Yesterday was the first time we visited Nathan’s dad’s house since Father’s Day. We’ve been avoiding the place because we’ve not wanted to face the fact his father has remarried.
We were invited to a post-Thanksgiving dinner. Only after we accepted the invitation were we told the new wife’s family would be there also. We didn’t want to go, but his dad and the wife had traveled to our place for Autumn’s birthday party so we thought it only fair we made the effort to go to their place.
We were the last ones there. We stopped at the cemetery before arriving at the house because we hadn’t yet seen the stone his dad had chosen to mark the grave site. Nathan started crying at the sight of it and Autumn started crying at the sight of her daddy crying.
It got worse when we arrived at the house. We knew they had been working on it, knew there would be changes and that the house looked totally different, but that did not prepare us for what we saw. We stepped inside and it was as if we were walking into an entirely different house. It has been remodeled from top to bottom; kitchen, living room, dining room and bathroom. There was nothing left of the house we used to know.
Everyone was already seated and eating. There were strangers at the table, people who I’d never seen before in my life who were now supposedly our “family.” Someone, I can’t remember who, took Autumn over to the table but I couldn’t budge. I turned around, walked into the front room where Nathan’s grandma used to live and started crying.
Nathan followed. “That’s not the same house anymore!” I cried. He agreed and we sat down together, neither of us wanting to eat.
A few minutes later Nathan’s dad stepped into the room and sat down beside me. I was finally able to ask him why he had to get married so soon and turn our lives upside down with all this change. He can’t be alone, he said, and he told Nathan’s mom that years ago. As for the house, he thought it would have been harder for us to walk into the old house with the new wife there. New wife, new house. Should be easy, right?
I felt silly being the emotional one. I was the one who had known Nathan’s mom the least amount of time out of everyone. I wanted Nathan to ask questions, too. I even said to him, “As long as we’re being honest here, is there something you want to say?” But he didn’t say much. Later on he admitted didn’t know what to say. And yet he shed tear after tear while decorating our Christmas tree this weekend because every ornament reminded him that his mother won’t be there this year.
We eventually returned to the main house and were introduced to the wife’s family. They were all very nice and very understanding. Dirk and Lisa were still at the table. Lisa was feeding Autumn and drinking a Bud Light. She pointed to the bottle and said, “This is how I’m coping with all this.”
After dinner I sat in the living room and looked at my surroundings; the new kitchen, the flat screen HDTV mounted to the wall and the painted drywall that has replaced the wood paneling that used to cover the walls. There’s very little of Nathan’s mother left in that house. There’s very little of his father either. Everything there screams “NEW WIFE” with her stuffed bears and oozing country charm.
The china cabinet is gone.
The curio is gone.
The roosters Mom collected for her kitchen are gone. They’re actually in the front room waiting for someone to take them home. Nathan’s dad asked us if we wanted any of it. I said no.
His dad continues to purge himself of Mom’s belongings. Yesterday we took home some delicate flower figurines and two ceramic statues she had painted and fired. His dad wanted us to take home more, but we said no. It’s as though he’s desperate to rid himself of the stink of her memory. I know that’s not true, but that’s how it feels.
Oh, and they forgot my birthday. I wasn’t going to say something to his dad, but as we were leaving I turned to him and asked, “So where’s my birthday gift?”
“Huh?” he asked.
“My birthday gift?”
A look of surprise and horror crossed his face. He had forgotten. Entirely. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “Pam kept track of all those dates on a calendar and I have no idea where it went.”
So yesterday was a bit of a downer for us. It tainted the entire long weekend, actually. But I guess we knew it was going to be bad.
On our way home I mentioned to Nathan how nice the house looked and that his mom would have loved everything that was done to it.
“She would have, dammit!” he said. “Why couldn’t he have done that when she was alive?”
I guess that’s a question we’ll have to save for our next visit.
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