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Thursday, May 26, 2016

On Not Leaving Home

Today is my Dad’s birthday; had he lived another nine years, he’d be 106, an age none of us would’ve been surprised to see him reach. This guy was not ready to go when he did, at 95 in 2007, a few months shy of his 96th.

We had a complicated relationship my father and I, which, from this distance, I now realize makes for some pretty good stories. The complications—and the stories—were made more interesting by the fact that after my mother died in 1964, at 50, it was just the two of us, my older brother having married in 1963.

Before we were two, the four of us had lived in a modest Georgian in a suburb due west of Chicago.  When that house was sold in 1965—why keep it for just two people?—my father and I moved even further west, to a two bedroom apartment in a new development called Royal Glen. No royals or glens were in sight, but it did have an outdoor pool, a clubhouse, and a modest patio overlooking a bland manmade pond.

By that time, now going on 22, I was getting itchy out there in suburbia, especially while attending Loyola University’s downtown campus, often heading for a nearby bar after late classes.

And so it was that one night, while my father and I sat in the living room after dinner, likely watching TV, I mentioned that a classmate and I, Mary Ellen, wanted to rent an apartment together in the city. I may have even mentioned where—in the Rush St. area near campus—but by that time my father’s voice had raised itself to glass-breaking levels, reaching a grand crescendo with, “Fine! Move out, move into the city. Just don’t call me while you’re being raped.”

In truth, I should not have been surprised by his reaction. When my brother planned his move out of the Georgian—with his friend, Jerry, and some years before getting married—my father had screamed at him late one night, “ I never did this to my father!”

Because that’s just the way it was in my father’s time, in his growing-up-Irish-Catholic years in the 1930s: you did not leave your parents’ home unless it was to marry--or to go into the convent or seminary. He had no context, nor imagination, to understand that things had changed by the 1960s.

Now here’s what's true about memories: they are often stirred up by some experience or overheard dialogue or bit of news that calls them forth.

Thus it was with these memories: my father’s long-ago reactions to his adult children leaving the nest for what he would consider no damn good reason. And worse, especially for the girl-child, only to come to great harm by doing so.

Following is this headline that was making its way all over cyberspace the past couple of days. All I can say is: my father would both totally understand and heartily approve.

For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds

“Broad demographic shifts in marital status, educational attainment and employment have transformed the way young adults in the U.S. are living, and a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data highlights the implications of these changes for the most basic element of their lives – where they call home. In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household.”

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