Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Goodbye Home

We pulled up at the title company to close on my mother's home. In the vehicle parked next to us were the neighbors along with their parents who were buying the home. It was a moment which held a mixture of feelings. I was about to let go of my childhood home and with that a tie to my past and yet there was also relief to let go of our responsibility for this emotion-laden property. Sadness, relief and also happiness. It felt right to be selling the home in this way.

The last time I had seen the neighbors was when my sister and I stopped by the house after my mother's death. The neighbor had seen her leave her home for the last time in an ambulance. She told me that my mother didn't look like she wanted to go. Was she afraid she'd never come back even then? Later, when she was doing rehab for a stroke, my mother told me that she didn't think she was going to get out of there, a prescient observation I wasn't then ready to acknowledge. Now we told them of her death and they gathered round us offering exclamations of distress at this news, murmuring words of comfort over the woman they called Lola Rose*.

We began to tackle the home, emptying it of a lifetime of belongings. My sister made many trips, the only one of my siblings still in Illinois. On one of those trips she chatted once again with the neighbors and learned of their interest in the home. The neighbors are Filipino, the parents fairly new immigrants. Family is important in their culture and parents often live with children.  It was clear from their response to my mother that elders were respected and valued. My sister and I agreed that we wanted to make this happen, but would need to step up if we were to do that.

Now we were at the final stage. The neighbor with whom I communicated told me her parents were so excited they couldn't sleep. Neither could I. It is those transition points that are difficult, even good transitions, fraught with the awareness of change as we cross a boundary.  My house, not my house. 

We sat across from them at the table as we signed document after document. I congratulated them on their new home when we finished. Their happiness was palpable. "Thank you for trusting us,"the mother said. "We will take good care of the house".

"This is right," I thought. The kind of right with the universe feeling I get when actions align with what is supposed to be. 

We met up once again at the DMV where I transferred the title of my mother's old car to them. They got new plates and then thoughtfully asked me if I wanted the old ones. Little did they know that those plates were significant. My father taught at a university and there he started the public radio and public television station. For years his plates read BU 4747 after both the university and the TV channel. "Yes," I replied and I told them the story of how he was in line for plates at the DMV  when he heard the sequence of numbers they were offering and traded places to get 4747.

We had gone to the house the evening before when we arrived in town, but this felt very different. It was no longer my home. I waited for them to open the door to their new home.  We walked downstairs to the garage.  The day before when I had come downstairs with my husband he suddenly said, "There's a critter."  It had stopped me cold as I thought in despair that we would have to hire a service to catch it before we could sell the home.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw it was a paper-mâché sculpture of a kangaroo,  no doubt one of my mother's creations from her teaching days hidden deep in darkness.

Now we went and stood outside the garage and waited while they took off the old plates and put on the new ones. A clear demarcation. Out with the old, in with the new.  I stood outside, not wanting to intrude on their space until they invited me to go back through the house on my way out.

"Goodbye basement" I said aloud to that space that once housed a cluttered tangle of bikes and work bench and garden tools.  "Good bye kitchen," I said as I looked at this familiar kitchen, home of countless birthday cakes, Thanksgivings and treasured chats with my mother. Goodbye house, goodbye tree. Goodbye, goodbye. Be well. Be happy.

*Lola means grandmother in Filipino

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