The Ghosts in Dad’s House

I walk into the Tahoe house my Dad lived in for 26 years and the first thing I notice is how quiet it is.  A house that once held two lives is now home to none and it’s eerily quiet.  Mom passed away 14 years ago, but Dad stayed and had 12 more great years before he had to move into assisted living at the age of 82.  The house has been quiet for 18 months now and my job is to pack up the family valuables and bring them home for safekeeping.

The second thing I notice inside the house is that my Dad’s ball caps and jackets are hanging on the coat rack near the front door.  I’m thinking he’s just gone to the store and will be right back.  I unpack my stuff in the guest bedroom and I can hear his footsteps in the hallway, but then I realize it’s only my imagination.

I, too, lived in Tahoe and was very close to my parents during the 13 years I lived here.  We spent a lot of time together and had a lot of fun.  It wasn’t all good though; my Mom died in this house after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

Everywhere I look and everything I touch brings back memories. I go through every cupboard and closet and pack up anything that holds meaning. I take down the family photos hanging on the walls and wrap them in newspaper.  I take the griddle that my Dad cooked potato pancakes on, his specialty.  I take the relish dish that my mother used to serve sweet pickles and olives at Thanksgiving for 40 years.  I take the rolling pin my mother used make her perfect pies.  And her meatloaf pan – God bless mom’s meatloaf and tater tots.

I look at the bar and think about all the years my Dad and I used to sit there sipping a cocktail before dinner while we played backgammon for fifty cents a game.  We were very competitive and many an expletive were exchanged.

After an exhausting day physically and emotionally, I try to sleep, but I can’t stop thinking about Mom and Dad and all the memories in this house and the tape just keeps looping in my head.  Even though my Dad is still alive, I feel really sad that these two lives have come to an end.  At least the two lives that lived in this house.  I start to cry and then I hear my mother’s voice in my head.  She says, “Don’t be sad, we had a lot of fun and I don’t want you to be sad.”  That’s just enough to comfort me to sleep.

It comes as somewhat of a surprise that my Dad was a pack rat or a “hoarder,” as we call them nowadays.  He was a very neat pack rat and had an orderly method to his madness, but he was still a pack rat, nonetheless.  I found four (count ’em, four!) five-lb. bags of sugar in the pantry and wondered what single man needs that much sugar?  This is undoubtedly the trail of a man who grew up during the Depression – he loved a good sale.

He was an avid golfer and saved every golf course score card for 12 years and rubber banded them together.  I guess he thought he might need them someday.  I found two Playboy Magazines from 2007 (he was 81 years old).  I took the little plastic file box that holds my Mom’s 3”x5” recipe cards, including her meatloaf recipe.  I took two music boxes that belonged to my grandmother, and my dad’s piggy bank from when he was a little boy.

I found the family silverware, my Dad’s college yearbooks from 1949 and 1950, and the three-tiered candy dish my grandparents used to fill with candy for my two brothers and me when we visited.  I took the Velkommen Danish flag that I bought for my half-Danish Dad at the Scandanavian Festival in Modesto many years ago.  We loved to joke and say, “Velkommen…now go Hommen!”

I’m overwhelmed with grief and sadness and have to sit down and cry, as I feel the pain of what it’s going to be like when my Dad passes and he’s gone forever.  It’s debilitating now, so I can’t imagine what it will feel like when the time actually comes.

Written by Susan
Copyright September 2010