In less than a month, my mother will be losing her home. A failed marriage, subsequent loss of health insurance, and illnesses almost certainly resulting from decades of smoking all played a part. After a few years of making fast dashes down to fill my car with the irreplaceable – photographs; handmade furniture and instruments – I can’t say that it is unexpected. Even so, it’s a painful loss — for my family as a whole, I’m sure, and for me personally.
For almost forty years, the little bungalow at 716 South Star was my grandparents’ home. They raised my mother, their only child, in it. It was there that they retired, and welcomed grandchildren into their lives. It saw all the joys and sorrows they experienced over the decades, and became for them a symbol of the renewed life they began together in middle age.
I remember it as a warm, loving and wondrous place, comfortable and safe from the tumultuous life we led at home. Holidays spent there were filled with delicious scents and delightfully kitschy decorations. Summer vacations were spent in the garden, harvesting tomatoes that seemed as big as my head, or staying up late with my grandfather, playing Chinese checkers while Johnny Carson cracked jokes on the small black-and-white television that sat in the corner. And year-round, it was filled with music — the music of my grandmother singing, or of my grandfather playing one of the myriad instruments he played so well.
It sits silent now. The garden, my grandparent’s pride, lapsed into weedy ruin years ago. Soon, the house will be bought and demolished, making way for a new home or, perhaps, the lot will simply remain a vacant one — one of many to pop up in that area in recent years. Anyone who knew me growing up knows that not all that happened in that house was happy, and of course there’s much that took place there about which I am far from nostalgic. Still, the house had always been, for me, a tangible connection to happy times, and to my grandparents, with whom I was very close.
In a month, it will be just a memory I carry around with me, or a faded photograph that I bore my children with when the evening wanes and conversation turns to questions about what it was like “back in The Day.” That thought leaves me breathless with sadness. To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, it’s like my grandparents are dying all over again, and I am heartbroken.
[Originally written July, 2009. This piece appears here in slightly modified form.]