The past few weeks since dad died have been the days I’ve been most dreading for quite a while (starting in earnest last summer when he was too tired to go on a private yacht for a week. He claimed seasickness- that didn’t fly as he’d been in the navy and had a sailboat with two other couples. Then it was too much fatigue- which was a huge change; this guy ran around ALL the time. He was changing, and his mortality slapped me upside the head. With both parents gone, I feel like I’m about 12 years old some days (and younger on other days, for bits of time) when nothing seems like it’s going to be OK, even though I know eventually the pain dulls, and the memories of good times will again get brighter. Right now, it’s just a rat maze going through the paperwork things, keeping up with two ‘abodes’, and working to get the decisions made for what I want changed in the house without removing either of my folks from it. I miss my daddy… haven’t called him that since about first grade. Tonight I asked my uncle Russ if here was still a pair of shoes (or something ) that I could put with mom’s on a Welcome Mat inside the door. I’ve got a pair of mom’s (with San Diego animal park shoelaces) that will work well- and Russ has a pair at the house in mind for dad’s. <3
My dad designed that house with his cousin (who is an amazing architect), and put a lot of time into it. I want to keep those special touches that remind me of him. There are bricks from the streets of Chicago from the time of the Great Fire that make up the living room fireplace – 14 feet tall on one half of the ‘Great Room’ (remember Mrs. O’Leary’s agitated cow?), a custom stained glass window in the gable of the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen, and an acre in the back of the house, with partially wild grass and trees- very private, and beautiful during seasonal changes- snow is gorgeous back there. There are a lot of birds, squirrels, sometimes deer, wild turkeys, and other critters, which I love.
It was all put together by a family friend who is a great contractor (still in business), which has been HUGE in helping me get through the various updates I want to get done- the guy who built it has been out measuring, and his son and project manager have been walking me through all of it; they’ve been wonderful. What they don’t do, they know someone who does that works with them often. The carpet is the original stuff from 1976. It’s gotta go- it’s got green tints where there were no drapes (on purpose). Window treatments must be changed- the drapes are ‘nice’, and in good condition, but not my thing- I MUST have something that directs light away from me because of the dysautonomia and temperature regulation in my body. The windows face east-west on either side of the house, so sauna material if I’m not careful. The bathroom wallpaper is “disco era”, with foil. It’s in outstanding condition, so for now, it stays. I can live with that.
Dad and I had talked about things I liked and others I’d probably change long before he died. His taste was “House Beautiful” (with antiques and high end collectibles- that are now at an auction house)… I’m more “House Standing”, with comfortable furniture and a casual vibe that I hope is inviting, as well as a place I’ll stay in as long as I’m still breathing air. There were a couple of things that I hadn’t anticipated (isn’t that how it always goes?) that ate about a third of my original ‘goal’ budget… but I want to get it all done right, so it seemed like a no-brainer. I found an alternate for a pantry that will work well, and saved me a few thousand bucks.
After getting a check from the first auction of dad’s belongings that I didn’t keep, I set off to a local mom and pop furniture store that has been in town for a LONG time. They’re having their grand opening of a store closer to me, which I hadn’t realized was still going on, so that was a nice surprise to know I’d get %20 off (roughly). I’d set out for 2 green recliners (only) that felt like sitting in a cloud, but had to swivel to either talk with guests or watch show falling/thunderstorms from the windows in the living room. If I can get the gas fireplace going, that’s another form of live entertainment. Anyway, the chairs will be made to my preferences. I hadn’t expected to be able to get a couch in a custom fabric for what I could afford, a beautiful Amish (simple design, well made) BED- the whole thing, headboard, frame, and foot board, and a great buffet – all in my taste. Very simple designs, sturdy, and fit into a contemporary house in the main part, with the Amish bed working with my quilt and a bit more retro/mild country vibe in there. The kitchen will be a bit of an eclectic bouquet- but still keep the colors dad worked so hard to pick out for the counter overlay and bigger items. There are a few cosmetic cabinet things that I need to get done – but all in due time.
This might not sound like an earth shattering event to a lot of people, but it’s the first time I’ve been able to pick out everything I like ! I’m not refurnishing the whole place- I still have some nice pieces here, as well as some things I’m keeping at the house that dad had. When dad found out that the reason I didn’t have much furniture in Texas (and nothing new) because of financial constraints, he sent me money if I’d find a second hand item in good condition. He did buy me a new dinette set (was eating at a card table for over 20 years), as well as a group of end tables and coffee table, and a 32 inch TV when my 13 inch set that I got in late high school had lost so much horizontal hold that I got audio and about an inch of the “picture”, but it had lasted for about 20 years ! . The ‘new’ TV even made it back to my hometown when I moved 1250 miles back to help take care of my mom (she died in 2003, which was unexpected), and was then graduated to the flat screen. Now, I have at least 4 other TVs (dad had one in his bedroom, my old bedroom (his self-proclaimed den), living room, and kitchen… I forget if one was in the downstairs living area or not- it’s designed for visitors for the most part).
The dining room table was made for the house, and is a big, solid piece of table, covered in formica- doesn’t sound that exciting, but in the “Great Room”, it works very well. Chairs from an old opera house from somewhere around here surround it. Those stay. :) Living in apartments for 30 years has been great in a lot of ways; I’ve moved a lot, maintenance was a phone call or e-mail away, etc. But white walls (I will have those at the house mostly, except for the wood paneling walls that are painted a shade of almond, and the disco wallpaper, which is fine- outstanding installation), the less expensive carpet in apartments, dinky refrigerators, some seriously funky linoleum over the years, and NO ‘right’ to do my own thing has been annoying. Then there are the views. One takes what one wants if the price, neighborhood, and location work. For the last 13 years, I’ve had a nice apartment, but my view is of a parking lot and a tree. My second apartment in Austin,TX overlooked a relic car part lot… never saw so many Corsairs in various stages of decomposition. I do have nice neighbors here at the apartment now- and I will miss them. I spent time growing up at the “new” neighborhood, but don’t recognize the vast majority of the folks there.
It is fun to pick out new things, but it’s also really important to me to keep my parents’ presence in that house. They are what made it a home. The scuff marks at the top of the stairs from dad’s shoes will stay. Mom’s wheelchair marks on the bedroom door will also be untouched. There are some things that nobody but me will appreciate, and that’s fine. Dad left me a wonderful home and “yard” (more than an acre, WITH his lawn guy staying on for the weekly trims). It gets harder to know he won’t be coming back.. it’s only been a month and a half since he died (time gets so warped). I was pretty sick with bronchitis for a couple of weeks after going gangbusters with “getting it done” (I’d ‘house sat’ for dad whenever he was out of town, so knew what as in the house, and what I didn’t want to keep). I’ve slowed down a bit, but still moving forward.
But I really miss him. Fifty-two years, I was blessed enough to call that man my dad.❤