When you can’t go home again

My mother is planning to sell her house. It is the right decision: she is newly widowed; the house is much too big for her and too hard to maintain; the property is rural and isolated and requires too much work; she is a long drive away from her siblings, children, and grandchildren; and she does not have a strong support network of friends in the area where she currently lives.

It is a big house that got away from my mother and stepfather over the last few years as he became increasingly unwell. It is in an economically depressed area. Up until a couple of weeks ago, when I’ve thought about the reality of Mum selling the house, my thought process has largely revolved around the fear that my mother will want to sell the house and not be able to, or that she will sell it for such a pittance that she will not be able to move closer to me and my sisters, even if we help financially.

I’ve been afraid that the house will be an albatross, a millstone wrapped around my mother’s neck, dragging her down and chaining her to the past when she is willing to move forward and explore a new future.

When I saw my mother last week, she commented that the real estate agents who have been in to see the house have called it a “breath of fresh air”. There are, apparently, not many houses of its size on the market, and there are buyers who want a larger house.

They don’t think it will be hard to sell.

Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but in that moment, when the sale of the house became a real possibility, the door that I have been keeping resolutely shut cracked open and the emotions that I have been holding at bay flooded in.

Because it’s not just a house, of course.

It’s our childhood home.

It’s the place my city-born son loves to visit most of all.

It’s where I can see all the stars.

Selling the house is absolutely, without a doubt, the right decision. And yet, last week, when I was sitting in the bedroom that used to be mine, looking out the window at the snow and the trees and the landscape that my body recognizes as “home”, it seemed impossible to comprehend that it might be one of the last times I was there, that at some point very soon visiting my mother will not mean returning to the place where I grew up.

It’s another loss.

How do I make the space to grieve it?

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4 Comments

Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

4 responses to “When you can’t go home again

  1. Oh that’s so hard, even though your kind is telling you it’s the right thing. I think you just give yourself permission to grieve it! Maybe one last sleepover?

  2. Mel

    First and foremost, sending a hug. All change is hard, and this change after everything that has happened is such a small thing and big thing at the same time.

    Next, what I did when my parents sold my childhood home, is walk through the house very slowly with the iPhone. I didn’t just peek in every room. I spent a good amount of time in every room, very slowly recording every inch of the space. Viewing the room from multiple angles. I went outside and filmed the outside of the house. The whole thing is probably 15 minutes long. Josh set the whole thing to music and sent it out to everyone in the family. I’m the only one who still carries it on my phone, and I still watch it from time to time. But I love having it. The kids still remember the house right now but I know their memories will fade over time. I may not be able to go back inside, the new owners may have redecorated, but I can still see what it looked like when it was ours.

  3. Turia

    This is a great idea, Mel, and definitely one I will do. A friend of mine did the exactly the same thing with her childhood house too!

  4. I didn’t have video on my camera when we were cleaning out my grandparents’ old house, but I did take some photos. I wish I had taken more. My parents have talked, on & off, about selling their current house & downsizing — too many stairs & too much yard to keep up. It’s not the house or even the town where I grew up, but they’ve lived there for more than 30 years now (& I still have a ton of my “stuff” there). It will be hard to say goodbye when the time comes.

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