarely complained.  But when they did, I could just ask, “Do you like being warm in the winter?”  And they’d mutter something and get back to carrying wood.  Such rare complaints were even more rarely listened to, although they did lead to the occasional gag photograph:

The driveway was a challenge.  A bit over a mile long, and straight up.  I had an F250 with air lockers and V-bar tire chains with a snowplow.  My wife drove an all-wheel-drive Chrysler minivan, which did pretty well in studded snow tires.  I had extra wheels mounted with snow tires for all our vehicles, and my daughters knew how to help with the air tools, etc., to change tires quickly on all of them.  My wife muttered bad words about the driveway sometimes, but the girls had a great time sledding on it (Once I plowed it a few times, and got a nice layer of ice underneath the snow, they had double black diamond sledding…).  This is a picture of me taking my daughter to school one day:

So now I have tough kids.  They are not wimps.  They’re used to work, and they’re used to getting hurt.  My baby daughter got hit in the chin in a junior high basketball game.  Her teammates were all 14 years old, but she was only 12.  She was only on the team because she was an unusually good athlete.  Small for the team, but very athletic.  Anyway, a heavy girl fell on her, her chin hit the floor, and blood went everywhere.  A mother in the stands brought her to my office downtown, my daughter ran down the hall in her white bloody jersey pointing at her chin.  She handed me instruments while I sewed her up (she had assisted in surgery on other people multiple times).  She ran back into the gym in the middle of the third quarter.  They wouldn’t let her play with a bloody jersey, so she ran over the bench and pulled a jersey off a girl at the end of the bench.  She put it on, and played the rest of the game.  She led her team in scoring, and they won.  We have tough kids.  It’s not that they don’t feel pain, of course.  It’s just that they’re accustomed to getting hurt, and not making a big deal about it.

And now they’re Division I athletes.  Their toughness has saved me a lot of money in athletic scholarships.  Who knew?

We raised our kids in that beautiful, rugged place.  It was difficult, but wonderful.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I didn’t want to leave.  But after Obamacare, practicing medicine in a poor area no longer made any sense.  So we left.  We didn’t want to.  But we had to.  It was painful.  My kids handled it really well.  They’re tough, and accustomed to setbacks.  I handled it, um, fairly well, considering everything.  On the other hand, I’m sitting on my patio drinking bourbon on Tuesday night.  Whatever.  But again, my kids handled it extremely well.

And that all that matters, really.


I look at the recent changes in American politics and I don’t feel angry, exactly.  I feel homesick.  I miss America.  To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, I didn’t leave America.  America left me.

I thought I loved America, but I’ve come to the painful realization that I love the ideas behind America more than the country itself.  I love the way our freedom made all of us better.  Just like the difficulties of life on the mountain made my children better.

It pains me to write “made” in the past tense, in the previous two sentences.

It’s not that there were no problems in my America, but it’s just that we were better able to handle our problems, like my little girl handled her chin laceration.  It’s not that she didn’t feel pain.  It’s just that she was more focused on other concerns, like winning a basketball game, against whoever they happened to be playing that night.  That game may have not mattered to you.  But it mattered to her.  So she managed.

Our ideology of freedom and individual liberty enabled us to handle the occasional setback, and to focus on more pressing concerns, whatever they were, with a minimum of fuss.  Now, a criminal overdoses in police custody and we burn our cities down.  A virus starts killing our citizens and we buy toilet paper.  The weather seems colder (or warmer) than usual and we seek to ban SUVs.

We can’t handle setbacks anymore.  We seek protection from government.

America didn’t always have to have government programs for everything.  We just found a way to get by.  Like me finding enough firewood to heat my house somehow, we eventually figured something out.  Sometimes it was easy.  Sometimes it was difficult.  Sometimes we wished things went better.  But we figured out a way to get by.  Some years the firewood was a real pain in the butt for us.  Sometimes we had to work extra hard to find wood.  Sometimes we had plenty.  Sometimes we had to conserve our wood carefully.

But we were never cold in the winter.  We eventually figured something out, pretty much.

We didn’t avoid uncertainty and fear.  We just managed it.

In my home, and in my country.  We managed.  And in retrospect, it was wonderful, despite our occasional setbacks.

I wish I could sit on my deck again, with a fire and a bourbon, and pretend that none of this had ever happened.  The picture below makes me long for better days.  It sounds odd to say that, sitting next to my pool in Hilton Head.  But I long for better days.  Not easier days, or less stressful days.  But better days.

I hope that beautiful sunset is not symbolic.

I miss the way things were.  Which is only natural, I suppose.

America once struggled to get enough firewood to stay warm (if you will).  But we did not raise spoiled kids.  Those occasional setbacks helped us raise tough kids.  Americans who could handle the occasional setback.


All that really matters, at this point, is how our children handle this.  They’re likely to handle it better than us old farts will.  I hope, at least.  I raised tough kids, who have now saved me a lot of money in tuition, as they’re now scholarship athletes.  Perhaps we’ll benefit from the way our kids were raised, once again.

Just like with the firewood:

Stormy weather is coming.  I’ll help you all I can, kids.  But really, this is up to you.  You may think I’m in charge, here.  But I’m counting on you more than you realize.  I’ll run the chainsaw, and I’ll drive the truck.  Until I can’t anymore.

And then, it’s up to you.

I never told you what the point of all this was.  Why we worked so hard at simple things.

You’re about to find out.  I’m sorry about that.  I really am.

But I hope you don’t let a setback stop you.  I hope you learned that, at least.  I didn’t give you a fish.  I taught you how to fish.  And now, I need you to use what you’ve learned.  I’m sorry that I left you in this situation.  But you do have a chainsaw, and you do have a wood furnace.  You know how this works.

I’ll help as much as I can, obviously.  But I’m getting old.  And I may not be as helpful as you’re accustomed to.  And yes, I’m sorry about that too, obviously.

And yes, I believe I will have another bourbon.  Thanks.


I’ve always depended on my kids, as much as they depended on me.  We all do, I suppose.  Never more than right now.

This is not over.  Not as long as my kids are around.  Our kids.

The left once depended on kids to maintain their dreams of revolution against the establishment.  Now that the left is the establishment, our kids are the natural enemy of the establishment.  And unfortunately for the left, we’ve raised good kids.

At least, we hope that we have.

We’re about to find out.

Because I didn’t leave America.  America left me.


Every parent wants to take care of their kids.  No parent wants to rely on their kids.

But here we are.  Homesick.  It doesn’t matter how we got here, I suppose.  I know how this sounds, but I’m not giving up.  On the contrary.  I’m simply pointing out that we have reinforcements on the way.

I’ve cut my chin.  It doesn’t matter how I got here.  I need my kid to sew me up.  Because we have a very important game to play.  A game that I want to help win.

And I’m not worried.

Not a bit.  I’ve raised good kids.

This is not over.

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  1. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Doc, you made me homesick for your old place.

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, I’m sitting on my patio drinking bourbon on Tuesday night.

    And the issue with that is…?

    • #1
  2. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    I’m not sure I could have moved away from that, not even for Hilton Head. 
    A-1 post, as always. 

    • #2
  3. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    So now I have tough kids.  They are not wimps.  They’re used to work, and they’re used to getting hurt.  My baby daughter got hit in the chin in a junior high basketball game.  Her teammates were all 14 years old, but she was only 12.  She was only on the team because she was an unusually good athlete.  Small for the team, but very athletic.  Anyway, a heavy girl fell on her, her chin hit the floor, and blood went everywhere.  A mother in the stands brought her to my office downtown, my daughter ran down the hall in her white bloody jersey pointing at her chin.  She handed me instruments while I sewed her up (she had assisted in surgery on other people multiple times).  She ran back into the gym in the middle of the third quarter.  They wouldn’t let her play with a bloody jersey, so she ran over the bench and pulled a jersey off a girl at the end of the bench.  She put it on, and played the rest of the game.  She led her team in scoring, and they won.  We have tough kids.  It’s not that they don’t feel pain, of course.  It’s just that they’re accustomed to getting hurt, and not making a big deal about it.

    Tell your daughter that a former hockey player sends his respects. I took a stick to my chin and I told the doctor in the ER across the street from the rink that the stitches  don’t have to be pretty, and if you hurry I can be back before the third period starts. The doctor laughed, but he got the job done and I was back on the ice before the third period started.

    Congrats to you and your wife for raising great kids.

    • #3
  4. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Dr. Bastiat:

    And they’d mutter something and get back to carrying wood.  Such rare complaints were even more rarely listened to, although they did lead to the occasional gag photograph:

    At the risk of derailing your serious point, what’s the “gag”?

    This is an accurate illustration of how things should be – the young and vigorous do the physical labor while the older and wise provide appropriately lubricated guidance. My only suggestion would have been to have your chair a little farther away from the bed of the truck – ideally outside the tossing range for one of those logs, but still within voice range so they could hear your instructions and wise suggestions. 

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Dr. Bastiat: This is not over.

    Amen to the whole thing.

    • #5
  6. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: This is not over.

    Amen to the whole thing.

    Amen and amen.

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    By the way, this essay reminded me of several songs, but this was the first:

    • #7
  8. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Somehow it almost seems like you are trying to convince yourself, dear Bastiat.  I, too, am prone to optimism.  It beats nihilism I suppose, but it does not always hold up, I find.  Here’s how I see it.  The opposition to conservatism is certainly the Left, but Democrats are pawns in this struggle.  They are not philosphical Leftists per se, but rather utopians, do gooders, self-described SJWs and humanists.  And they are easily duped by hard leftists, perhaps even willing to trade an alliance for power, especially if it also comes with money.  They feel entitled to their fortunes, but it is really all just corruption, the Obamas. the Clintons and of course, the Bidens, fellow travellers cashing in and facillitating the real hard left in their efforts to erode our Republic.

    This is what comes when people do not understand the constitutional limits of our government, who paint our federal government as unmoored and omnipotent, who believe that as leaders, it is their job to fix everything.

    History has proven that the federal government, despite intentions, is very bad at everything it does.  Just look at our military, perhaps the best thing our government manages.  It is routinely despised, starved of resources and denigrated.  It is now reprising political correctness, adopting policies that have nothing to do with preparedness for war and defense.  If the do-gooders have their way, our military will have little to do with defense.  It will go the way of Canada; that is three WWII tanks and a few canoes.

    People need to see just how these fellow travellers are bankrupting our country and selling out their fellow citizens.

    Doing “good” should come at a cost, of time, effort and money freely given.  Our federal government was never designed to arbitrate the risks we face in our lives.  Politicians who lay claim to the good that Federal programs claim to provide are nothing more than grifters.  Individuals and families must manage their own lives and their own risks.

    Every handout, “free” benefit, stimulus check, unemployment extention, subsidized purchase, local government bailout, federal block grant, every penny spent by the Federal government on anything outside of its constitutionally limited purpose, is an erosion of not just our liberty, but of our national character.

    The collectivists have stolen Uncle Sam’s wallet and stolen his identity.  Now they are spending as fast as they can before the banks realize that even the USA has a credit limit.

    • #8
  9. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    I have only been to Hilton Head (ages ago)  once and it was much too cookie-cutter though for rich people like Disney World for me. I can see why you would be homesick for the mountain place. 

    • #9
  10. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    That’s a beautiful home and property – maybe you can retire there and re-create a down-sized version – truly beautiful area!!

    • #10
  11. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Dr. Bastiat: This is not over.

    I hope you’re right but I am not optimistic. And up until this point in my life I have always been an optimist.

    In fact I hope I don’t stick around long enough to see how it all ends.

    • #11
  12. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Dr. Bastiat: I miss the way things were.  Which is only natural, I suppose.

    Perhaps this happens to all of us as the years fly by, and we look back in time. Not long ago I saw a woman leaving the grocery store with a basket full of groceries surrounded by three little rambunctious kids. To say the look on her face was harried is to put it mildly, but I thought to myself that she didn’t know it now but there would be a day when she would look back on these years as the best in her life. 

    • #12
  13. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    ”Beautiful,” she writes with tears running down her cheeks. 

    • #13
  14. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    I think I might be closer to doc’s old house than his new one.

    Hmmm.  Which direction should I go?  Really like those mountain views.  I suppose the new owner would not give it up without a fight.

    Decisions.  

    • #14
  15. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Dr. Bastiat: This is not over.

    They you are “white pill”.  That is a person who is “red pilled” and still optimistic. 

    • #15
  16. Midwest Southerner Member
    Midwest Southerner
    @MidwestSoutherner

    Great post, Doc.

    That mountain home is my dream home, along with all the snow. When we lived in Atlanta, my favorite weekend getaway was in the mountains of North Carolina. There’s just something about being in the trees.

    Hold on to your optimism — I have a feeling we’re all going to need it. I also have a feeling it will not be in vain.

    • #16
  17. Qoumidan Coolidge
    Qoumidan
    @Qoumidan

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: This is not over.

    Amen to the whole thing.

    One of the worst and most terrifying things to me are the people that look at the horrors of the present and decide not to have kids because they are afraid of the world their kids will inherit.  There are enough fine reasons not to have kids that this shouldn’t be one, but even if it’s just their excuse, it’s such a defeatist attitude.

    I have six kids to fight for.  

    • #17
  18. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Nothing to add. No perceptive comments. Beautiful post. I wish I could write half as well as you do. 

     

    • #18
  19. PappyJim Coolidge
    PappyJim
    @PappyJim

    “I thought I loved America, but I’ve come to the painful realization that I love the ideas behind America more than the country itself.  I love the way our freedom made all of us better.  Just like the difficulties of life on the mountain made my children better.

    It pains me to write “made” in the past tense, in the previous two sentences.”

    BINGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

    • #19
  20. Shauna Hunt Coolidge
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    My roots are in eastern Tennessee! You’ve made me homesick for a place I’ve never been. Thank you! 

    I also just got back from spending six glorious days with my husband and two kids, roaming the countryside. Shooting guns, four-wheeling, skipping rocks in the river, enjoying the wildlife, etc. 

     

    • #20
  21. JamesSalerno Coolidge
    JamesSalerno
    @JamesSalerno

    That’s a beautiful home.

    • #21
  22. navyjag Lincoln
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    C’mon Doc. We survived Viet Nam. At least us old guys. We can survive this S storm. But 8,000 sq. ft?  Twice as big as my daughter’s new house in Nashville. She she is single. 

    • #22
  23. navyjag Lincoln
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    And she is single. One too many ports tonight

    • #23
  24. Pony Convertible Member
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    My wife and I have said for decades, if we didn’t have the kids so close (and now the grandkids) we would move to Tennessee.  

    • #24
  25. KCVolunteer Lincoln
    KCVolunteer
    @KCVolunteer

    Doc, it takes effort to not raise child with privilege, but under our current world of newspeak, I hate to tell you, but you’ve failed;)

    You’re children are the epitome privileged. Good job!

    • #25
  26. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Doc, you made me homesick for your old place.

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, I’m sitting on my patio drinking bourbon on Tuesday night.

    And the issue with that is…?

    My FBOTD (first beer of the day) time is usually around 1300.  But if I’m writing (which I tend to do in the morning), I might have a Bloody Mary or two.  I can always tell I was morning drinking when I proofread and the love scenes read more like porn . . .

    • #26
  27. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    My only suggestion would have been to have your chair a little farther away from the bed of the truck – ideally outside the tossing range for one of those logs,

    Yeah, I noticed the look on my daughter’s face, too – the one in the blue shirt.  

    • #27
  28. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Stad (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Doc, you made me homesick for your old place.

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, I’m sitting on my patio drinking bourbon on Tuesday night.

    And the issue with that is…?

    My FBOTD (first beer of the day) time is usually around 1300. But if I’m writing (which I tend to do in the morning), I might have a Bloody Mary or two. I can always tell I was morning drinking when I proofread and the love scenes read more like porn . . .

    you need some help for your addictions……….just saying….

    • #28
  29. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Dr. Bastiat: Our ideology of freedom and individual liberty enabled us to handle the occasional setback, and to focus on more pressing concerns, whatever they were, with a minimum of fuss.

    So true.

    People could walk by a statue and not get offended.  You could read a children’s book to your kids, knowing the silly pictures wouldn’t make them grow up racist.  Companies wouldn’t let lunatics dictate what their product packaging looked like.  You could join the military because you knew it didn’t put up with nonsense.

    Your lamentations about where we’ve come to are valid . . .

    • #29
  30. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    That’s a beautiful home.

    It would have been a great place to hold a Ricochet Meetup.

    • #30