, ,

Rebuilding our home has been an adventure of learning. Both my spouse and I have graduate degrees that required intense research and writing. Rebuilding the house makes completing a dissertation seem easy.

My spouse wrote his dissertation, which later became a book, on US Federal and Indian relations for the Eastern Shoshone Indians. He covered pre-contact history until 1900 living for a while in Washington, D.C. going through every singe document archived on the topic over a from 1825 until 1900.  My dissertation was about the then emerging concept of PTSD. That information ended up in a scholarly book on trauma and loss.  I collected data from 1180 people including testing some study volunteers across time. Each project took over a year. They took a long time. The house is taking longer.

When I was working on my dissertation iin the wee hours of the morning of the first day of my data collection I experienced my first kidney stone. I had gotten up around 3 am to use the bathroom and when I departed to return to bed I was in so much pain I fell to my knees on the floor. I did not now about kidney stones at the time. I did not know that an attack was often triggered by urination which causes the stone to move. I thought I was dying.

I also thought about my data collection. As I was wheeled into an emergency surgery later that morning I was clinging to the telephone making data collection arrangements as the cord extending further and further from the wall. There were no cordless handsets or cell phones only land lines with cords attaching them directly to the wall. Finally some medical staff person just took the phone away from me. Thankfully I had enough time to tell one of my student interns what to do. As a result of the kidney stone they found that I had a potentially lethal, serious immune disorder. Thankfully after a few years it remitted completely but at the time it was frightening.

My dissertation was attended by drama, including facing the losing my life to the disease they found. In many ways it was not dissimilar to losing the house to the fire. We felt our mortality as we dealt with disease and when we watched from the evacuation point as flames shot 60 to 80 feet high over the spot where our house was. It has taken months to conceptualize and gather the information we need to rebuild the house. It will be over one year before we finish.

When I finished my dissertation with all its drama and was grated passage into the world as a university professor,  I felt exhausted but happy to have attained such an important milestone in my life. What I have learned in the process of the drama of losing our home is that University degrees are important but my connection to my home, the place where your heart resides, overshadows things that seemed important.

Our connection to our homes, the places where we reside with our families, the place where we spend time with our friends, the place where we rejuvenate, the sense of place that it provides us is the bedrock on which we build the seemingly important things in our lives.