I know every inch of this house. It began as an empty lot and the utterance “Barbara, you have to see the view from your front porch”. I helped design it, even worked with the builder to figure out the best way to support the loads on some oddly placed walls. I know what’s behind the walls, because I specified all the wiring. I watched her pantomime cooking with the kitchen designer so she got all the cabinets and appliances exactly where she wanted them. We visited the construction site every single day to check on progress. The only way you could know a place better is if you built the whole thing with your own bare hands.
But every night, when I go to bed, I find myself doing all the fidgety things I did when I stayed someplace else on a business trip. I stay up late, restlessly watching random junk on TV. I haven’t read a book since she went into the hospital, haven’t had the concentration for it. This place just doesn’t feel like home.
I can sit here in my office and work just fine. That has always been just my space. I can work in the kitchen, sit in the family room, none of that bothers me. I’ve gotten used to thinking of those spaces as mine. The first floor of the house was always family space anyway, not just ours.
In the bedroom, though, her absence is unavoidable. There is a certain distancing from her loss that is possible in the rest of the house, but not there. I hardly ever went to bed before her, it was usually her coming looking for me if I was working late and she couldn’t sleep. I pretty much always got up first, too. Home really is where the heart is, and I gave mine to her a very long time ago. For thirty years she was always there beside me, and wherever we were together was home, whether it was here, a tent in the White Mountains, or a hotel in Manhattan.
Now no place is home. The cold reality of an empty bed cuts through all the rational, reasoned out plans for going forward and reminds me that it will be a long lonely trip before I get to a place where memories bring more smiles than tears. I’m not sure exactly where that place will be, but I do know getting there won’t be quick or easy.