A calm Monday afternoon. Preparing to exit I-94 we encounter the same construction that threw us off before. Last time we tried going to Hudson this way, we got off too soon and ended up on state highway 35 south to River Falls.
This time we get it right and take the Carmichael road exit and the quick left onto Coulee road. A lot has changed in seven years (the last time I was here) and even more in the twenty three years since I lived and worked in this town. So many more buildings now populate the freeway frontage road I used so often back then.
That was because it was close to Dave’s house.
I first moved to Hudson, Wisconsin sometime around August of 1987. After the divorce and my grand six-month tour of China and Thailand, I started working with Dave. Things were different for me then. VERY different! I was different. My travels seemed to have used up more than just the lion’s share of my settlement money.
Upon landing back in Hudson in 1992, I landed the job which would introduce me to Dave. I don’t recall the name of the agency that hired me, but right away they knew I was going to make a nice addition to the team. They were a brand new and modern group of young social scientists and caregivers. They were all about doing good work in the community and making a difference.
I was on board right away.
The job turned out to be far more challenging than I thought it would be, but also a great opportunity. A chance to get some very valuable experience in the field of social work. As it happened, my recent life challenges seemed to have tempered my temperament. I was actually quite prepared for such things.
Such things as becoming the live-in operator of the agency’s emergency respite site, being available for on-call crisis management… and working with Dave. My supervisors had seen me right away as someone who would have a positive influence on Dave and thus be an important contribution to the team and their efforts to help him.
I think they were right.
Turning right onto Eleventh street from Coulee road on that calm Monday afternoon more than twenty three years later, we slow down to look for the house. Dave’s house. As we roll by I snap a photo. It’s obvious that no one is home, but I almost expect to see Dave standing at the screen door. The thick beard covering his long, life-battle-worn face, grayer than ever. I imagine him smiling and waving at me to come on in.
I imagine a Dave no longer plagued by violent outbursts. No more broken windows or furniture. No more fits of anger, screeming or crying. No more rolling on the floor and vomiting on himself, looking like (and saying) that he wants to die. Instead, Dave calls to me and invites me in to watch TV. He asks me to bring my guitar so we could sing Elvis songs together. He offers me a coke and to stay for a nice dinner of hotdogs and canned spinach.
We continue on to find the one-story duplex where I ran the emergency respite site and then onto Strawberry drive to see the first house I lived in back in 1987. I stop and speak with a woman who just recently bought a house in the neighborhood. On the cul-de-sac. She shares a bit of how things are now and I share what I can of how things were back then.
In a few hours we are enjoying a late lunch with old and very dear friends from back then. Friends I had first met shortly after moving to Hudson. We don’t speak of those days however. We don’t speak of my divorce, my grand tour of China and Thailand or my job at the agency, or working with Dave.
My friends and I speak instead of our lives now. Of our mutual friends here and of those sadly absent. We laugh and share ideas, works of art, the state of the world… and even sing a song or two.
A good day.