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 Chapter 26

The house was empty.

I’d scrubbed floors, sink, tubs, and toilets; carried out six truckloads of trash and ripped out the smoky carpets; soaked the smoky mini blinds until they were white; and washed the windows. I’d gone to the dump, salvaged sentimental things, and donated. My family helped me pull hundreds of staples out of the hardwood floors which I then waxed by hand, on my knees. Five gleaming coats of wax and a fresh coat of paint on everything, over the sealer to keep the smoke from seeping out of the walls.

I walked out of Mom and Dad’s house backwards that last time, carrying a five-pound weight in my sinuses and the last of the cleaning supplies. If it felt like the end of the world it wasn’t far off – it was the end of the world as they knew it. The end of home, where none of us could go again.

I wished some neighbors would come out and acknowledge my parents for the fine neighbors they’d been, but there was no drama tonight.  In spite of 35 years of good neighborliness, all windows were shuttered, all porches empty. For them, Mom and Dad were long gone already.

I thought I could see my face in the window waving goodbye, and recognized my deep fatigue. If only time could overlap, I would see me looking out, thinking and wondering about the future.  But there is no one there, not even me.

I hoisted my bag, left it good, and let it go.

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