The sale of my dad's house - after hitting a few minor bumps along the way - really looks like it will happen. My sister, who had been living there since he died, bought her own house and moved out last weekend. So over the past week I have finally been going through the task of cleaning out and cleaning up the home my dad created and enjoyed the last three years of his life.
I don't know how anyone ever does this soon after a death. I am eternally grateful that time has cushioned the blow, but of course it still stings.
Countless times over the past week, I have picked up something and thought, "wow... this is a (fill in the blank here.) I'll bet most women wouldn't know what it is. I'll bet my dad is proud to see that I was paying attention!"
Other times, I pick something up and think, "what the *&^%^&** is this?"
Or... "why did he need 34546765 of these?"
By far the most dangerous though is when I open a new drawer or peek into a different box and think, "why yes... it makes perfect sense to keep a box of 1000 sticks. I'll take them home, I'm sure I'll need them someday and now I'll have them!" (This is my story for about 80% of what I'm bringing in to my house and I'm not ashamed to say it!)
That last statement is proof positive of the old saying, "I am my father's daughter."
For some people, going through clothes and jewelry may be the hardest part of a job like this.
For me, it was going through my dad's workshop.
In every house I ever lived in or spent time in with my dad - growing up when my parents were still married, during my teen years when he was married to my stepmom, and then this last house where he moved just a few years ago - my dad had a workshop.
It was his retreat, his sanctuary. It was where he kept his tools and supplies neat and organized and ready at the call for action. Whatever it was that I needed fixing, he would take it to his shop and give it a go. 99% of the time he was successful in either a total repair, or enough of a repair to add some extra life. I never despaired over anything broken because just knowing my dad would try to fix it made it seem somehow fine.
As I grew older and moved out, his workshops became the place where he could help fix me. I would sit in the swivel bar chair while he tinkered around working on small projects or a model airplane or just organizing his stuff. While his hands were busy, his ears and mind were solely focused on me and the problem or issue at hand. If he could offer tangible help, he would. If all he could offer was a hug and support, he gave that too. Advice was doled out frequently in those workshops.
As a small child, I remember the incubators full of pheasant eggs in his workshop. As a young adult, I remember sitting with him in there and telling him that my boyfriend had stolen money from me and was cheating on me. Once, I sat in that chair thinking I might be pregnant and would take a test in the morning - but I didn't say anything to him just yet. And in that last shop, we talked about life and marriage and divorce and well, just stuff. Big stuff, small stuff, important stuff, trivial stuff.
Several months after my dad died, I stopped by his house one day to collect a few tools we needed from his workshop. Edgar wanted to go and buy them at Menard's instead. I resisted, and insisted it was silly to spend that money when there were some sitting there, available and ready. So I stepped inside the shop for the first time since he had died and instantly felt an overwhelming sense of loss. He was gone. Really, truly, gone.
On the workbenches that he had designed and built himself sat the tools he had been using to make our front door. Untouched since the day he had laid them down were tubes of caulking, a pair of pliers, and some notepad pages with his measurements scrawled across them. There was still sawdust on the floor and his "City of Pekin" hat hanging where he had left it. Fishing lures for his trips to Canada were sitting out - he always started going through them in the late fall to prepare for the next summer's trip. So many harsh visual reminders that he was gone.
That was one of the times I had what was probably best described as a hyperventilating, gut-wrenching, soul-aching meltdown. The empty place in my heart is something I have come to live with, but every now and then it makes its presence physically painfully known.
From that day on, I avoided his workshop when I could. My procrastinating self knew I had time to go through and clean things out, so I put it off. I knew it would be the hardest room to pack up, why rush?
So for the past week, the work has been stepped up. With a deadline (the closing) looming, I am finally motivated to get it done. Yesterday I spent the entire day working at the house and I noticed that subconsciously, I am only able to work in the shop for so long before I have to go find something else to focus on. But even in bits and pieces, the shop is now almost empty. All of the tools and extra odds and ends and "better save this just in case" items have been divvied up, given away, or in some cases even thrown away. Every single time I throw away something I say "sorry dad." I've kept what's important to me and a lot of things that were important to him but of course I just can't keep it all.
So what does ANY of this have to do with "The Lion King?"
I went back to work on the house this afternoon, but I have to admit my heart wasn't in it. We're nearing the finish line after Saturday's marathon day of cleaning and clearing out and I'm just exhausted. The finality is hard to bear and each hour I spend in his now mostly empty house is just another hour I'm reminded of the loss. It feels good to be doing something for him - it feels like I'm helping him out and fulfilling a responsibility as his daughter - but after this, there won't be any "projects" that will fill that void. The business is sold, both buildings he owned are now sold, and from here on out the work I will do "for" him is primarily financial in nature. I was going through the motions.
And then, my phone rang. It was the husband of a couple I had agreed to be a doula for and his wife was in labor. I could hear her in the background and I could hear a faint glimmer of need in his otherwise calm voice as he described for me what was happening. They wanted me to come to their house as soon as I could and help them navigate the next phase.
So I closed the garage door and locked up the house and drove to this couple's home, where I greeted them and focused on the scene before me.
Just a little over two hours later, I had the unbelievable honor of watching as this little baby girl came earthside into the joyous arms of her parents.
I watched from behind the camera lens as the mother handed the baby to the father, and I snapped away as he cuddled and kissed her. When his emotions took over, I cried along with him.
As I look now at the photos, I realize that I really focused in on the father during this birth. As a doula, I have been trained to focus on the mother but this time it's clear my eye was more on him.
Another father and daughter, just beginning their journey together.
When I close my eyes, I can see the days stretched out before them... working together in the garden, learning to ride a bike, him teaching her about tools and listening as she talks about boys. I hope that one day he will walk her down the aisle.
I hope he is able to fix things for her.
And yes, I hope that one day she will feel an emptiness in her soul when he is no longer earthside with her.
My dad loved the movie "The Lion King" and he talked a lot about the circle of life. He taught it to me through words and experience.
He continues to teach it to me today. For every end, there is a beginning. In every bulb, a flower. Unrevealed until its season... something God alone can see.
It was a good day.