What if you can’t always go “home”?

My sister and I wrote our names and date in wet cement when our parents had a pool put in the backyard.
My sister and I wrote our names and the date in wet cement when our parents had a pool put in the backyard.

My parents closed yesterday. They no longer own the home in which I grew up in Orlando, Florida; they are, technically, homeless. (They’re on vacation for several weeks and then will stay with family until they find a house to purchase.)

I’ve been badgering them to sell their house and move closer to me for months, especially now that I have their grandson. The day they told me they’d gotten an offer at asking price for the house, I cried like a baby.

Of course I will be thrilled to live closer to my parents and be able to see them more often. But my parents bought that house before I was born. They’d had the same address and telephone number for almost four decades.

It was always “home base” or an anchor for my life. No matter what happened or where I went, I could always go “home.” Despite having lived in Georgia for three years now, getting married, having my son and owning a house of our own here, I still have felt like a Floridian.

Now, that’s all changed. Many things are changing. My dad’s best friend – his best man at my parents’ wedding – is ill with a form of blood cancer. He isn’t doing well. My parents’ neighbor is also not doing well. They may sell their house, also, and move into an assisted living facility soon. Many of our other neighbors have passed away or moved on, too.

It may not seem like a big deal to those who moved around a lot, but growing up, our neighbors looked out for each other. The kids played together. We all trick-or-treated along the block and had birthday parties with one another. I spent numerous afternoons with our neighbors’ children, especially in the summer break. My family had people over to swim in the pool. The same core group of neighbors lived on our street for decades.

The memories I have in that house are too numerous to count, and sadly, I know I’m already forgetting many of them. I remember when we first got our pool. My sister and I wrote our names and the date in the cement of the new patio. My parents got me a basketball hoop one year for Christmas, and my dad and I used to play HORSE. (He usually won.)

I remember all the changes in decor and furnishings – from a gigantic wooden box TV and ugly brown couches (Yay for the 70s and 80s!) to leather sofas that I hated because they were too cold. As a kid, I used to lay in the floor every Saturday morning to watch cartoons on that old television and every Sunday night for The Wonderful World of Disney.

I can’t count the number of pets we had over the years. Our first dog is buried in the backyard. And our second dog. And at least two cats. Plus a lot of hamsters and lizards. The lizards weren’t pets. I used to catch them in the backyard, and sometimes I was a bit overzealous. It was all in the name of research, though. I wanted to be a veterinarian some day! I was observing and learning about the species.

My dad captured a tropical bird in our backyard one time, too. We kept him. At first, he was friendly and tame. He would sit on our finger. But eventually – maybe he did not like captivity after all – he became mean. He would rush at the cage whenever we came near. He earned the name “Bad Bird.” We eventually gave him to a specialty bird store not far from us. He lived out his remaining days there. No one ever wanted to buy him. But at least we know he lived safely and well cared for! For awhile, we had a grey cockatiel, too. He learned to say “Here, kitty kitty kitty!” which everyone thought was incredibly funny.

As I got older, I became more rebellious. I remember sneaking out the side window of my bedroom many times, sometimes being caught and sometimes not. I remember my dad catching a male friend at my window when I was supposed to be grounded one time in high school.

And even though I went away to college and moved on to my own residences over the years, I always came home to visit my parents regularly. I even returned there to live a couple times, like when I got laid off from a job. I became closer to my parents the older I got, and some of my best days were hanging out with them by the pool on Saturdays. We’d get as much sun as we could tolerate, and then enjoy a cold adult beverage on the screened porch while cooking out steaks or burgers on the grill. We’d often listen to music – usually there’d be a small argument over which music – and talk until we were ready to go to bed.

It is sad to realize that place is no longer a part of our lives. It will always be a part of our memories, but knowing I’ll never go back for a Christmas or spend another night under its roof is very odd. In fact, it’s unlikely I’ll be back to Orlando at all unless we take my son for a family vacation in the future.

My parents’ home in Orlando was like an anchor to me for my 36 years of life. And now it’s gone, and I feel somewhat adrift. I can only hope and pray that its new owners will take as good care of it as my parents did for all those years. It is a very special place with many very special memories.