I haven’t really said much about the emotional impact of emptying out my mom’s house. It is probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I thought cleaning out my mother in law’s apartment was hard, but this makes that seem like a game of hopscotch.
So many emotions at play – the feeling of not being good enough for her still. The feeling of never having been let into her life, really. The regrets – even though I swore I wouldn’t dwell on regrets. The what-might-haves, what-could-haves, the what-should-haves. And the memories. Everywhere I looked I saw memories. I wasn’t seeing things as they are, but as they were in my memory.
The day of hauling everything to the curb was hardest. It’s one thing to KNOW you’re going to actually throw out an entire lifetime’s accumulation of stuff, it’s something else entirely to actually DO it. I felt so guilty, like I was doing something hurtful. Part way through the afternoon I just left and went for a walk through the backyard. Everyone else was in the front, so it was quiet out there. I walked slowly around the yard, making my way right up to the back. In my mind I saw the leaf forts, the skating rinks, the mudpies, the sprinkler attached to the clothesline in the summer. I saw the cats, the arbour, the old stone BBQ, the birdfeeders, the old compost heap. I saw Dad’s tomato plants, Mom’s flowers, the poplar tree as a sapling. I remembered the peach tree, the pathetic little apple tree, the ferns, the tulips, the weird variegated green plants Mom grew. I remembered Nana and Mom wandering round the yard talking about the various plants. I remembered taking my Barbies camping in the backyard. I remembered the lilacs.
It’s all gone now, existing only in my memories. And soon, most likely, the house will be gone too, sold to a builder who will tear it down and put a duplex in its place. I paused by the oak tree that never seemed to have acorns, to say good bye to Boots, the cat I had buried beneath its branches. And to say goodbye to the other cats I knew Dad had buried somewhere out there. I walked across what used to be the vegetable garden, remembering how Dad used to plant tomatoes every year. None of the other vegetables ever amounted to much – too shady and poor soil, my parents said.
I leaned against the poplar tree, no longer a sapling, but a full grown tree, towering over the yard, and I let the tears fall. I stood there and cried for a while, until I didn’t need to any more, and then I just stood and let the peace of the yard work into me. For it was a place of happy memories, childhood memories, before the stresses and responsibilities of adult life took over. It was a place where a little girl, secure in the love of her parents, so she thought, played and grew and learned happily. And some of that soaked back into me as I stood there, and gave me the strength to go back and continue carrying out the remnants of my mother’s life.