Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Final Good Bye

28 years ago, my Dad built a house. 

A big house. There were 5 kids in our family at that time and one on the way.  My siblings and I helped where we could. I have fond memories of shingling the roof with my sister and brother during spring break.  Well, they're fond memories now. Back then I liked to use the tar covered green cords I had worn as a visual aid to show disdain to my parents that while other kids had Mickey Mouse ears souvenirs from their spring break, I had pants that were so coated in tar that they stood up on their own.

Despite my teenangst feelings that I was doing all the work, it was my Dad that put in a full day's work, came home to eat a quick dinner, then headed up to 'the house' to work til it got dark.  For months. And months.

For months, my pregnant Mom joked that she was planning on going into labour the day we moved. AND SHE DID. 

Some people will do anything to get out of moving a few boxes.

That 7 bedroom plus study house that we moved into on the day of sibling #6's birth was the Family Home for 28 years. It's where new babies were brought into our family to make a total of 8 siblings. It's where my grandma lived for 5 years. It's where I got ready for my wedding. Where my kids picked raspberries with Mom in the backyard. Where the trampoline entertained countless children. Where many beloved pets were grieved over and buried in the backyard over the years. Hundreds of visits with Aunt Geri and Uncle Mike. Where siblings, friends and grandkids were measured on the kitchen wall. 

Spouses were added to the family, and 8 grandchildren over the years. Birthday parties were celebrated. So many birthday parties.

Christmases. Red outdoor Christmas lights. Top and bottom roof levels. Endless noise and movement with the house filled with people.

Siblings moved out. Siblings moved back in. One grandchild lived there with a sibling for several years, and my parents loved every single moment she was there. My parents loved having their children and grandchildren there. That was their idea of a great day. Family at home. 

And flowers. Oh how my Mom loved her flowers. Dad planted so many flowers for her over those 28 years. "Come look at my roses! (Or lilacs, peonies, tulips, poppies....) So many rides home with one of my kids holding a bouquet of flowers she helped Grandma to pick. And always accompanied by the required wet paper towel covered with a plastic bag and elastic band. 

More Sundays than not, our phone would ring and I would be greeted by Mom saying, "So, are you coming up for dinner tonight? We're going to do hamburgers and chips." How many thousands of pounds of potatoes were peeled over the years in that kitchen....well...let's see...typically 20 or so people x a 10 pound bag of potatoes multiplied by oh lets say 20 dinners over a year x 28 years....ok, I'm not the math whiz of the family (that's sibling #3 and grandson # 2) but my hands hurt.

Celebrating Mom and Dad's 45th wedding anniversary in the house they loved was beautiful. Wall to wall people all there, celebrating such a monumental occasion, and all knowing that it was most certainly their last one together.

Yup. That house holds so many wonderful memories.

There are tough memories too. Standing in the kitchen drawing morphine for Mom. Holding Mom's hand in the family room as she died.  My brothers carrying her body out past the red door that she had painted. "I've always wanted a red door." Dad standing in the front hall telling me he thought he had cancer. Standing in the kitchen sobbing that they were both gone and that we had to sell that beloved house that Dad had built and added to and painted according to Mom's whims and installed hardwood flooring and endlessly moved the pool table in over 28 years...the house that was the pivot point for our entire huge family.

This past Sunday, I walked through the empty house for the last time. As I crossed the threshold and past the red door I looked down at my hand. I was holding the rock that we always hid the housekey underneath. The Princess had asked if we could take it home and so I had picked it up on my way into the house.

I looked down at my hand.

I was holding a rock in my hand and it simply said everything that needed to be said. Everything that my parents' house stood for. The act of building it. Planting flowers. Hamburger and chip dinners. Hugs at the front door. Shucking corn on the backyard patio. Canning peaches. Watching movies.


Thank you Mom and Dad for that final memory. It truly was a house filled with love.