My son will be here in an hour. I stared around the room assessing the emptiness that had rung in my heart all morning. The emptiness that described the cabinets. The emptiness that described the drawers. The emptiness that described the closets. I saw the shadows on the walls, remnants of where heirloom furniture once stood. The faded wall paper in the hallway revealed a visible outline where the picture once hung of me and my brother. A black and white remembrance of my favorite pink dress and my brother in his christening gown.
The same was true above the fireplace. Different wallpaper, different room, different picture. Same outline. Our family picture resided in that space for 50 years, updated periodically as the kids grew, though it had remained stagnant for some time now. Our kids had left long ago, and I had resisted the efforts of my daughter to replace the family picture with a portrait of the grand kids. The sacred spot above the fireplace was reserved for my children. My eyes quickly brushed past the empty wall, the recollection still too painful from the loss of my husband.
The house had been bustling all week. My son and daughter and their willing spouses took their respective turns packing my things. I tried not to watch, each memory more formidable than the last. I knew where most of my things were headed: my crystal distributed equally to my children; my mother’s china to my daughter; my husband’s tools to my son; and my furniture mostly to charity, as were many of my husband’s clothes and such.
My clothes were moving to a new home across town. Selected by my late husband, we had been on a waiting list for more than a year. It is a beautiful complex. I am to have a one-bedroom apartment on the first floor, not far from the dining room or the activity areas. Unlike the house I am leaving behind, the apartment is brand new. It has a small little kitchen, complete with its own oven, refrigerator and dishwasher. I know I should be grateful for the availability of this new domicile at a time such as this. I know I will enjoy the activities, which include card games like bridge and the modern activities that I suppose I could try, like yoga and Tai Chi.
Today, however, the sentiment in leaving my home is almost too much to bare. I walked through the dining room one last time. In my mind, I can clearly envision past family dinners. Excited teens talking about the newest trends in music or the pros and cons of the colleges they are exploring or the high school football game. Before that, I can envision my son sitting on phone books so he can sit like a “big boy” at the dinner table, picking at his peas and trying to feed his Brussels sprouts to the dog under the table. As we celebrated two weddings and the birth of five grandchildren, the family had outgrown the old dining room table long ago, now requiring seating for eleven. But we made do. Everyone felt included. So many memories.
Upgraded from some of the other units, there is room for a small dining area in my new apartment. The size of table that will fit in the assigned space is better suited for hosting coffee dates and not meals, however. I have not stopped to picture the context to which I will have visits or who will be sitting around that little table. I just know that family dinners are now out of my control. My new oven will not accommodate a turkey; my refrigerator is not meant to hold leftovers of any mass.
My daughter tells me that my piano will fit in my new bedroom. Not ideal, but home would not be home without it. So many happy times have centered around that piano. So many sorrows, I have played out through song. Loving memories in the wind, as my tired fingers gently caressed each key.
I walked through the upstairs rooms one last time. I stared at our backyard. The trees needed trimming. Normally, the gardener would be here on Saturday. Now, not my worry.
As my son arrived, I took a breath. A long, deep breath, suffocating from memories. I held my head up, smiled and thought, "I can do this." As my son meandered towards my front door, something deep in my core perked up and the light in my eyes returned. It might have only been for a moment. But in that moment, I moved forward. And I moved out.
Marsi lives in San Diego, CA with her husband, two children and dog. A private foundation grants writer by trade, Marsi explores her creative side by contributing to Writing Writer Writest. She is a breast cancer survivor and keeps a blog of her journey, entitled Nip It.