Keeping things in the family

I've been using a dead man's dish soap for the last six months. Some people may be uncomfortable knowing someone died in their house. I actually know the exact day that Barry died in this house last March and can only assume he died in his bedroom, which is now our den. We had already looked at the house to buy it when Barry thought he was going to recover from his cancer but didn't need such a large home. And his sister-in-law Anne was the real estate agent who worked with us again after it was Barry's estate that was selling the house. We're the first family other than Barry and his parents to ever live in this home. When his brother Kevin (the executor of the estate and Anne's husband) handed over the keys to us at the signing, the key ring had their family crest on it.

Because they wanted to sell the property so fast (I assume to help pay off his medical bills), it was only about 30 days from when we first agreed to buy the house to when we were closing on it and signing papers. Barry had lived in the house for many years and had accumulated a lot of stuff. Even with his fastidious nature, there were lots of things to donate or sell or remove. We ended up buying a home that had a lot more "extras" to it than anything brand new.

There's a beautiful mahogany-framed mirror Anne said I could keep. We got an extra push mower out of the deal. I have a new butter dish from Barry and several glass corn on the cob plates (which I didn't even know they made but can't wait to use this summer). Barry collected matches (as any chain smoker might do) and we have the giant plastic tub of them to prove it. We got a large fire safe that works much better than the tiny one we owned. And the number of yard tools in the garage would rival our local hardware store!

All of these things please me. They remind me of Barry, a man I actually never met other than through a few old photos I found in the attic. They remind me of his parents and how they built this home for themselves and their six children. They make me think that in some ways we're keeping Barry's memory around this house.

When we had our Nosy Neighbor Open House, we invited Anne and Kevin back to see what we'd changed. As they walked around the house, Anne started to cry. She smiled and said that when they were dating they used to sit on the side porch and listen to the radio and she's so glad we kept the side porch in all our renovations. I told her that's why I wanted her and Kevin to come back. I wanted him to see that the room Kevin waited for Santa in was still there and one day someone else might wait for Santa in it. I wanted him to see that all we did was make some updates and a few changes but we kept their home intact and would take good care of it.

Barry never got a chance to see what we did with this house after he was gone. But I think of him often as I wander around the house and we talk about him as if he's part of our extended family.

"Where did these books come from? Oh, right, they're Barry's." "I'm going to use Barry's mower to edge the yard." "I think Barry left us a spare valve for the furnace's gas line, I just have to find it." "Let's give Barry's grill to the neighbors. It's a lot nicer than theirs and we don't need it."

I just used up the last of Barry's dish soap last week and while it wasn't my favorite brand, I was a little sad to see it go. The greatest thing you can hope for after you're gone is that people will remember you. We never met, Barry, but I remember you and your family fondly.