Dad was Willy Loman, Rich Man/Poor Man and Jack Nicholson rolled into one. His fortunes were always most certainly followed by losses so great he would call me for cigarette and Diet Pepsi money.
When Dad’s time ran out, his money had already run out months ahead of him.
His house went back to the bank; his possessions were sold to help offset the cost of his funeral and the rest was either tossed or given away.
The pictures of this modest house which had been in a state of disarray when Dad died showed the bank had invested in new paint, new roof, new carpet and a bit of landscaping.
It didn’t look half bad.
The pictures also showed an empty house but with each click my mind filled in the blanks.
The kitchen was bright and cheery and probably didn’t smell of smoke since the drapes had been removed. The dead plants in the corner near the sink could only be seen by me.
His 20 year old refrigerator would have been filled with orange juice, Diet Pepsi, hot dogs, a mostly empty ketchup bottle, A-1 Sauce and leftover cooked noodles. Sometimes cans of beer and half empty bottles of wine.
His freezer would have been packed with frozen meals, vegetables and meats and a variety of ice cream treats. The outside of the fridge would be covered with pictures of the kids and grandkids and their drawings as well as pictures of the children of a much younger woman who was only around during the times of fortune.
The cupboards held several years of Girl Scout cookies, cereal and crackers – mostly all expired. The counters and stove were covered with a thin layer of grease, only removed when I visited since he had fired most housekeepers in town and those he hadn’t fired, knew to stay away.
Birthday cakes had been cut and served on the island as had a Thanksgiving turkey or two. On one of his birthdays, Dad had sat in a kitchen table chair and was adorned with a crown, a cape made from a blanket and confetti sprinkled on him by two of his young granddaughters. And then ventured out to a restaurant – still in costume – much to the delight of the girls.
The rest of the rooms of this empty, bank-owned house brought back as many memories.
In the family room, more pictures of the grandkids sat on the fireplace hearth and Christmas stockings hung half of the year. We got Robert settled on the couch after Dad’s funeral and he worked on his Word Search while dad’s older brother sat protectively next to him.
The living room was where Dad had sat years before telling me the FBI was spying on him; where he would sit and read or watch his gigantic television crammed into the little room because he thought the cable reception was better. It is also where Richard, Rachel and I found him only half awake and completely confused when his kidneys were failing him, only hours before he died.
This was also the room where his brothers and sister and Other Brother and I hung out, looking through pictures and telling stories after Dad had died.
The front porch had been fixed and had a fresh coat of paint on it. Dad would call me from the front porch and tell me how he liked to put on his pajamas, lay down a blanket and sit on the porch watching people go by. I pictured him with his Diet Pepsi, cigarettes and wearing only his sweat pants staring at people as they walked by and wondered how long it would be before the police showed up.
This house held a few weddings – one or two of dad’s as well as that of Robert’s. Robert was a young man in his twenties when he married a woman (who later turned out to be a thief) but on that day, Robert was happy. His smile was broad and he looked sharp in his tux. Other Brother and I were amazed at our little brother getting married since neither of us had thought this was in the cards for him. His marriage didn’t last much longer than the honeymoon but I will never forget the smile on Robert’s face before he went into the backyard to say his vows.
For a house I never dreamed would mean anything to me, it has filled my evening with memories of both good times and bad. A few pictures of a non-descript house has filled my heart with love for a dad who was both exasperating and fascinating and who loved his family with all of his heart.
These few pictures have made me smile thinking of my daughters who are thoughtful and funny; brothers who I adore with all my heart and aunts and uncles who are thousands of miles away but as close to my heart as you can get.
The bank may get the house and they may recoup their investment since the market is improving but these memories – they don’t get those.
Those are mine to keep and to remember with just a glance at a picture or two.