Contrary to what you see on Pinterest, you don’t need to spend a lot on furniture and accessories to build an at-home workspace. Spare the framed prints, the fuzzy pillows and expensive desk. All you need is a lawn chair, a stool for your coffee cup and a laundry hamper to prop up the laptop.
My office-away-from home at my Dad’s house in Lacombe has come down to these three things now that the kitchen table sold. A lady searched for months for this exact type of table and promised to cherish it as much as my family did since my parents bought it over 50 years ago. Her words consoled me as we huffed and heaved the chrome and arborite piece down the steps to the driveway. “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” she said.
They certainly don’t, I thought. Nothing is how it used to be.
Portioning out what remained of my parents’ lives hasn’t been easy. Some items tugged at my heart more than others—like Mom’s tea cups from her bridal shower, and Dad’s work gloves and his leather-wrapped hammer. No matter how many times I set them aside to give away, I ended up putting them back in my keep pile. Same with the ancient, dented tool box Dad spray-painted gold and the knife he made that looks like a shiv. These items remind me of all the things he fixed with those big hands and how capable he was despite missing half of one index finger.
COVID restrictions arrived a few days after Dad died in March 2020 adding a mountain of challenges to an already challenging time. It took a while to find a buyer for the house but finally, with papers signed, we packed up everything I’d brought from Edmonton to live in the house off and on for nearly a year, and got it shipshape for the new people. You’d think after 12 months, I’d be emotionally prepared for this. Turns out, I wasn’t. Not even close.
The tears that come as I do a final pass surprise me. The house is as empty now as it was when my parents took possession in 2005. I remember feeling sad that they left the Okanagan, but happy to have them closer to me and my sisters in Alberta. It was a cold February evening when they arrived and Mom was coming down with what she thought was the flu. It was much worse than that. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, it was too late; she died that summer. Even now, 16 years later, I have a hard time processing the ferocity of her passing.
I cry now, for that. She never got to enjoy this house with its shaded deck and monstrous garden, nor the time she anticipated spending with her kids and grandkids. There is pain in this house—borne of misery and illness. This is the house where we grieved with Dad, and nursed him back to health after surgeries, sickness and mishaps; the house where we guarded him from a financial predator and kept him company when he was so lonely he begged God to take him. But, this is also the house where I sheltered in his emotional security and kindness when my marriage ended, the place where I cooked for him and got to know him not just as a father, but as the man who married a beautiful young woman named Remona. Those hours we spent together talking and laughing and singing old-time country songs are precious. Those memories are happy ones.
I will miss this house for one thing: walking into it and hearing his voice filled with happiness as he welcomed me. I owe some of these tears to that. For a good chunk of the last 15 years, being a caregiver was part of my identity, and I’m having a hard time accepting that my tending is over.
The memories in this house are so intense, they swirl around me like a tornado. I know that in time, their sharp edges will smoothen. The feelings they evoke will sift and settle into their rightful places, and I will find joy, peace and gratitude in there, somewhere.
This is what I tell myself as I close the door behind me.
Nothing is how it used to be…and that’s okay.
What a beautiful tribute to your parents Twyla. Closing that door must have been hard.
Harder than I thought, for sure. It’s been an “interesting” process and I’m so tired of crying, ugh.
Going through my mother’s things after she died, on the cusp of a pandemic, and the comfort I now seek and receive from some of those things that I kept has shown me that some things are not just things.
I totally understand, and same here — the few pieces I’ve kept, I deeply cherish.
Thanks, Michele. xo
Thank you. We helped my dad take his wife to memory care this week. He’s staying with us in Edmonton for a few days so we can take care of him. Next will be helping him decide where to live and sell his house in Calgary and most of the things in it. It’s a tough part of life but I do it with love.
It’s certainly tough…it took us about 5 years of gentle suggestion and conversation to get Dad to accept that it was time to move into the Lodge. I felt every ounce of his worry and reluctance. It’s so important to let them know they have a voice and aren’t being railroaded. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to give up everything that is familiar. That year in the Lodge that Dad had was the best year he had since losing Mom. My heart goes out to you as you go through this time with your father. It sounds like he raised a kind and loving daughter. 🙂
Oh Twyla, this is so poignant and heart-wrenching. Thank you for sharing and reminding me to treasure each moment with my parents ♥️
Thanks, Jenn, and yes, love them while you can and let them know it 🙂
A heartwarming story of family life but also a burden lifted. Life is all about movement.
Thanks, and yes, absolutely! This is life’s current — strong and directional. I am (slowly) learning to ease in and go with it 🙂
Lovely writing. I felt a lot of emotion reading your words.
Thanks, Dave. I know that many people have gone through this and felt these things. It’s a tough one.
Oh my heart Twila! What a beautiful, moving tribute to your parents, the home they had, if only briefly together, and a life well lived. Your dad was surrounded by wonderful caring (and sometime nosey, but in a good way) neighbours. I feel your pain and angst through your amazingly poignant words…you have such a gift! I miss this amazing neighborhood everyday…I cried as much reading this as I did as I drove away from our quaint street the last day I called it home.
Hi Kelly! Thank you. And thanks for being a part of that neighbourhood who helped Dad out when they saw he needed a hand. I have so much gratitude for everyone. Every buyer who looked at that house was told how great the neighbours were :). I hope you have settled into your new place!
My Dear Twyla,
That was written from deep within you heart I know for sure.
You have been on a crooked bumpy road for some time now my friend !
But, you were raised a soldier and will see this war to the end as well, and then carry on with millions of memories filling your heart.
Because that’s who you are, You got this Girl, and I’m so proud of you.
Let’s get together as soon as allowed, call me !!
Thanks, Dot. I appreciate that, and yes, these roots are strong 😉 It’ll be so nice to see you when that’s finally able to happen! Will talk soon. xoxo
Eloquent Twyla. Your words truly capture the feelings that most people find challenging to describe. Thanks for sharing and giving us permission to see your vulnerability and hope in future positive. Kind thoughts for you.
I appreciate that. Thank you so much, Nancy. xo
You have been so brave to be present to all of the emotions that came up from being in the house, and processing the belongings of a lifetime. May you enter the next phase with as much grace, courage, and wisdom as you have demonstrated in this unexpected year.
Thank you, Kathy, I appreciate that so much. Here’s to a boring remainder of the year… I think I’ve got enough “processing” under my belt to allow me to coast for a while.
That was just beautiful. Thank you for sharing. (I always like listening to you on CBC and it’s nice to read you, too.)
Thank you, that is so nice of you to say. 🙂
I’m going through this right now – stripping my dad’s house to it’s bones. What amazes me most is how little I want to save. How little of it is a true representation of his life, my mom’s life and our old lives together.
It’s a relief to get into that mode, isn’t it? It took me quite a while and I found it surprising, too, to witness how much stuff we surround ourselves with to make us happy. I’m sorry you’re going through the same thing but glad to hear your distillation process is going (reasonably) well!
My mom died 23 years ago, very fast (brain aneurysm) and too young (she was only sixty).
Reading your words made we weep with longing for her. Her partner insisted we take everything out of their shared apartment the day after the funeral, her clothes and personal items sat in my front bedroom, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, for a year before I could cope with it, It was a real presence in my home, shockingly, palpably sad,
I loved your words, thank you for sharing.
I’m sorry I’m only seeing this comment now for some reason(?). I’m also sorry for what you went through and how you were treated when your mother died. I know how that feels to have a mother die so quickly…it takes months, years, (sometimes forever) to process that departure. Ugh, my heart breaks for you. I’m glad you found some comfort through my words. Knowing that others feel the same type of pain makes things somewhat more bearable. Sort of.
Take good care of yourself.