At home in the heartland

The girls and I just returned from a visit to my hometown in Illinois. Somehow the tragedies that occur in a rural setting look different on the surface than they do in the ‘hood, the sort of environment in which Edwina and her family live.

While plenty of good things happened during our time in Illinois–hanging out with friends and family, rides in the pickup with my dad to check out fields of corn and soybeans, return visits to my favorite haunts growing up–we also experienced some darker moments.

I learned that my brother’s ex-wife Rhonda passed away a few months ago from liver disease and COPD. She’s the second of his ex-wives to die in the past two years from drug and alcohol-related illnesses.

Then while catching up, my niece mentioned a scary moment from last year when her dad/my brother overdosed on drugs and she had to rush him to the ER. Stepping up to handle matters of life and death is part of the job description for family members of addicts.

And the night before we headed back to Birmingham, a friend of mine from high school was killed in an accident at the local grain elevator he managed. News traveled fast and everyone I talked to was in shock. Tom was an all-around great guy–honest, hardworking, kind. His death was a reminder that farming is a dangerous profession despite the romanticism often associated with an agrarian lifestyle.

Good things and bad things happen wherever we live. In the heartland, the worst of times can be deceptively camouflaged by the calm and quiet of open roads.

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