Loss has been on my mind too much lately for me to write lightly about it, and I’ve been tempted to opt out of this topic, but I might as well give it a try. Fair warning that it’s just my own idle meandering, pretty much gloomy except possibly the part about the erotic dreams.
I need to clear out and try to sell the house where I grew up, at least from the age of nine. I watched it being built by a local carpenter with my father helping as an assistant. Now my father, at 98, has recently been moved to an “extended care” facility very near where I live, an hour away from where he lived with my mother for more than sixty years, and then six more years alone (with help from family and friends.) The house now isn’t worth much, but the land is, so most likely when it’s sold the house will be torn down and a McMansion-type house will replace it.
I feel as though my memories are being lost, but of course I do still have many. So does he, sporadically; occasionally he’ll suddenly tell me something he remembers that he couldn’t remember when I asked him several times before. Mostly inconsequential things like where we used to pick blueberries, or memories of vacations spent camping and canoeing with his brother (my uncle who died last year) and his family. All this is just the natural way life goes, I know.
But the house seems to haunt me, the house and who I used to be there, who we all used to be. When it comes to the house, I feel a sense of loss when I enter, a loss of the time not too long ago when I would be there to cook him dinner, leaving several days worth of leftovers for him to reheat in the microwave oven until I came again. The times before he burned up the microwave because he forgot that you can’t put metal in them, and then, a few days later, had a fit of some sort right in front of my brother and fell hard against the wall, hit his head, and was taken to the hospital. He’s never been back since.
Now I look around the house to decide what I should take away next. This week, I think, I’ll get the stacks of family photographs, still loose or in envelopes, unorganized except that I went through them after my mother died getting rid of duplicates and indecipherable pictures. And I’ll take the huge basket of family genealogy material that she had accumulated, also unorganized. At least my daughter-in-law has an interest in genealogy, so she may preserve them for my granddaughter.
There’s one thing about the house, though, that I’d be more than happy to lose. Why do so many of my dreams seem to take place in it? I haven’t lived there in over fifty years, but I still have those dreams, some of them very strange. The ones about missing the school bus make a certain amount of sense, and so, I guess, do the ones about suddenly having to fix a meal for a crowd of relatives using only whatever canned or dried foods my mother had accumulated over so many years of grocery store “sales” that most of them were likely to be well past their “use by” date. No, I never really had to do that, although I did on occasion miss the school bus. Dreaming that I’m in my old bed, in the room that later became my father’s office, isn’t so strange, either, except that in these bed dreams I’m sometimes having sex with people I met much, much later, and who have never been there. In fact that’s where most, if not all, of my erotic dreams take place, complete with the sense that we have to try to be quiet because the family would hear us. No, there was never any actual sex going on there, and definitely no abuse. I never even masturbated until I was in college, although I did read some rather hot books there, so maybe that explains it. Still, wouldn’t you think that someone with considerable experience of writing sex scenes could come up with some better settings in their dreams? Or maybe that’s why I feel the need to write sex scenes with better settings.
Life does go on. I need to get practical. Do I have to empty out all those outdated cans and boxes of food on shelves in the basement and clean them so that I can take them to be recycled? Do I bring it all home and overwhelm my compost pile with the contents, or dump them in either the forest behind his house or the one behind mine? Do I tote boxes and boxes of usable dishes and cooking pans back to donate to my local Survival Center, or see if some organization in his town will come to get them? Do I have to overcome the feeling that I should keep the house stocked at least well enough to stay in for a day or two just in case of needing to do so for, say, a funeral? Which may not happen for several years yet, because in spite of age and fading memory and unsteadiness, he doesn’t have any immediately life-threatening health problems.
There’s a “found” aspect to all this, too. In one of my bursts of cleaning I swept out a mass of clutter from underneath the very low shelf on my father’s desk. Something glittered—a candy wrapper? An unusually clean paper clip? A coin? Wait—a ring! A gold ring! It was my mother’s wedding ring, once enlarged for her, then much too big when she grew very thin toward the end. We’d thought it was saved in a certain box in certain place, but then we couldn’t find it—until now. Hmm, this could be worked into a story. Probably won’t be, but just the same; thanks, Mom.