My dad lives in the house I grew up in. The house my mom died in. The house my mom made a home for her family for 35 years.
So much has changed since my mom died. The house looks different, as my dad has remarried and my mom’s stuff has been put away. I never expected the house to remain a shrine to my mom, and there are still some pictures/mementos from the past around the house.
There are places where I can stand in my parents’ home and it feels like my mom is still with us. I can go back 6 years to when my mom was first battling pancreatic cancer. Seven years, before the words “pancreatic cancer” invaded our lives. Ten years to when my son was a toddler, running around the house and playing games with my mom. Thirty years to when I was teenager living there.
My parents were the first owners of that house. Together, they chose how each of the rooms would be decorated – paint, wallpaper, carpet, everything. Over the years, rooms were updated, the kitchen and living room were remodeled, and a greenhouse for my mom’s orchids was added. My mom’s loving touch went into everything, especially the gardens out back. Whenever I couldn’t find my mom in the house, I knew she would be in the garden pulling weeds or watering her plants.
My mom made sure that the house my brother and I grew up in was a home. I never knock when I walk into the house because in a way it is still my home. But there are times when it doesn’t feel that way, as I am reminded that my childhood bedroom is now a guest room. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong there. Things keep changing and the more they change, the more I don’t belong.
But no matter how much that house changes in appearance, my mom’s spirit is still there. I see her imprint on things that have not been changed. I close my eyes and I can see my mom sitting at the kitchen table working on the New York Times crossword puzzle, pen in one hand, a cup of tea in the other. I often go upstairs where it is quiet and sit in my old bedroom looking at my mom’s wedding picture and other memories of her. The only other room I will go into upstairs is my brother’s old bedroom, where things of my mom’s are stored.
My mom took a house and made it into a home, and for 35 years she was part of that home. Although she does not physically live there anymore, my mom’s presence is part of that house, my childhood home, the home my parents’ built together for their family.