Defined by Absence

By and large, I think the kids helped me do a reasonably good job of  clearing out the things that needed to go so that the house didn’t feel like she had just stepped out for a minute. The daughters and nieces took what they wanted from her closet, and there was still a large amount of clothing and a huge pile of shoes to donate. I only kept a few things intentionally: her hiking boots, the fleece she wore on the trails, a couple of t-shirts from Broadway shows. I know she’s not coming back for them, but they remind me of the times in the woods, and her love of offbeat theater. Her dresser is largely empty, and I’ve started putting some of my clothes over on her side of the closet. That once overstuffed walk-in now is remarkably spacious.

We’re getting pretty good at the ‘Mom would have liked that’ or ‘you know what Mom would have had to say about that’ bits. It was good having the youngest here an extra few months to get that part going. I have the place to myself during the week now, but even before she moved out the house was filled with absence.

Four months later I still sleep on ‘my’ side of the bed. Nobody sits in her chair in the family room. It’s not that we expect her back. We just already had the places we sat, and haven’t changed them.

It’s inevitable that a house that was sized for a family of adolescents and parents who liked to host big gatherings would be full of voids when it got down to just me alone, but the absence is more than just empty furniture.

This wasn’t some house we bought. It started with an empty lot with a nice view and an idea.  It took us six months after we already owned the lot before we had a plan that worked, and gave us everything we wanted. We broke ground on Christmas Eve. I still have the shovel.  We were on the construction site every day. Every corner of it has her imprint on it. I can’t change any of that by rearranging furniture.

For the last few weeks I have been trying to wrap my head around the fact that it’s time to move. A house this big makes no rational sense for a guy living alone, and the spring market window is opening right now. It’s just so hard to let go of her house. In some ways it feels like the last piece I have left of our life together.

I love this place.  I love the view of the sunrise from my bedroom, the sunsets from the kitchen window, the hills from the front porch. I love that kitchen she designed. I love the way this place looks with a fresh fall of snow. The neighbors are just wonderful people. I doubt I will ever live anyplace this nice again in my life.

But her absence is impossible to avoid here. This will always be her house. Two weeks ago I wrote that I would somehow get used to her absence in the house, but it’s not getting better. It might even be getting worse.

We built this place with a purpose. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It was designed to get us through until the kids finished school. We passed that milestone almost six years ago. Even last year we were starting to talk about fixing it up and enjoying it for just a couple of years before selling it and downsizing.

I went to a chantey sing tonight, and we wrapped up with a song that lined up with what I am trying to get myself to do. It’s a song sung as the crew is heading into port, getting ready to end their service to a ship. The verses are full of all the nasty things that happened on the voyage, but I still like the chorus:

Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her.
For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow,
And it’s time for us to leave her!

This house was a ship built for a different journey, and it served us well, but that voyage is over. I will miss her indeed.

But not nearly as much as my mate.

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