I have been here in England for almost a week, having left my ‘home’, in Indiana, where I grew up, on Tuesday night. Slowly, I am settling back into this space that Stan and I shared.
I love this place, this century old cottage, with its wood floors and cabinets, its quirky, misshapen rooms, perched at the top of a hill, just a few feet from the countryside paths that I walk, most days. It is small, as most homes are, in England, but it was enough for the two of us.
I remember the first time I came here, shortly after I met him. I was so impressed by the beauty of it—the stone fireplace, the artwork he had chosen to adorn his walls, the overgrown garden in the back.
I haven’t altered much, since he died, six months ago. I have cleaned and dusted, a bit. I have transformed his man-cave computer room into a guest room, should anyone from America decide to pay me a visit. I have given away most of his gadgets and clothes. But, for the most part, the house remains the same. It feels disrespectful to change it.
This was his house. The art on these walls belonged to him. I eat from his plates, cook in his pots, store my food in his fridge. This was his road. His community. We held his wake at The Beehive, his local pub down the street, with his family and friends. I attend groups and meditations with his Buddhist Sangha. Since he died, I have been welcomed and embraced by all who knew him. But I only got to share this world with him for a little while, not long enough to make it ours—to make it my own.
I awaken in the morning and sit in the window of his man-cave computer room turned guest room, where the view is magnificent, and I watch the clouds roll across the sky. I can picture him, in this room, in his chair, his gaze fixed upon the trees below, in search of the crows that nested there. I find my way down the stairs to the kitchen, and I can hear him asking me to bring him a cup of tea in his favourite mug. I drink my coffee from it, now. His winter hat still hangs on the hook in the foyer, as does his scarf. The photos of his children and grandchildren still rest on our living room shelves.
Sometimes, I feel like an interloper, a thief, like I swooped in and overtook my husband’s place in the world, a world that was so much richer with him in it. I can’t begin to fill this space, in the way that he did. Everyone knew him, in the village, it seemed. He couldn’t walk down the high street or get through the queue at the shops without running into a host of acquaintances and friends. A half hour trip often turned into an hour or more, as people stopped and engaged him in conversation. He was well known, and well loved. His presence here was broad and expansive.
I like to think that Stan would have wanted me to stay here, with his things, amongst the hills and the people he loved. I like to think that my remaining here preserves his memory, somehow—that, by staying here, I am paying honour to who he was, to what was important to him.
One day, I will hang my own art in the living room, take up the carpet, paint the walls. But not yet. This place still carries his spirit, and I want to hang onto it as long as I can.
I can’t fill the empty space he left. I can only bring to it my own presence, a presence that is quieter, less exciting, perhaps, a bit more sedate. It will take me awhile to feel like I have a right to occupy this space. It will take some time before I can make this place my own. Before I can call it home.