Homesick

I am homesick. Acutely homesick for a place that disappeared this September. My mother died July 23rd for a time my sister, C, and I still managed to get to her house weekly. We’d check on the mail, the garbage, each other. After two months of those trips we both needed a break.

We skipped a week — a respite from the sadness of missing Mom in an environment which reminded me so strongly of her cancer and not her life. When we went back the following week something had changed. Suddenly the brightly colored wreath was out of season, the cleaning we’d done for any visiting mourners had become undone, a forgotten floral arrangement had molded.

An energy had inexplicably shifted. This was no longer a Home. It had transformed into a shell; a familiar husk that held 32 years of object memories ceased being a Home. No daily exercise of living.
It was
Stale.
Still.
The house was simply
Lifeless.
 
I’m homesick for the smell of dryer sheets, the sound of the hot water tank kicking on, the nearly inaudible fizzle of a muted TV in an adjacent room. I miss the feeling of other beings moving through a shared space. I miss the feeling of avoiding those beings in a resentful huff. I miss the jingle of Charely’s collar as she roamed about checking on Dad then Mom.

collage by Kiddo

collage by Kiddo

Most recently I have missed returning to the place where I have few adult responsibilities. I miss sitting on the carpeted floor near the coffee table and putting down the heaviness I had been carrying: stress of career, apartment hunts and rent increases, the crush of people on the subway, deadlines and hundreds of emails. I miss the luxury of a break and the privilege of feeling completely secure. Do some dishes, take out the trash, make a salad…those might be the biggest requests for a few days over Christmas. Oh god how I miss it.

I miss the frustration of the people living in this home. The circular stories, the signular cramped bathroom, the stiff sleep I'd get crunched up on an over-stuffed chair for a lack of bedrooms. Family. I miss my family. It is a homesickness that I know is incurable.

As C and I arduously go through our family’s things I feel less and less comforted by the space. On the rare occasions I’ve stayed overnight I experience a distracted mind and out of body alien sadness — unable to connect to specific aspects of Mom and Dad. Memories feel out of reach and only the vague unwelcome energy of the house rattles inside me. I miss home, because I miss my parents.
 
That sensation of sadness is a comfort. I took shelter in it occasionally to protect myself from The Holidays. As Dad’s birthday creeps up, as my own birthday follows. If you’ve lost someone to an illness or to a breakup, you know that warm blanket that grief can sometimes offer.

Kathleen Cunningham