I remember the summer holidays. The heat intense without air conditioning. Our days passed by on that old swing set, weather beaten to a faded green. We’d build houses out of boxes our mother would never let us take home. My sister called your home “the fun house”. I would say “plastic fantastic”. We’d build vintage dirt bikes in the garage, eat apple pies for dessert, and fall asleep beneath the peach tree.
I remember the escape, when home was too violent. You once told me you stopped drinking so you could always be there when we needed you. And you were. To distract. To listen. To protect.
I remember the way you cradled me that night as blood flowed from my wounds, and the way you sat beside me in the hospital for hours and never complained. To distract. To listen. To understand.
I remember your chair and the sadness I felt when we were not there. My mind riddled with images of you in that house, lonely and alone. I knew your heart ached. I felt it. I knew your smile a façade. I saw it. Overworked for a life that never came to be. Groundhogs day for 13 years.
I remember that shipping container in the driveway, accumulating your possessions one by one. I remember the brisk autumn morning driving you to the train station with your makeshift bag from rope, tape and plastic. The weight of the grief that fell from my eyes too heavy to hold. I remember how you walked away, and never looked back.
Here, I stand in the wooden doorway of the house now empty. The memories pounding against the walls. Your chair remains in the corner. It still smells of you. Words of love fall from my lips and I close the door, to what was, and what is no longer.