when sadness is a gift


This morning in an office nearby, a pile of legal documents will be signed and ownership of my grandparent’s house will transfer to someone else. Someone I don’t know. Someone that doesn’t know all the stories held within those four faded walls. Someone that sees it as a house, but doesn’t yet know it to be a home. Someone that doesn’t know my grandparents.

The pain of saying goodbye to my grandparent’s home only reflects the depth of the love felt there and the significance of the memories made.

If I could walk the new owners through the house, I would point out every detail. I wouldn’t show them around so they could fix it; I’d tell them the stories of the house.

We’d walk to the front porch first. There is the spot Grandpa always sat and the mailbox where he hung is fly swatter. On the other side of the door was the glider. It got repainted every decade or so because the paint would start fading and rub off on all our clothes. Grandma sat on the glider a lot. I’d tell the new owner that the neighbors are friendly and have grown accustomed to Grandpa on the porch. He handed out tomatoes and gardening advice to any and all. He knew his neighbors by name. They should try to do the same, it’s a good neighborhood with a lot of history.

I’d point out how when you walk in the house Grandpa kept a sprinkler by the door. It is one Grandma wanted for us kids to enjoy. I’d tell them how my sister and I played in the summer under water flying through the sky and how my kids got to do the same. Then, I would point out the step going into the living room. We’ve all tripped over that a dozen times. Be careful.

We’d venture into the living room and I’d direct them to where Grandpa always sat and describe how Grandma kept a terrarium on the table long before terrarium’s were a trend. She kept a doily there too…and a can of nuts. Usually Honey Roasted Peanuts because those are my oldest son’s favorite. Behind the table was the couch. It is where I laid watching Sesame Street when my parent’s went on an anniversary trip to Hawaii and my sister was in Texas with my other grandparents. It is where Grandma first held my three sons. She never had the chance to hold my daughters. Then I’d probably have to pause for a moment because I miss her so much and goodness she would have loved my girls.

I’d gather myself and then walk to the other side of the room, where the slot machine seemed to cause the floor to sink. My babies could put nickels in that machine before they could walk. We’d move into the dining room – the one we gathered in every Thanksgiving. I’d laugh thinking about how Grandpa would ask me to “toss” him a roll, knowing I would always take it as in invitation to throw food. Then I would remember the candy bowl that always graced the middle of the table and how we never left without candy in our pockets. I’d smile thinking how most of the candy was suckers he somehow sweet talked or managed to fill his pockets with each time he visited the bank.

Walking into the kitchen, the new owner would be sure to notice the outline of a picture frame that had been removed from the wall. It was a family photo that hung in that same spot for over thirty years. I wore a blue dress in the photo.

The kitchen was the center of the home. Saturday night dinners for as long as I can remember. Grandma would often let a cuss word slip out when my dad and uncle played pranks on her. As kids, we’d giggle when we heard and then she’d wave her finger at us. Fried ocra. Homemade blackberry cobbler. Cracking pecans. Crossword puzzles. Domino games. Then I would notice the new owners probably weren’t as interested in all those details. I’d linger in that room – it is the room I will miss the most. We’d wind through the other rooms – the bed I slept in when I spent the night. The buffet that had all my teeth in it because Grandma’s tooth fairy paid more than the one at my house and it turned out the tooth fairy saved all my teeth in Grandma’s buffet.

The new owners would probably start wanting to wander and explore on their own. I would go sit on the back porch. I’d remember the massive garden I played in as a child with my sister. Water fights, games of tag and swinging from the clothesline. My kids played the same games in the same yard, with my grandparents watching from the porch. Grandpa asked me to bring my camera over every spring to document his tomatoes. He was so proud of them, and rightly so. Goodness, I will miss that yard.

The new owners will never know the stories those walls could tell. They’ll never understand the depth of the love that home held. They will create their own new memories. Their own new stories. Their own new home.

Yesterday marked one year since we lost my grandpa. Last night we gathered for one final meal together…just like we always did on Saturday nights. This time it was Thursday. This Saturday the keys to the front door will be in someone else’s hands. We may not hold the keys any longer, but we’ll always hold the memories.

10.14house-0110.14house-0310.14house-0510.14house-0610.14house-08As much as it hurts to say goodbye to a home that holds so much of me, I can’t help but think what a gift this pain is. It could be easy to say goodbye. It could be no big deal because the home was just another house. But it wasn’t. The depth of sadness I feel reflects the heights of joy and love I felt, for that I am so grateful.

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