Walking into the house it feels exactly as it had done every other time I’d entered. There were people milling about, in a house that was always busy, and it was all so familiar.
But this time I walked in through the front door, something I’m not sure I had ever done before. I stopped and signed my name in a book and walked on.
I saw the stairs in front of me that I had climbed so many times, too many to count. Stairs I had stumbled up more times than I’d like to mention. Stairs I had struggled down so many morning, bleary eyed, to ride out the first lot of horses of the day.
At the door of the ‘good’ sitting room stood his son, arms wide in embrace, his heartbreak so very clear in the depth and force of his hug.
And then I saw my friend, my oldest, dearest, friend as she stood to receive condolences on the loss of her father. Her face controlled but sad, emotions contained just below the surface.
I hug her but want to do more.
I want to tell her how many wonderful memories that this house contains, how walking back in takes me back nearly thirty years, to days that were full of fun and of innocence in our early teens.
To days, a few short years later, that were full of boys and nights out. Where every detail of the night’s exchanges were analysed and ruminated over.
Where we lay in beds under a sign that read
‘Make new friends but remember the old
For one is silver but the other is gold’
but never really understood the importance of it.
I want to reminisce with her about all the stories that this house held, this house that saw us share those glorious years of teen to twenties, where life was so carefree, where parents were strict and strong, not frail and vulnerable. Where boundaries are there to be challenged and responsibility seems a long way off.
I tell her none of these thing, because now is not the time. Now is the time to remember her Dad and all that she has lost. So we hug, we have a few quiet words and arrange to see each other soon.
I leave the house, and know it will never be the same. Time ticks by and suddenly all that we have known is irrevocably changed and can never be the same again.
Returning can be a wonderful thing.
Returning to say goodbye can be heartbreaking.