Val and I came back from León a week ago, after a much needed month-long stay. It was a bittersweet visit: I was delighted to see so many friends and family doing well, but while we were there, on January 2nd, my grandmother died of pneumonia after a long decay. I expected it to happen any day for the past few years (and, all things considered, I am glad she’s finally at peace), but I did not expect to be there to say goodbye.
I find now that going back to my hometown makes me feel older—or rather, it lets me realize my age, the status of my generation. I have plenty of younger nephews and cousins that I can barely recognize, and to whom I’m only vaguely familiar too. “Do you know who I am?” often draws out a negative, as it did when I was a boy and some traveling relative (an Older Man, to my eyes) came to León on a visit. Many of my friends have left the city or are otherwise engaged in grown-up activities and worries: mortgages, kids, schools, and the like. And the city, of course, has grown and changed: I find it slightly unsettling and unfamiliar how the old paths I took no longer take me where I want to go, and how the places I want to go to are not necessarily there anymore. In Toronto, and now in Victoria, I’m somewhat removed from all this; having it all hit me at once is a bit of a shock.
And yet it’s all good: seeing all these people and places, however different from those that I left behind on our previous visit, still brings out many of the same chords and emotions, the same aromas and flavours that are a part of me and that I didn’t know I’d miss so much, because I hadn’t learned to tell them apart from those of the rest of the world.