It is just a house, an old Cape Cod that was ostentatious when it was built many, many years ago. The red roof will need to be replaced. When it was first put on, my great uncle Howard was still alive and capable of roofing with the help of my husband and my brother in law. It was red, because my grandparents fancied red.
There is a lilac tree that blooms in the spring in the huge yard that my children and their cousins loved to run in. We had Easter egg hunts there each spring. My grandfather was as excited as the children, and perhaps loved the chocolate more. One Christmas he put the artificial tree together upside down, cursing the ” broom handle tree”. The house was his dream. The castle that he bought for his queen. The house cost him years of working for the coal mine. He bought it late in life.
My grandparents had thought owning a home was unattainable, and then there was no choice. The town we all had lived in was demolished. The home they had rented forever was to be bulldozed, so they found a way to buy a house and then they made it into a home.
We were lucky that it was just down the street from us, and myself and my three siblings could go there as often as we liked. My grandparents were always happy to have us. Even our family dog, Andy, escaped there sometimes, to feast on the donuts my grandmother bought just for him. My grandfather would give him a lift back home in his old car when Andy was done visiting.
It was the place I went to when I was both in trouble and when I was filled with joy. I told them there I’d failed grade eight and years later that I was accepted into college. I sat in the living room and cried when my heart was broken and I shared my joy there when I had fallen in love. I took my babies and my troubles there. Recently my daughter and my niece wore their high school graduation gowns there. They delighted my grandmother who thought they looked like princesses.
My grandparents made a pact not to leave the house they loved so much. There was no
retirement home for them. Our children rode up and down the lift they put in when the stairs became too difficult for them to climb. My grandparents kept the hardwood floors covered with a hideous orange shag carpet. The wallpaper in the dining room is beyond ugly. But the windows are quaint and have a great view. My grandma stayed in the house for years after my grandfather had died, in the castle he had bought for her.
My grandmother died recently. I have been in the house since. It feels like the times I would go there as a child and find them out. They were usually off cruising to Fernie, the nearest town in which to shop, buying items they could return later, because if you bought something you could return it was a great excuse for a second trip. I would wait for them, watching TV, wearing my grandma’s jewels and eating popcorn twists. She always had a bag of popcorn twists in the hiding place.
It was empty in the house and kind of lonely until they would arrive full of stories and surprises.
Now, it feels a bit like they could burst through the door with ice cream from SuperValue, even though I know they are not coming back
My grandparents are gone. There is a for sale sign in the front yard. When the house is sold my heart will break a little, and another stage of missing them will start. I am past hoping for my grandfather’s voice or the feel of my grandmother’s so-soft paper-thin skin on my cheek when I kiss her goodnight.
The next step in missing is understanding that the place they once occupied is gone too — and we all must move on. I know it is only a house. The house is in the best location in town. It has a huge yard. It is only a matter of time before a family sees its charm. I know they will take out that awful carpet and strip the wallpaper. They will take down the rickety old picket fence that kept our children in the yard.
But I hope they fancy red roofs and like the smell of lilacs. I hope they have children who will like Easter egg hunts and who will decorate Christmas trees there for many years. I hope they make into a home again and they don’t mind when I slow down to look at that old Cape Cod. My heart is still in there.