Friday, May 21, 2010

A House Is Not A Home

06 Empty House
Originally uploaded by

Tonight's post has a music accompaniment on my PlayList. If you like, just hit play.

I am a big Burt Bacharach fan. I have his whole collection of songs song by all the original artists. Somehow his music transports me to a very happy and loving time in my childhood. I used to hear all of Burt Bacharach's music around the house, and in the car radio. As I got older I continued to seek out his music, and collect some of his recordings. A few years ago he collaborated with another of my favorites, Elvis Costello, and they made such gorgeous music together. It was the perfect collaboration in my mind.

Recently Burt's music was profiled on an episode of Glee. I'm a late arriving fan of the television show, and found myself in pure ecstasy listening to the cast perform some of my favorite songs. And throw in Kristin Chenoweth, well, it was simply a gay man's heaven.

This all got me thinking about why I am planning this move. I love my house, and I'm proud of all the hard work I put into it over the years. It was quite a fixer, and it has taken quite a bit of effort to get it to where it is today. It has provided me with many happy memories, and has taught me many new skills. Then four years ago I provided me with a space to welcome Michael into my fold, and join my family. Up until then I always considered my house to be a home, and indeed it was. But I had no idea how much more transformed it would become. When love came my way, and I invited it in. Everything I had took on such new meaning.

This couch that I sit on became a place where Michael would sit in each other's arms, or with our legs wrapped around one another, reading, doing Sudoku, or watching a movie. That kitchen became a place where we put our love into the preparation of meals for the kids, or for our many visitors. That small kitchen at times transformed into a ballroom where we would spontaneously dance around, arms firmly around each other.

I go down to my bedroom each night, and it screams of his absence. Yes, at times it easier. At times I can absorb the essence of his spirit, or the memories of all the wonderful intimate moments shared. But most nights it brings my spirit down. Most nights it causes me tears.

He is not here. He is not here.

I think the kids feel this too. If not the same feelings, they feel my difference. I am no longer the same in our home. I have lost my joy. I feel beaten, and I feel betrayed. Not by my home, but by life. Some nights when sleep won't come I sit up in my bed and say out loud, "okay, you won." I'm not sure who, or what, I am talking to. I just know that I have lost that which I cherished the most. I deserved to be happy, and I was. I just thought I would have it longer than I did. I didn't expect it to be forever. Just a day or two shy of forever.

All of this weighs so heavy upon my chest. I can barely breath anymore.

I am slowly suffocating.

I pray for some relief.

And yet, misery is becoming quite familiar. At times it is my only company.

"A House Is Not A Home"
by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

A chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sittin' there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there's no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight

A room is a still a room, even when there's nothin' there but gloom
But a room is not a house and a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart

Now and then I call your name
And suddenly your face appears
But it's just a crazy game
When it ends, it ends in tears

Pretty little darling, have a heart,
Don't let one mistake keep us apart
I'm not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, sayin' that you're still in love with me


  1. So much of this post speaks to some of what I've been thinking about the past few weeks. Last summer, I sold our perfectly comfortable house - the house we had lived in for 30+ years, because I didn't want to live there anymore. I've always liked doing carpentry, so had changed the house a lot over the years. I put floor to ceiling windows in one wall of our bedroom so that we could lie in bed and watch deer walk through the yard, fireflies arc across the garden at night, birds at the feeders set up just a foot or so from the glass, and see the whole northern sky at night. Each thing I did to the house was done with a love for what we wanted in a house - a place that was like a bridge between indoors and the nature that surrounded us.
    When I returned home from the hospital the night Don died, the house seemed weird and cold - almost as though it had died too. I went from room to room feeling the brooding strangeness. Now, I'm starting to think of some tribe I read about in anthropology class - when someone died, the family would burn the house down and make a new one somewhere else. I believe I understand why.
    I have also experienced that "okay, you won" feeling. In fact, I still experience it occasionally. I've never been a "lucky" person - never won anything in my life - but never worried about it - big deal. However, over the past 20 years, in the lottery of life, I feel not only like I haven't won, but that I've become quite a loser. For me, it's as though the cancer lottery has decided to pick on me. Yes, that sounds stupid, but I've had 4 dogs die from cancer - one with bone cancer, 2 that died within 6 weeks of each other from the same highly aggressive lymphoma, and one that died from stomach cancer. I cared for all of these dogs as best as I could until it came time to put them down. I'm the kind of person who loves people and animals so much that each of these deaths left me devastated, especially the two collies that died together in 1994. It took several years for me to get over that. Then my dad got cancer in 1998 and died within months - I cared for him so that he could die at home. In 2005-6, I had to have surgery to stop a cancerous condition. It took several months for me to recover. I remember lying in the hospital bed thinking (rather naively)... "Well, maybe we'll have a few years of clear sailing now!" as I'd been quite ill for awhile. However, in less than a year, Don was diagnosed with cancer and died 10 months later. I confess that I feel very weird about all of this. Why does this stuff keep happening? Bad karma? Now, I've pretty much decided that I don't really want anyone or anything to be too close to me. I'm feeling like some kind of Typhoid Mary. "Don't come too close or you'll die!" I feel sorry for the two dogs I have. It's probably dangerous to their health to be living with me. Anyhow, I didn't really mean to write so much about this, but did want to say that I understand that feeling of being beaten, betrayed... or, as I often describe it ... defeated. Now, I carry on, trying to move forward without trudging along on the mobius strip of struggling to make sense of all that has happened. I'm just terribly unlucky and all of these events happened for some bizarre reason that I'll never figure out. Better not to spend too much time worrying about it. The good thing is that my actions over the past couple of years seem to be helping me to move on. The bad thing is that I realize I will probably have to "go it alone" from this point onward as I can't risk more of this kind of loss - or even the threat of it. I guess that's the sticking point for me now - learning to keep everything I care about at a safe distance. Learning to "like" without loving. Sounds insane, but seems necessary for survival. My apologies for having gone so far off topic, but just got writing and that's what came out.

  2. i have come to believe that for quite some time, possibly even from now on, we will have to keep learning, keep modifying how to live without our husbands. whether sort of prepared for it or, as in my case, blindsided, you never really know what it is going to be like. grief is indefinable. no one tells you about walking into the living room and having the sight of the sofa bring you to your knees. you know the solitary bed will be a horrible experience but no one mentions what a toothbrush left behind can do.

    as these things happen to you, all you can do is close your eyes and remember all the times before when your arms crossed over the bathroom sink, or the intimacy and warmth of sitting together on the sofa. all you can do is do what you are doing. find a way to survive, endure it, and come out on the other side, in no way whole again, but with the knowledge that the road and life you made was built with Michael's love for you and your family.

    you are always in my thoughts and prayers. peace.

  3. I wanted to comment on Thursdays blog. My husband died suddenly 20 months ago, shortly before our 25th anniversary. He was my best friend, the love of my life. I am blessed with two sons and the three of us are trying our best to right our world. I look forward to reading your blog daily, it gives me a sense that I belong somewhere that someone else is experiencing the same things. Your honesty and ability to understand your feelings is a gift you share with your readers. I am grateful that you write as often as you do. Wishing you peace. Sandy

  4. Hi Sandy. Thanks for introducing yourself. I've made a commitment to write daily, so that I have a chronicle of what my experience each day. I am then able to look back when I start to question my lack of progress. I also recognize that others, like yourself, will be able to feel a sense of not being completely alone on their journey.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts when you feel so inclined.

  5. I love the song. It is so true.

    Sometimes I feel like our home is a sanctuary, keeping him close to us. And sometimes I want to run screaming to a new home, a new community, where the memories and his absence can't assault me as easily. It's such a double edged sword. I hope that whatever life holds for you and your children brings you all peace and some joy, when you're ready for it. You all deserve it.

    I look forward to meeting you in August, too!