Sometimes when it’s late at night and I’m tired after work and we have eaten dinner and done everything that needs to be done, I go down in the basement. Usually our cat, Max, follows me and we cuddle for a little while and then, if the mood strikes, I take out one of my drawings and I just watch it. Some of these nights, the magic happens and I can feel myself transported into the drawing; I can smell every scent in the air, I hear the traffic and the cicadas play, the humidity in the air, every street sign, every store front is right there. I am walking through the picture and somehow the door is opened to so many memories that it is almost hard to take it all in; an emotional overdose, a warm feeling, everything so familiar; things separated from me in time and distance, are suddenly close again.
I am there. I am present. I am sent back in a time machine. It’s the most amazing feeling and I am grateful for those moments.
Yesterday I was walking around in this drawing, one of my favorites. I walked all the way down South Lamar until I got to Barton Springs Road, where I took a right and continued past the Peter Pan mini golf court, which we never visited once in seven years, on past that bike store, Austin Tri-Cyclist (which I visited once), past Palmer Event Center and across South First Street and Threadgill’s, (was there only once), over South Congress and down Riverside Drive, Past that Wells Fargo where we opened our first bank accounts here in the US in 2009, past Joe’s Crab Shack and then across I35 all the way up to South Lakeshore Boulevard.
I turned down on Lakeshore until I got to a gated parking lot. I slipped through the fence and went across the parking, down the stairs, passing the pool, down some more steps and to the right. The second last unit before you get to the park is where my aunt in law lived when we first moved to Austin and I have many warm and beautiful memories from dinners at her place. Usually just her, me and my wife, but every guest we had visiting from Sweden were also invited to her place for dinner and relaxation; my two best friends David and David, my other best friend Daniel, my brother and my father, my mother in law, sister in law and husband. All came to Pat’s place on the lake.
This unit had a little patio with a view of town lake and downtown glimmering behind it and we spent so many nights there over the years. There was life there, calm and peaceful and a lot of times I would fall asleep in the rocking chair or on the sofa. All of us have since left Austin but Austin will forever have a deep hold of my heart. If things had been different, I imagine we would have been there still.
These walks of mine through my drawings are wonderful reminders of all the things I love about being here, all the positive, all the things we have done that didn’t involve sickness and poverty and struggle. It is easy to forget when life turns into one big battle. I forget all the time, but when I am walking around there in my memory, I am reminded of why we are still struggling, why we have been fighting so hard now for almost ten years.
2019 will mark ten years since we moved from Sweden. Not once have I regretted coming here. Not once have I wanted to move back, even when things look the darkest do I think of going back.
This is home now. It was Austin for seven years. I can’t say that I ever really felt at home in Sweden, although that is where I was born and lived for 34 years.
Thinking about how much time has passed since that day when we boarded the plane in Copenhagen made me a little sad, or maybe it was sentimental – there’s a thin line between the two. Sentimentality sometimes crosses over. But today when I thought back at my walk last night, the main feeling was that I don’t want to lose this.
I don’t want to lose this life that we have fought so hard for. We deserve a real chance at happiness, but sometimes it feels like we were never really given the chance. We kind of came in fighting and we’ve been underdogs ever since. It was only a few years in before my wife had a work related accident – nothing too serious, but enough to not keep that job – and then only a year or so until she started treatment for her Lyme and all the rest of the crap she’s been treating since. For years now we have been living on one salary and every month, every week, every day is a god damn struggle. We could have done so much more if things had been different and THAT makes me sad sometimes; wondering what we could have done if we weren’t always occupied with the struggle of health and money and more and more over time, the isolation from the world around us.
I have many dreams, hopes and wishes, many places I’d like to see and much I would like to accomplish before it’s all over and I know my wife does too, but for now until God knows when, maybe forever, we are stuck in a downward spiral of debt, isolation and a daily struggle just to make it and it breaks my heart thinking this is all that came of it, that this is it…
Therefore I take my time wandering around in the memories I have captured in these drawings from Austin and later from Santa Fe where we live now. I need those walks to remind me of all the things I love and all the things I am fighting for. I still don’t ever think about leaving this country in spite of our struggle and more recently the moral decay of our “leaders”.
This is home. I belong here and I will do everything I can to remain here. Sometimes I just need to take a walk, get some fresh air to be reminded.