31 July 2020

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere

Five decades ago, at the end of July, I am living at home with my parents and my big sister and my younger brother. My father has given me the task of reading the map and navigating him on the long journey to our holiday home on the coast in Denmark. This means that I can sit next to him in the passenger seat and not get carsick in the back. I love reading maps. I love school, I play the piano, I sing in a choir and I am so much looking forward to our seaside holiday where I can read all the books I packed. My parents are making jokes about how many.

Four decades ago, at the end of July, I am living with R in a tiny attic flat in Heidelberg and I have just decided to drop out of university with four months to go to my final exams. I know I never want to teach, research or lecture, instead I am working at the hospital, mostly mopping floors and sterilising bits and pieces. R is working for a landscape gardener. In the evenings, we sit by the river making plans about cycling all the way to Ireland. My parents stop talking to me.

Three decades ago, at the end of July, I am living in a small bungalow with a corrugated tin roof in a  tropical African country. I am married to R who is teaching chemistry and biology at the capital's polytechnic, our seven year old daughter is climbing trees and diving for crabs. My job as a business manager at a government training scheme has just come to an end and I am giving away/selling our things. In a few days we will move on to spend some time in India. Back in Germany, after my mother's latest suicide attempt, my father is preparing to run away in the middle of the night, he will be in hiding for several months.

Two decades ago, at the end of July, I am living in Germany again. We have just bought a house very similar to the one I grew up in, R is teaching and our daughter is preparing to move on to study and be an adult. I have just started my new job at the university medical faculty and at the obligatory health check-up for newcomers my blood works have come back with troubling results. I decide to ignore this and instead get ready for a three week long bike trip across Germany with R. My mother is dead, my father rejoicing, now that I am finally where he feels I belong, in Germany and at a university.

One decade ago, at the end of July, I am mostly at home resting in our house and garden. R is still teaching. Our daughter, after years of study, travel and work on several continents, is beginning to settle down on the other side of the planet.  By now, I have been out sick for 11 months and I am in no shape yet to go back to work. I am beginning to accept the reality of a livelong chronic illness. I buy an ebike and slowly begin cycling again, first minutes and hours, then a morning, a day, and eventually, after another year, a whole week. I have started to blog. My father is refusing to understand chronic, but tries to be helpful.

Today, at the end of July, I am still living with R in this house near the river. I am still working at the university, but part time and since mid March, from home during this strange pandemic. R is a retired teacher and a busy gardener. Our daughter is living with her small family on the other side of the planet and the pandemic has cut a big gash through all our plans and dreams. I am a virtual grandmother, my grandchild sings with me via social media. I cycle along the river. My father is in a retirement home. He is unwell and angry.

I blog. Some nights I sleep poorly. I am comfortably resigned. My energy is limited, I am not much in pain. I could miss a lot. I could complain, I could shout at the moon.

I read maps, there are places I think I still want, I still need to go to.


  1. Your voice in this post (all your posts for that matter) fills me with gratitude that you share your life so generously here, and I love hearing that timeless song from 50 years ago.

  2. I loved reading this, how you told your story by decades. It is beautiful and inspiring. I hope you get to make more journeys, Sabine. Really good song for this post. Take care there.

  3. wow, quite a chronicle. great post. I don't know if I could do that. I might try. it sounds an amazing journey, your life. and the concurrent journey through family relations.

  4. I can manage feeling "comfortably resigned." I, too, love coming here and reading your thoughts. Plus, The Byrds.

  5. What a life! What a beautiful post. I hope with all of my heart that you are able to visit at least a few more of the places you want to go.

  6. Wonderful touchstones. Comfortably resigned isn't too bad, is it? I think it might be the best that most of us will achieve. To me, that means that there are still things I would like to do, people to see, place to go but I am remain grateful for the things I have been able to do, the people that have walked into my life and the places I've seen so far.

    Thank you for this. It is lovely.

  7. I love this post, this window into your extraordinary life. I would read the book of this. So many threads here to gently unravel. I read maps too.

  8. I love how you've written this. Your father ran away, your mother tried to kill herself. That's difficult to deal with.

    I envy your courage to live your life as you see fit, to travel, to live in other countries, to be yourself, to accept.

    It's got to be so difficult to not be able to see your granddaughter in person. Your daughter is like you, a traveler:)

  9. A really poetic post, thank you. More decades ahead.

  10. Interesting approach, recounting your life by decades. Reading maps and planning any trips we made was an activity my husband enjoyed. His mother took great pleasure reading maps for trips she would never make when she was aged. You have decades ahead to add to this list.