For the first time in over a year, I spent a full day in the home I grew up in. There have been multiple reasons for my absence. Changes in caregivers and in family situations. I’m trying to negotiate being an adult woman with a house of my own. A pandemic lurks, placing tentacles of fear and suckers of joy on the cracked cement steps.
As I stood at the front door this weekend, I realized my key no longer has a place to work. The lock had been replaced with an electronic key pad. I rang the bell, and the big dog began to bark. Upon answering the door, my mom repeated the numeric code I needed to get access. It’s not as if I was kept out intentionally. I thought I put the pattern in my phone. Apparently not.
We had spent thirty dollars to stand in a field under a blue sky made silver with smoke. Returning again to the community farm, we took scissors to stems and snipped bloom after bloom, placing our finds in a large, round bucket.
We had gathered armfuls of greens, daisies, dahlias, and delicate flowers to collect into vases and mason jars. We returned home to do our work, walking through the front room on worn wooden floors to approach the table that sustained me. While we shredded leaves and clustered our collections, my mom and I caught up on stalled-life and our slow summers.
It has been almost five years since I sat in the same place, in the tall oak chair frame my dad built in the garage, disassembling arrangements sent for his funeral. The scratchy chair pad nibbled the backs of my thighs saying, ‘I may be worn, but I’m still here, too.’
Some heart ache challenges simply must be tended to from the kitchen tables of our youth.
I’ve healed, wept, and morphed over the last few years. I suppose, if we’re paying attention, we all do. What I hadn’t realized before this weekend was, just as every day is given a new, so too is my grief.
Dad isn’t here for this moment. Or the one that just passed. Nor will he be here for the ones unfolding as this sentence continues. I didn’t realize I will continue to grieve in the unfolding future. The every day ache is not debilitating, but it demands attention. When grief gets neglected, my soul gets hard.
I moved from the kitchen table, to the arm chair in the study, and still our conversation continued.
As noon turned into early evening, I kept wishing Dad would walk through the garage door. Couldn’t he be home from work or an outing at the hardware store? Perhaps he would have brought us a treat.
The door never opened. Instead, I walked out through the front.
I brought the bouquets to my new home. As I placed one vase after the other in rooms where I sit these days, I wondered if flowers can be seen as friends. I’m working from home without companionship now, as my husband returned to a socially distanced office armed with hand-sanitizer and a closing glass door.
The flowers keep me company. I’ve surrounding myself with beauty and scent and bursts of color to bolster me while he’s away. The refrigerator hums and my fingers click on the keyboard. I play classical music to keep my anxiety at bay.
For Dad’s not here now, in the next moment, or at the end of this sentence. I’ve learned I get to miss Him still, as the adult I’m becoming in my own home. I draw up familiar lessons of comfort. Memories of past greetings from the wide-open garage door nibble into me like bites left from worn, knitted, chair cushions.
Now, instead, I wait for my husband to return from his office to walk in our blue front door and I miss Him. And that, is a beautiful thing.
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