Mark vs Cancer

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Empty House

When I pulled up to our empty Worland house late last Sunday night, I didn't expect any melodrama. I had helped move my family down to Colorado two days prior, and then had driven solo back up to Worland to finish my last week of work. We hadn't yet closed on the house, and so although it was barren, we still had ownership, and I had to check on a few things prior to heading over to a friend's spare bed for the night.

When I pushed open the garage door into the kitchen and flicked on the florescent light, a blast of muggy air greeted me, which brought with it a humid sense of deja vu. I recalled a similar rush of warm air almost two years prior when we had first walked into the house late on a hot summer evening. Everything looked almost identical and just as empty as it had then. I surveyed the vacant rooms, and unexpectedly a deep poignant ache began welling inside, which, once once I recognized it, became quickly a nearly unbearable sadness.

The strength of the emotion caught me off-guard. I had been so engrossed in the physical bustle of moving that apparently I had not dealt with the emotional aspect of it. But that is the way I typically handle big life changes: suppressing the emotions of the moment, only to have them surface at later times in unexpected ways.

But why did I feel so deeply sad? All in all, this move was a happy one, and in spite of my occasional misgivings about it in the preceding months, I had no doubt that it was right for our family; only days prior I had felt what can only be called elation as we crossed the state line back into Colorado. So why the sadness? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was aware that the home wasn't the source, merely the vehicle, of the sorrow. The source seemed to be something vague and ineffable, something that brushed tangentially along the corners of the relentless pressures of time and the fragility of our lives.

I shook my head and began walking around the house, flicking on lights and checking closets. The squeaky floors, which had been a constant annoyance while living there, were somehow reassuring by being familiar. Every room seemed to resonate with a profound absence of what should have been there. Where were the toys strewn around the room? Where was the baby gate blocking up the hallway? Where was the pile of letters and keys and miscellaneous junk that inexorably coalesced on the corner of the kitchen counter?

I couldn't bear to be in any one room for more than a few seconds before feeling compelled by the aching sadness to leave, only to find the next room even more oppressive. We had done a number of major improvements, yet the physical parameters of the house seemed utterly unchanged by our two years there. It seemed as if by vacating the house so completely, two years of our lives had been erased, just like that.

I crept down to the basement and examined every room, searching for something, anything that we may have left behind, ostensibly in case we might have missed it, but secretly hoping for some shred of evidence that these two years of our lives had not totally dissipated into thin air.

And then I found it. There, beneath the laundry chute, something red and white, crumpled. Closer inspection revealed its true identity: a pair of Grant's dirty "Lightning McQueen" underwear. I picked it up and laughed out loud. How and why he had placed it down the laundry chute in the very brief interval between our "final sweep" of the home and getting into the car, I didn't want to imagine. But the concrete proof of existence it conveyed was most welcome. In that moment, it may have been the most appreciated piece of dirty underwear of all time.

But after chuckling to myself at the absurdity of my own emotions, the silence and emptiness in the house reasserted themselves as the dominant force of the evening. I would soon be gone again, and the house would continue existing with or without me. Underwear in hand, I hurried upstairs, closing doors and shutting off lights, and finally resurfacing through the garage into the cool night air. I stood by our front porch and glanced down at the pink rose bush that had exploded in colorful buds a few weeks before. Now, the browned wilted petals hung precariously to the stems or fluttered lifelessly to the grass. The grass itself was getting longer and ragged in some patches, brown and crisp in others. Weeds crept along the driveway. I looked up to the clear night sky, nearly untarnished by the relative paucity of city lights in Worland. Stars burnt coolly into the high desert air, constant yet flickering, unimaginably brilliant and unfathomably distant.

Two years. A new child. A new career. This home had been the arena where the dreams and heartaches and memories of our precariously short lives had played out. And now it lay undisturbed and empty, devoid of any trace of our time there.

And now not even tainted by a misplaced pair of dirty underwear.

9 comments:

princess jen said...

That was beautiful. You have such an amazing talent with writing. Good luck with Colorado and make sure to call Jenny!!

Tyler said...

I felt the emotion in your blog.

It makes me want to move to Worland to be the office manager in the clinic. Do you think that job would still be open? Am I too late?

It is amazing how an inanimate object like a house can take on so much personality and meaning in your life.

em said...

Ahhh, I'm so sad reading this!

We miss you guys! Come back!!!!

Jeff said...

beautifully written.

Goose said...

Not bad, not bad at all.

Dad said...

Mark, if I wasn't so happy to know you guys will be with us in Denver for awhile....I would have teared up at your post. It is funny what our minds block out...that is the bad things (Not that there were all than many bad things) and curiously many of more poignant and happy memories come to the surface at times like that. Why is that?

Dad

Dad said...

Mark, if I wasn't so happy to know you guys will be with us in Denver for awhile....I would have teared up at your post. It is funny what our minds block out...that is the bad things (Not that there were all than many bad things) and curiously many of more poignant and happy memories come to the surface at times like that. Why is that?

Dad

Dad said...

Mark, if I wasn't so happy to know you guys will be with us in Denver for awhile....I would have teared up at your post. It is funny what our minds block out...that is the bad things (Not that there were all than many bad things) and curiously many of more poignant and happy memories come to the surface at times like that. Why is that?

Dad

Julie said...

Mark...Scott had you down on a reference for a fire fighter job. All we had was your WY phone number and they are trying to get a hold of you for a reference. Can you email me with a phone# that they can reach you at?? I know you're busy moving, but we would really appreciate it. Julie Rork. Scottnjulie01@msn.com