An Empty House

I am sitting in the living room in Egan, or what’s left of it.  Without a couch, with Dad’s bureau and chest of drawers, and with two recliners, it is instead some half-way house, which I guess is rather appropriate right now.

I’ve driven over for the day, ready to go through some boxes to put in my Mini to take back to Lake Charles, to put back where they started.  While I’m sitting here taking a break, Mr. Trahan is outside repairing the ancient garage doors.  With all of the renovations we had done, there are a few repairs left, those suggested by the appraiser who came a few weeks ago.  The curb appeal will be enhanced by these repairs.  Some were more decorative.  Others were substantive, like those garage doors, and a few rotten boards on the facing around them.  When Mr. Trahan is done, then I’ll have raw boards and a new fascia trim board around the bottom shingles of the house — ready to be primed and painted.   Of course, after the house is power-washed and bleached (yes, bleached.  It’s necessary in humid sub-tropical climates like ours.), the house will need re-painting too.

My sister was here for a couple of days over the weekend.  While she was here, she and our neighbors smelled gas.  On Saturday night, the gas company sent out someone to investigate.  The upshot of that:  the gas has been turned off and the meter has been removed.  A plumber must repair the leak and sign a certificate, and only then will we get our meter back and the gas turned on.  Until then, it’s cold water showers.  The irony is that the same plumbers who will show up to repair the leak were responsible for doing the work on the gas line two months ago.  Maybe the plumber will just do the repairs since the work is clearly defective somehow?  I can hope that, but don’t expect it.  I’m sure I’ll be writing the plumber another check.

Checks seem to disappear — for an appraiser, for the plumber two weeks ago for a water leak, for the new repairs going on now, for clerk of court paperwork getting affidavits of heirship on Dad’s vehicles.  Soon, I suspect, the rest of the forest I’ve already devastated by the checks I’ve written in the last four months will also disappear.

The house is empty now and silent.  I can hear the few vehicles passing nearby.  I can hear Mr. Trahan working outside.  Other than that, I hear only the tapping of the laptop keys and the air-conditioner in the back room.  No one lives here now, and that evidence is everywhere.

There is food in the refrigerator, true, but elsewhere is the detritus of someone living here full-time.  Now Kay and I visit the house, staying a few nights at the most, or even just visiting for the day as I am today.  Soon we’ll have the telephone and the television service terminated.  The television won’t be a loss.  Not really.  We can bring DVDs if we want to watch anything.  The telephone, though, is a bit harder.  It’s the telephone that has been our family number for decades, and when it’s gone, there’s no dialing it anymore.  Even though I know Dad won’t pick the phone up if I call it, I can still dial it if I choose to do so.  There’s a finality, however, about having that number turned off and knowing that someone else might be assigned that phone number.

We don’t need it, I know.  Cell phones make it redundant.  Yet it’s been part of our lives for so long that my fingers can dial it without thinking.  Soon, though, it will go the way of my grandmother’s phone number in Beaumont.  That’s been gone since the 1980s, yet I still recall her number , with the prefix TE from the 1950s.  I couldn’t remember any telephone numbers I’ve had along the way — not in Baton Rouge, or Beaumont, or College Station.  But these are burned into my memory.

Yesterday Kay brought over 8 boxes of books that we unloaded into storage.  There’s another bookcase of Dad’s books left to box, and some of mine as well.  I will probably tackle those in a bit, labeling the boxes so we know what’s in them.  Some will stay with us; others will be designated for the big garage sale I’ll have this fall.  The 10×15 storage unit I rented for Egan stuff is filling.  And there’s no furniture in it yet, not really.  I brought back some chairs from the farm last week — the chairs I remember using when I was 5, the chrome and red chairs that matched a formica-topped red and chrome kitchen table long gone.  I can’t use them, but couldn’t see them thrown away either.  I can see them go to the garage sale, however, since the retro/mid-century modern look is so popular.  These, I can reassure buyers, are not reproductions.  They are authentic.  I have evidence in a photograph of 5 or 6-year-old Cheryl sitting in one, grinning at the camera held by her mother.

Tools of all sorts are in that storage unit as well.  Some have already gone to friends.  I don’t even know what’s there, so later, when there’s time, I’ll ask knowledgeable friends to help me identify tools and decide what to keep and what to sell and what prices to ask for things.  There will be donations to Goodwill and to CARC as well.  Yet the more I bag and box, the more I find left.  And I know there are still cabinets in the garage to open and sort through.  Oh, and the four barrels up in the garage rafters. And the other assorted mysterious items stashed up there as well.  I don’t think anything is in the attic.  I’ll have to ask Tim, who rewired the house.  God, I hope there’s nothing more up there than the new wiring.

Then there’s still the little room that was Phil’s — after it was the room for our pool table.  Later Dad referred to it as “my little room.”  Charles labeled it “the downstairs room” because it’s actually on a slab, and there’s a set of three steps leading up to the main house.  It’s filled with stuff too. Dad’s hunting gear — the compound bows, the arrows.  Phil’s equipment for making bullets.  The who-knows-how-many sets of small antlers lining the walls.  My grandmother’s stereo cabinet, with her 78s and 45s and LPs still in it. A big desk from Dad’s office.  A work area for Phil’s bullet-packing equipment.  A bookcase jammed with books.  A few boxes of things that I moved here and have never used.  A closet yet to be emptied.  And off of this room, the laundry room holds more than the washer and dryer.  It has a trunk from my undergraduate days.  There are boxes storing all sorts of things.

There is a huge closet filled with Dad’s clothes.  My closet has some clothes I haven’t moved back yet.  Kay’s closet, now a storage area with shelves, is filled with random items moved there during the renovation.  The kitchen has been cleaned and lots of unnecessary pots and pans and dishes have gone to Goodwill.  Yet it is filled with what is still useful and what we will keep.

I anticipate it will take weeks to finish the task of emptying the house of the many things that still remain.

Yet as I sit here among those things, the truth of it all strikes me clearly:  the house is already empty in the only way that counts.

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One thought on “An Empty House

  1. Beautifully written, Cheryl,

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