Some people have a sensitivity to houses. A predisposition to appreciate, respect and mourn them, too.
My family, for reasons too complicated and confusing to explain, is selling my grandfather's house in Connecticut. He and my grandmother bought it in the seventies, a 1747 saw mill that was in desperate need of someone to love it. They converted it into a home together, a true feat of inspiration and ingenuity. They both loved and lived and died there. It was, simply put, a full house.
Late last month, my mom, sister and I spent the weekend gathering things and saying goodbye. The dining table held a feast of Chinese food (like so many before) and we sipped hot and sour soup from mugs because the house had no bowls left. Fortunes were told and immediately forgotten.
When my grandfather was alive, my mom would wake up early and make omelets on a cast iron skillet. Green peppers, mushrooms, onions, whatever suspect block of cheese my grandfather had in the fridge. They'd always set a plate for my grandmother at the table, even though she died 15 years before. Things like that, they stay.
When my grandfather would greet you at the door, he'd offer the same drinks. Heineken, V-8, seltzer and ginger ale. On repeat. For 20 years. I've charted my life stages though my drink choices. A fire would be going in the small fireplace (it was a double-sided charmer, placed right at the entry). He'd order a greek pizza and that was that.
We rifled around old photos in the morning with our coffees and I had the distinct feeling that with the sale of the house, I was losing people I never had. And losing again people I had already lost. (This was the hardest part.)
When the time came, it rained. We loaded up my aunt's truck, hillbilly style, with the most meaningful and special things to drive back down to my place in the city. I put a little cup of bleeding hearts and forget-me-nots on the dash and drove away.
When the house's final remnants were sold, yard sale style, I was 2000 miles away in Portland. I cried that morning, and loudly. Now I feel a bit more at peace, the new owner will take possession this week and I hear she loves the place. A good thing too, it deserves to be loved.