Ruth figured that she would be the one who would be the wreck when it came time to sell the house and move into an apartment, not her husband Bert. Being away on business trips as often as he was, Bert didn’t spend as much time in the family home as Ruth had over the past twenty-seven years. She had painted every room in the house – more than once, while he was away. She raised three children there, threw countless parties for them, and organized dinner parties for whenever Bert was home and felt the need to entertain his more important colleagues. Being on her own so much, she also learned how to do small repairs around the house, how to use the expensive lawn and garden tools Bert had bought but never touched himself, and how to tell when a contractor was trying to rip them off. She should be the one having trouble saying goodbye, instead it was Bert.
“Oh look!” Bert said as they were going through boxes of old treasures in the basement. “Here’s that straw hat I bought when we were in Hawaii. I should hold on to that.”
“No, you should not,” Ruth said. “You haven’t worn it since we got home from that trip fourteen years ago. It either goes in the garage sale box or it goes in the box for charity.”
More memories came flooding back for Bert when he found one of their kid’s sporting trophies, as he went through the report cards he kept from his own school days, and while he sorted through old VHS tapes.
“I don’t think I can part with any of these things,” a suddenly nostalgic Bert told his wife.
“Bert, we cannot take everything from a twenty-four hundred square foot house and put it into a one thousand square foot apartment. As an architect, you should know that it’s physically impossible.”
“How can you be so cold?” he asked his wife.
“How can you be so impractical?” she asked in return.
He had had all that he could handle of their downsizing project for the day and walked away. Ruth decided right then and there that the garage sale idea was off.
“I’ll just wait until he’s out playing golf with his buddies and then take everything to the donation centre,” she said to herself. “I bet he doesn’t even know what’s in three-quarters of these boxes, so he shouldn’t miss any of it.”
It only took two weeks for the house to sell, and what seemed like a blink of an eye for the two month closing date to sneak up on them. It was moving day and Ruth was more than ready to go. Bert, however, kept going from room to room, wanting to see them one last time.
“It’s just a house Bert,” she said.
“But this is where everything happened,” he said in return.
“Moving to an apartment won’t make them ‘unhappen’. We’ll still have our memories, only instead of storing them in a box, we’ll be storing them up here,” she said while pointing to her head.
He had had a similar problem letting go when he retired, so maybe she shouldn’t have been so surprised to see him having a hard time accepting this next chapter in his life. Ruth, on the other hand, was glad to be free of the demanding upkeep and was looking forward to taking it easy.
“You go with the movers to the apartment and I’ll take the keys over the lawyer’s office,” she said. It would be her last duty as a homeowner and she wasn’t the least bit sentimental.