Our House

A house, a home, a heartache.

Our house was always there for me, until one day when it suddenly wasn’t anymore. Somehow I'd always imagined that I’d have it for ever ...

I remember the first afternoon that I went to the house on my own after mum and dad died. It was a short, grey day between Christmas and New Year in 2020. Overwhelmed, I sat in the front room with all its clutter and thought: "It's entirely up to me what I do here now." The house was so full of mum and dad and all the little things they left behind. I inherited the dust under the bed and all the ornaments on the mantle piece and everything in-between. It all fascinated me. Without intending to they had prepared everything for me. All I had to do was notice things - in some ways properly for the first time. It became a final conversation between the past and the present.

I was raised as an only child, but in reality I was the eldest. Eldest and only: a contradiction that I kept to myself for 45 years. I had a close relationship with both my parents. There was a lot of love and we used to talk and laugh a lot. They were happy times. As a child I had space to play and do what I wanted. But there were other things that were much harder to talk about. By the time I was five in the mid 1970's, there had been a double family tragedy in which my two youngest siblings had separately died from the same ultra-rare genetic condition. Rupert and Caroline were both under a year old. Yet in the lottery of genetics, my genes are totally unaffected and I became the surviving child, with all that that brings. After all of this my parents and I became a strong family of three, but I don't think any of us really knew what to do with the burden of grief that remained.

© Oliver Woods 2024