Late last November I entered the living room of my 93-year-old house and found a small wet spot on the floor. My eyes moved up to the ceiling and confirmed my fear: the shower pipe above had burst. My piano was wet; there was nasty water on the floor, walls, and surrounding things. My friend and contractor from our previous renovation, Greg, burst through my front door within three minutes of my call carrying a giant plumbing tool. We closed off the bathroom and began a major remodel 66 weary days ago.
Trying to keep a house clean during restoration is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. Despite cordoning off the construction zone with plastic and shoving towels under doorways, the dust still enters every crevice. I vacuumed and Swiffered and mopped every day after the workers left for about a week before realizing I was wasting my time. Now we just wear shoes in the house and politely ignore the dirt, drop cloths, and tools. It is a time of reconstruction, a finite time of upheaval that will eventually lead to something different.
The turmoil in my house this spring matched the turmoil in my family. As we observed Lent, I watched my mother-in-law suffer the end stage of pancreatic cancer. Her body was slowly, very slowly, shutting down. She carried her cross and said goodbye to everyone and we watched and held her hand and cared for her until the end, Good Friday, the same day as her Savior. On Easter, we felt she was at the heavenly banquet, and we celebrated her resurrection. The priest at her funeral told us one of the Italian meanings of her name, Loretta: house.
I haven’t lost a parent; the loss of my mother-in-law is the closest I’ve come to that sense of being orphaned. I guess you can feel it even as a middle-aged adult. As members of the older generation pass away, one by one, the upheaval means you are really the grown-up. Walls come down, pipes leak. You can’t wipe away the dust. If you ignore the pain and discomfort it will still be there staring at you in your shoes. The only thing you can really do is live with it knowing that a transformation is happening in there, somewhere behind the plastic.