A View From A Window

By on November 23, 2019


When I was a little girl (still in elementary school), my family moved from our small(ish) house to a somewhat larger house (by no mean large, especially by today’s standards) that was next door to my maternal grandparents. We needed more space since my baby brother had just been born, AND my parents wanted to be able to help my grandparents. My grandparents had a small house, but a lot of yard to maintain and a long driveway (that sloped downhill). My father took care of both yards and had a garden that straddled the two properties.

When I was in high school, my grandfather developed Alzheimer’s disease (although I don’t believe it was ever officially diagnosed). He went to live in what was then called a nursing home. (Doesn’t matter what you call it; it’s still pretty much the same thing.) Sometimes I would drive my grandmother over to visit in her car. As anyone dealing with a relative with dementia knows, it’s a painful process for all parties involved.

When I was in college, my grandfather died. My grandmother continued to live in the house on her own. I’d guess you’d say my family kept an eye on her.

But not a close enough eye, which haunts me to this day. As after college, I returned home and certainly didn’t go next door enough. One January evening, we noticed that there were no lights on in the house. My mother and I went to investigate and that when we found my grandmother in the kitchen; she had obviously been preparing dinner (around 5) and had a stroke. She was most likely alone there for 3 hours. As I said, I still feel horrible about that.

My grandmother came home, but was bedridden for the rest of her life, which lasted nearly four more years. She had excellent caregivers who lived with her. I could see the light in her bedroom window from my parents’ bedroom.

My grandmother passed away in December of 1994. In the spring of 1995, I became engaged and my then fiancé (now husband), moved into what had been my grandparents’ house that fall. Now the view was reversed. From what became a home office/computer room (which once had been a sewing room), I could now look over into my parents’ house. I could look across to see if the light was on in their bedroom or look down and see if they were in the dining room. Just as my mother could keep an eye on her parents, now I was doing the same.

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Once my son was born, I knew my mother would not pick up the phone and call me until she saw the shade in his room go up. The same room that she grew up in and that her mother spent her last few years in.

As my son has grown up and my parents have grown older, all our needs have changed and evolved. The bed in what has become my son’s room was replaced with a crib and then again with another bed. My parents spent more and more time at their home at the shore and less in the house next door. A decision was made this spring to sell the house; the one that I had grown up in and looked in on daily.

Since April of this year my son, my husband and I have worked diligently to clean out the house. It was an exhausting and emotional experience. While some items went to my parents “new” home; much was donated and gifted. Every other week, when there was a bulk item pick up, the space in front of the street was filled with items that we could not donate. Watching people come by and pick through the pile was difficult; seeing the waste management people pick up the rest and toss it into the compactor was even more so.

The house was sold quickly, but closed SLOWLY. (There IS a backstory there; I just don’t know all the details and I probably never will.) After much bated breath, it did and the house that I once called home ceased to be and became just a building.

I still look out the window. It’s a hard habit to break. No one lives there yet. But the lower driveway is filled with “stuff” and there are locks on the garage which houses I don’t know what. The week of bulk item pick up (town does this once every two weeks for our area) the broken remains of what was left behind was in a jumble outside, sat there sadly for pick up. (I’m not sure what was harsher; hearing the sounds of items being hacked up, or seeing the shattered bits piled up.) There was also the whole tree mess, but as you can see that’s a whole other blog post.

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It’s just stuff. I know that in my head. However, it’s much harder to for the heart and soul; particularly when you see the table you spent so many holiday meals at, chopped up into pieces and tossed on the ground. It may be just a thing, but it isn’t.

It’s hard NOT to look out the window. But I’ve pulled down the blind and try and restrain myself from looking in between the slats. When the view from the window is not what you can bare to see, it’s time to move to another window. And that’s what I’ve got to do. It’s something we all have to do…eventually.

Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For more than five years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog

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