“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head… That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” – American Writer Tad Williams
The house creaked and shuttered and sighed. It was hard to let go, but it was time. Ninety years was not so old for a house. There were many houses that had been around longer. But 90 years was old for a man, and this man needed to move on.
The old house stood where there once was a farm. The man’s father had gathered rocks from the farm to build the foundation. Wood for the frame had been taken from nearby trees. The father had raised his family here and when he died, the son stayed and made it his home. A city had grown up around the house. The farmland gave way to houses, lot by lot, until all that was left was small yards and little flower beds. Where once children played in fields, now they played in the streets, moving to the side when cars came by.
Neighbors came and went. Each house on this little side street held its own character, its own family, its own history. One house had a fire. Another had taken on water a time or two. They had all done what they could to protect their families.
The man was old now. The house tried to straighten itself up as best it could, but the front stairs had sunk a bit and were pitched wrong. The snow did not melt off them like they should. The railings were a bit loose and try as the house might, it worried that it could not keep the man safe.
The house complained as little as it had to. More than once, the house wished when it was time it could pull off its own siding, form itself into a box and be buried with the man, staying near him and protecting him forever.
But that was not to happen. Its job was not done. A young couple had come to look at the house. The delight and energy of this couple would certainly be hard to get used to, but it would have to try.
The old man walked around the house saying goodbye. He apologized, telling it how he would be going to live in a building better suited to older people. He thanked the house for the years of shelter, the years of peace. He talked about an elevator and being with other people like him. He told the house he would miss the layout, the wallpaper, and its smell.
If it could have talked, that house would have told the man that the embrace of home would travel with him. At first, it may seem unfamiliar, but with time, the new walls would feel warm and snug. His memories would settle like dust on the windowsills. The house would have reassured the man that moving on was not an insult. It was the period at the end of a long and beautiful sentence that the house would forever carry in its bones. Over time, each family left a sentence until the house had glorious stories piled up to the rafters. The house was happy for the man’s sentence and embraced the man with one final shudder as the man turned the key in the lock and walked away.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or [email protected] and www.colonyretirementhomes.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com