Monday, January 9, 2012

My House

My House

The moment I stepped foot in this place, I knew it was my house and would be my home.
Now that my circumstances have changed so dramatically, I'm beginning to understand that for my own good, I will need to let go of this beautiful place.
It's isolated and it's full of memories that sometimes make it hard to move forward.

I look at the downstairs closet door and remember how Dave had to kick that door open from the inside to save us.
All the doors in this place have a very old-fashioned latch instead of knobs. The closet door has a latch on the outside only. If you go into the closet and somehow the door closes and latches on the outside, you're locked in. Now, this would theoretically never happen, because
1. Most likely you'd never go into the closet and then want to close the door behind you.
2. Even if you wanted to try that move, it's difficult to close a door that has no knob or handle of any sort on that side.

Theory and reality. Two different things.

The trap door to the crawlspace is located in that closet. Dave had to go into the crawlspace to do something and enlisted my help. I was to keep the cat out of the closet while he worked. Rosco wanted nothing more than to explore that crawlspace and would try to push his way into the closet while I barred his entrance. I was facing the door, keeping the door open just enough to keep it from latching from the outside while not enough to admit the curious cat by putting my fingertips under the bottom of the door to control it.  Dave was standing with his torso sticking out of the trap door. Rosco stuck his  white paws under the door to play with my fingertips and I giggled and called out "Look at Rosco playing with my fingers!" Dave replied (Mr. Practical) "Don't let the door latch shut. We'll be locked in here," to which I replied "I won't do that, SHEESH, whattya think I am, stupid?". And that was when I accidentally shut and latched the door. There was a flurry of "I TOLD YOU!" and "I KNOW BUT I DIDN'T THINK IT'D ACTUALLY LATCH THAT EASILY!" and "OH MY GOD WE'RE GOING TO DIE IN HERE! WHAT DO WE DO NOW? NO ONE KNOWS WE'RE IN HERE!"
After resolutely declaring that we'd just die in that closet and someone would find our corpses and those of the cat when no one came looking for us soon enough, Dave calmly hoisted himself out of the crawlspace, moved me out of the way, and karate-kicked the door right where the latch would be on the other side, cracking the frame a little, but unlatching the latch and saving us before I could finish my sentence on how embarrassing it would be to die because I trapped us in our closet.
I can still see the tiny crack in the door frame.

I look at the staircase and remember the time I picked up a mouse on the landing.
A terrible high pitched squeaking almost too high pitched to hear woke us up one night. We found Rosco playing with a mouse in the stairwell. There is something about hearing a mouse squeak for its life while watching a cat play with it that makes me lose my mind, because after watching for a few seconds, I made up (lost) my mind. I ran past the cat and mouse on the landing to the first floor, grabbed some gardening gloves lying near the door and ran back to the landing. When the cat had that mouse cornered, I grabbed the terrified rodent by the tail, ran back down the stairs and tossed it outside, all before I realized what I'd just managed to do. I think Dave's jaw made a small thump when it hit the ground. I don't think he'd moved the entire time. I calmly removed the gloves and climbed back in bed while Dave still remained frozen and silent. I'm not sure he was even able to remark on that moment that night. I think he was literally speechless. I, on the other hand, managed to say something like "Did you SEE that?" while he just stared at me like he'd never seen me before and had no idea who I was.

I look at the dining area by the wood stove and think of the time Rosco projectile vomited the liquid from cooking corn onto the dining room table, chairs and floor.
He'd gotten onto the counter when we weren't looking and lapped up ALL the liquid the corn had been cooking in, jumped off the counter and jumped onto the dining room table. From the living room, we heard the sound all cat owners dread. It's the sound that alerts us to move the cat to a surface that is not carpeted or upholstered. We both couldn't get to the kitchen in time to make sure Rosco was barfing over a paper towel or something but instead got to witness him vomit all that liquid out like a firehouse. It forcefully sprayed out of his mouth, across the table, into the chair nearby, down the chair and onto the floor. It must have a been a full 20 seconds we stood there, mouths open in surprise, listening to the musical sound of the puke dripping from the table and chair. "I have no words," I finally whispered. "You don't see that everyday" he finally deadpanned. And I went to get the paper towels.

This house is so full of memories like that. Memories that feel just as close and as current as the moment I'm living in now even though some of them are up to 11 years old.
There is some sort of disconcerting mismatch between the reality of my situation and the memories this house traps inside it. The mismatch makes me feel stuck in the past.
I can also picture a family filling this house with love and noise and life. It's a house for a family, not a single 35 year old woman. At least not THIS 35 year old single woman.

I wish I were in a position to better pick the family that moves in when this place eventually sells. I definitely feel like they're adoptive parents more than potential home buyers. I want to make them go through an application process to prove they're worthy.

They'd have to be willing to feed my hummingbirds who come back every March. There would be a stipulation that they'd HAVE to have the feeders out no later than the first week of March or the hummies might come back early and search for their feeder. This would NOT be acceptable.
They'd have to promise to never harass or hurt the deer, even when they eat the shrubs. And they will.
They'd need to promise to grow veggies in the massive veggie garden Dave and I labored over for years and to use the greenhouse we built ourselves. 
They'd have to promise to look at the sky on a clear night and note that the milky way is visible out here in the middle of nowhere.
They'd need to promise to never fill this house with ugliness or violence. It's a house of peace and quiet and love and always should be.
They'd need to promise to love this house as much as I've loved it for the past 11 years.
I can't imagine that's possible, but it would be nice.


  1. Oh - this post is so full of what it is to be without someone. How they come to inhabit a space, the sounds, the paint, the way the crack in the door can only be explained by this memory that rises up to claim it.

    It must be very painful to be leaving this home. The one you shared with your husband. I don't know what that is like. I am still in the home we shared. I will probably not leave it. I am making some changes. That will transition it. That is hard to give away something we chose together. I don't know how I will feel when it is all gone. This room I am renovating. I am a bit afraid of that. Sometimes I think I can hear my husband say "don't be silly. It is just a sofa" and at other times I worry he would say "the sofa? What is wrong with the sofa?". But what I know for sure is that I have to be the one to make the decision. A sofa is not a house. . . I imagine that is a lot harder.

    Your brave to take these steps, Cassie.

  2. It was heartache when I sold our home after my wife died. But you are right, every single door knob, drawer handle, window frame.... it all had a memory.

    I chose to sell the house. I moved everything out of it and had a "Home Stager" bring in furniture and items to "stage" the home. With the strange furnishings, it helped me see that it wasn't my home anymore, and it made it much easier for me to sign the papers for another owner to make the house their home.

    I support and encourage whatever decision you make on your house. I know many young widows/widowers who have stayed put in their homes also.

  3. My house is a real issue for me too. We lived there together for 31 years and raised our boys there. So many memories, good and bad. We built the house and did the sod, planted the trees, did all the landscaping. I have transplanted flowers there from my childhood home that my Dad planted! All of my husband's stuff, except for his clothes, are still there. I need to go through everything before I sell, and I am doing it slowly, but it is a monumental physical and emotional task. It makes me cry to think about it. Guess I'm not ready to let go yet. Luckily, there is no rush. I know I'll get there in due time:). But this house represents more than bricks and lumber; it represents my whole adult life--my growth as a woman and my roles as a wife, mother, worker, friend, and the struggles and successes in all those roles. It all happened during the years that we lived there as a family. Now that family is gone and I live alone. My husband died. My boys are independent and have their own places. I now have a lot of understanding for older people who need to leave their long term homes for various reasons. It is darn hard! I'm a survivor and I know I'll do what I need to in time, but just realizing that it's a difficult path that we must journey to get there. Wishing you the best on your journey!

  4. Yes. I get it too. (We all do.)
    I too live in a house that's too large and not suitable for a single woman, (although our son has just moved back for a month between apartments).
    So many memories and so much stuff to purge! (That's my goal this spring and summer.)
    But some of the memories are sad - from the last 6 months of his life. Yesterday I was standing on a step-ladder to remove ornaments from the top of the Christmas tree. It was my 2nd Christmas without Dave. It just struck me (again) how much things can change in so little time. A tear spilled down my cheek and I moved on to the next ornament.
    There are memories of our past in every single room. I've recently realized that I haven't been thinking about them as much, and for the most part I actually feel better. I don't know if there's a correlation but I think dwelling in the memories just pulls me down. I won't forget them, but I don't have to live there.
    I'm also very happy that I didn't move out immediately. I think that would have left me full of regret. But after a year and a half, I'm getting closer to being OK with moving.

  5. Anon 1 -
    I definitely don't feel ready all of the time. I take a tiny step forward and then backtrack to safety. It's going to be wrenching to leave this place and I'm guessing if I weren't in the middle of nowhere and if I had kids here, I would stay here much longer, if not forever. It was the house I'd always planned to stay in until I was too old to climb the stairs. Just typing that makes me lose it entirely. I miss my life with him so much.

  6. Thank you for sharing! Such a beautiful and funny post filled with love. It came at a good time too as I am struggling with a huge decision to sell my house. My husband grew up in this house, and after he died, I felt obligated to keep the family home. I totally gutted it in 2010 (5 months out too-don't recommend that) and remodeled it to make it my own, and keep the memories of my husband in it as well and what he wanted for us while he was alive. But now that he is gone, I always refer what was our home to be "my house" or "THE house" as it was his family home. I have never called it my home. I recently found a neighborhood I love and want to move there and create a HOME for myself and my son, rather than a house filled with shadows and what could have been. I want another couple or family to move into this house and make it a home as I cannot without my husband.

  7. I am so sorry for you Cassie. I can empathize with you. It will not be an easy decision.

    I'm in the same boat, too big of a house, out in the country on 10 acres, I love the solitude and space, but then again, I am beginning to feel too isolated, especially on winter days. I/we have always lived in rather isolated places, I'd rather look out and see the critters, too, rather than a neighbor. I keep reminding myself that it is just a house, the memories will still be with me, no matter where I live. And on some days, I don't want the memories to keep popping up in my face. It just is another reminder that he isn't here, and there will be no more memories made with him.

    My search for a new location is only on the web right now, I cannot muster the strength to actually walk inside or drive by another house/condo/whatever. Baby steps indeed. Take your time with this decision, it's almost 2 years for me, and as time goes on I feel I am be better off mentally to make the correct decision. Not any easier, but time puts things in perspective a bit better. I miss my life with him, too. I've been derailed, and still haven't found the tracks.

  8. Cassie ( I am anon 1 aka The Amazon +smile+

    i hope that you didn't think i was implying it is easy what you are doing. I am sure many times a day it is overwhelming but I think . . . if we stop in those moments and just feel the rightness of things - if you feel that, then you have to go with that. It is so hard to have every decision come into question. I find that now my husband is gone. I am now and have always been a very independent woman and our decision making when Jim was here was always a mutual back and forth. I miss that other voice. Not because I need him to tell me what to do - because I liked having the challenge to my decisions and I liked knowing the decisions I made were grounded. Now, I have to learn to trust my solo voice. That is what you are doing - that is what is brave about your decision. It doesn't mean it is not difficult.
    I understand, I really do - that "life before". My husband and I met and eloped when I was so young. I have never lived alone. Ever.
    This is the first time. My husband is gone, my children are grown. I am only 53. I imagined we would live out our lives until we were old. I know you are much younger but trust me when I say 53 does not feel old at all! I can't believe I am actually here. So - I can only guess what it feels like to be a young widow.
    There is so much of life still waiting for you. I really believe that. You will carry all of the memories of your husband with you. Right now they feel heavy . . . someday they will become so light - they will be the wings you fly with. I believe that.
    Take care

  9. Thank you Cassie for a heartfelt post! I, too, have a house that is too big for one person. It is a lot to take care of inside and out. Yet, I've begun to purge, throw away, give away, etc. Some days the thought of moving is welcomed as a relief. Other days the pain is so great that I have to push it out of my mind. So for now, I will methodically and patiently prepare for a move down the road, just not sure when.

    As others have mentioned, "baby steps" for sure. God bless you and thank you!

  10. Thanks for your post. I too am in a home way too big for just one person. I know one of these days I need to and will scale down, but I'm not there yet. I am taking many baby steps but moving is not one of them yet. I do think of it, but I still find my home to be my safe haven, it brings me comfort and peace. When I'm having a rough (grief) day, it's home where I want to go and can't wait to get there. I feel my home is full of love & happy memories and I can't think of starting new ones in a new home without my husband by my side and and living alone in my place, not "our" place anymore.

  11. Thank you for such a wonderful post. I am also struggling with the same decision to move from the home we shared together and where we raised our children. I love the memories.... I can still see him standing in the doorway looking at me with those loving eyes. My friends and family want me to move into a smaller, safer place, further away from the inner city. It was our dream to move and we were looking at homes. Now I can't even sell my home for what I owe because of the market crash but I am checking out all the options. To be honest, I don't know what is harder - all the loving memories here or making the decision to move. I do know that making any decision is difficult. I'm scared to leave and I'm scared to stay but I'm not getting any younger and at 56 I need to think about retirement. It's only been two years since he's been gone but it is getting easier "one day at a time and one step at a time".

  12. Thank you Cassie for your wonderful and heartfelt post. I am going on to be a widow four years now and it is still hard. I am now just thinking about selling this big house I am in as my daughter will be in college in Sept. Sometimes I love the memories and sometimes they seem to drag me down. One day at a time right?

  13. Michele - one MINUTE at a time!
    We'll get there. And we won't be alone, that's for sure.

  14. Cassie, I understand your feelings, but for me the house brings me comfort being in a place that I have been loved.

  15. These decisions are hideously hard for every one of us. I actually made the decision to leave our home in May of last year and I moved into "town". I thought it was going to be a very difficult transition was. I will tell you though that since then I have found it to be for the best. I brought my memories with me but the house I'm in is now "mine" at last. I also got rid of most of our furniture and started fresh. Just needed to make things mine as "ours" will never be again. It is hard, hard and even more hard to go through all these changes.

    Cassie, I loved reading about your memories - we had quite a few of those of our own and as I cleaned the house out I would sometimes become overwhelmed remembering them. I laughed and I cried and I remembered. Then I said goodbye and quietly closed the door for the last time by myself. That was the way it needed to be for me. I'm sure you will figure out what will work for you.

    By the way...I love not being in the "boonies" anymore. The neighborhood I found is just lovely with amazing neighbors and a peaceful lake in the backyard. It is totally and completely different from where I was and that's what I needed as I embark on this new life.

  16. Lyn, it's so reassuring to hear you say that you are happy with your decision to move. I know it's my choice and only I'll know when it's right for me, but it gives me hope when I hear that it's worked for others. So far, I really haven't heard a lot of people regretting their move on the whole. No one's said it was easy, but no one's said they wish they hadn't done it.

  17. “It's a house of peace and quiet and love and always should be.” – That was a beautiful statement. I’m sure that the future owners of your house will fill the place with love, joy, and laughter knowing that you and your family did the same when you lived in it. I hope they take care of this house and make meaningful memories like what you and family did!