Monday, May 17, 2010

Visiting Home

Forty years after it was my address, the house where I grew up still holds a lease on the place called home in my heart. Mom still lives in that suburban ranch-style house, though Dad has moved on to heaven.

The house itself has changed very little. There is new siding, easier to keep up with only a splash of hose water to rinse it clean. The pool and dishwasher were installed after I left for college, but have since become familiar friends when I visit. The trees, which I remember as just little sticks when I was short myself, have far outstripped me in size, needing to be trimmed back. The lawn that Dad kept immaculate and plush as a carpet, now has a few dandelions and sparse spots. The gravel driveway I remember Grandpa Johnson raking is now paved.

Mom has let go of the need to clean house much. I think she mostly did it to please Dad and now he’s gone and she can’t afford someone to come in and clean. She even teases my sister and I when we do some cleaning for her, calling us “Mrs. Clean.” That ties into an old family memory of camping when we saw a man who went to the washroom building so very often that we nicknamed him “Mr. Clean.” Still, I know it is for myself that I clean, not Mom. She doesn’t see or care about the thick dust you can see if you touch or move the framed family photos sitting on the side tables and dressers. I have worked my way through the living room and kitchen, today I’ll do the bathroom and den, leaving my room for tomorrow.

Mom has morphed into a version of her mother, watching the game show network incessantly. “Mom would have loved this channel,” she always asserts. When “nothing is on” she plays cards or does word search puzzles. She doesn’t move much and now it’s getting difficult to get up and walk around. Her eyes are less reliable. The TV is on VERY loud to get through her feeble hearing. She repeats things more often, just like the reruns on the game show network that recycle frequently—but she doesn’t notice. She still wants us to eat, frequently and plenty.

It’s strange and familiar to sleep in the same room I used as a small girl. When I lived there we had a trundle-bunk bed so three of us could use the room. The last full time inhabitant was Dad, when his Alzheimers got bad enough to make him restless, so Mom couldn’t sleep with him anymore. There are still some stains in the hardwood floor from his forgetful spitting. The old dresser was the same one we had when I lived in the room. The window ledges are old and water damaged from over 50 years without being replaced. But they built the house sturdy and most of the original windows are still good.

Yes, I’ve grown & weathered many a storm too. But it is still home. And I sleep soundly in that room.
--Terra Rafael

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