Something about houses attracts me. I notice Tudors with their brick facings, happy bungalows – especially the ones with porch swings – cottages framed by specialty gardens.
And I am writing my memoir focused around the theme of various houses in which I have lived. Maybe I should have become a realtor.
The house Mom bought, then had to leave behind, is a typical Oklahoma ranch style. When dementia first began to squeeze its nasty tentacles around Dad, Mom felt as if she needed to get Dad off the farm and into the safety of town. Neither of them could fully operate the farm anymore and when dementia stole Dad’s vocation from him, Mom made the final decision.
They settled into the brick ranch and lived there as Mom nursed him and my sister Kris helped her for 10 shadowy years. Then on a gentle spring day in May, the angel of death took Dad away.
Mom stayed, unwilling to move anywhere else. In fact, she announced one day, “My next move will be to the cemetery.”
Ah – if only it had been that simple.
The ranch home evolved into a pain-enshrouded house as my sister’s beloved cat, Champ, sickened and Kris had to put him down. What an oxymoron of love and pain when we have to call the vet and schedule a death – yet in the doing of it – we exhibit the release of love for our furry babes.
The ranch then became the forecaster of Mom’s next move as she began forgetting the location of pots and pans, the important bills she threw away, the pills she counted numerous times before swallowing.
It was in the ranch house where Mom passed out, her brave heart needing the extra pulsing of a pacemaker, her head bleeding from where she banged it when she fell.
When she had to leave – a series of ambulance rides transported her from the hospital to the nursing home rehab and later to her studio apartment in assisted living.
Meanwhile, the house of sickness waiting remained. Mom never had a chance to tell it good-bye.
The yard is its best feature, a surrounding halo of plantings – zinnias, pansies and the four o’clocks that actually open at four o’clock each day.
I like the house, usually finding a slice of serenity inside when I visit family. Although it is a bit weird to sleep in the bed in which I was conceived, I gaze at pictures on the walls and remember when we gave them to Mom and Dad. I hang my clothes in the closet and touch hangers that hold Mom’s winter coat, a suit she no longer wears, a knit shirt with embroidered daisies – some of the threads barely hanging on to their frayed outlines.
Mom’s brush and comb still wait for her on the dresser, flanked by doilies her mother crocheted, their white loops now fading into the yellows of the past. Mom’s massive mahogany furniture which none of us will want – a sturdy pronunciation of her style.
But Mom never seems to miss the ranch house. She only remembers the farm as her home where she raised three children, cooked harvest meals and hung clothes to flap on the line like fabric silhouettes of each family member.
This place – this emotional shelter, safe within its strength yet even now scented with illness and Mom’s shadowed existence foreboding.
My sister is now the keeper of the ranch house. It serves its purpose of shelter for her, of last memories where our parents aged out in its rooms. Yet it also continues to play out its description as the house of sickness waiting.
Kris struggles with arthritic pain and several types of joint diseases which emit a pain I cannot imagine. She limps through the house, taking care of her cats and the neighbor’s pets, then ambles outside to feed the birds and pull weeds from the gardens her green thumb has created.
The flag she painted on barn tin bears the symbol and colors of the University of Oklahoma. Inside the house, the walls record screams of pleasure whenever the Sooners do their thing and score multiple touchdowns per game.
The personality of this house follows me whenever I drive away. I am left with a sense of gratitude that my sister is safe within its walls – at least for now – until as she says, “The body gives out.”
Then we will know that somehow – in that house – our family made an imprint on the earth.
Houses become the measurements of years as each place serves a purpose. And within each place, we wait for that final call home that contains no walls, needs no paint and provides the freedom where our spirits roam.
©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh