It’s just a number. 525. And yet it’s been the number representing my parents’ home of over 4 decades and the home I grew up in. 525. Three digits filled in with so much meaning by so much life & growth, love & mayhem, neighbors & traditions, good & bad times. 525. A place I spent about 1 month cleaning out this summer all by my lonesome. A place my dad left in an ambulance on May 17, 2012, never to return, and that I moved my mom out of some 10 days later, also never to return.
I took my last walk through its empty, echoing rooms about 2 weeks after my mom died, on October 3, some 5 weeks ago. I told my dad “I’m sorry” when I walked through his now-cleaned-out office — sorry for our arguments; sorry I let him suffer too many months before I signed him up for hospice to die well; sorry he suffered this last year but also in ways throughout his life. I told my mom “I miss you” when I walked into her now-vacant kitchen, knowing that for many years that wouldn’t have been the case; knowing I’d often dismissed her; knowing that we both fell in love with each other this past year, in a way we never would have, precisely because we were tossed together as partners in sickness, dying, and death. I told my whole family, or the ghosts of their lives in 525, “I love you,” as I stood in our empty family room, with the knowledge that relations have shifted among those of us still living, and that love isn’t always enough in some cases, and yet is exponentially increased in others.
Just numbers. But their sound rings out innumerable memories, now bundled up in loss & grief, new loves & new friends, gratitude & so many remarkable & also excruciating moments over a year of caretaking in a place, Michigan, and a home, 525, that I never thought I’d live in again — and for so long.
“So long, 525; so long, part of my heart.” This Thursday, November 14, at 9:00 a.m., 525 passes into other hands, hopefully there to count as well.
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If you’ve run across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com. Share, enjoy, and repost — as long as it’s free as in “free beer” and “freedom.”
(Photos by Cindy Milstein, East Lansing, Michigan, 2013)