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Home: a place with more than just furniture

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Twenty months ago, we lost my grandmother.

She fell asleep in her chair next to my grandfather and never woke up again. A quiet end for a rambunctious Greek woman who taught me how to cut cheques at the tender age of 6 or 7.

My grandfather, after months of procrastination and tears, made the tough decision to sell the house he built 45 years ago in an effort to downsize to a low maintenance apartment. A new beginning at the tail end.

If you can imagine the amount of stuff accumulated in 45 years, think again and double it. Five skips, a dozen weekends, 14 bags to Vinnies and a few 70’s fashion shows later, the house was empty.

My grandfather, all 5’3 of him, exhausted and overwhelmed on his couch in his empty living room. Once decorated with little trinkets, soccer club awards and family photos, now contained shadows on the carpet of where life used to be.

But I never once thought this house would ever be empty of everything. Within these wallpaper clad walls are the lasting sounds of raising kids, of dinner being made, of robust conversations over cups of percolated coffee. There’s a squeaky floorboard and if you hit it just right, it’s my grandmother coming down the hallway again.

Cleaning out this house has taught me that nothing is ever really lost and no one is ever really gone. They exist in squeaky floorboards, in chips to the bedroom dresser, in secret stashes of coins you find years later that you handle with a sense of reverence knowing the person who last handled them are lost to the ether.

I’ve always tried to reassure him of how exciting this move would be and how wonderful it will be to be a bit closer to his grandchildren, simply because if I gave in to the emotional weight of watching this tiny Italian man leave his home for the last time, I’d burst like a dam and never stop.

Home. It bounces off the walls of my mind, lingering for a moment. He has left home twice now; once in 1960 on a ship headed for Australia and now in 2018 from Higgins to Bruce.

This isn’t an original story either. People with elderly parents and grandparents will go through the emotionally taxing exercise of deciding what stays and what goes, often only moving a few suburbs over for one reason or another. Spare a thought for your old people, home is where they’ve rested their head for decades and where they’ve grown as people but moving out isn’t the end. New homes will be made and box forts created out of the removal boxes we packed his life into.

His new little apartment will be home when we’re over there for a barbeque, kids splashing in the pool, and the wounds of leaving Starke Street won’t be so bad.

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