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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.

Mom and Dad 1955

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.