Today was the closing on the sale of my parents’ home in Thorold.
There are mixed feelings about my old home. My brother, sister-in-law and I went to the house for the last time yesterday, and I’m glad I wasn’t there on my own. I’d probably be there for far too long, mooning over various bits of it and getting too emotional. That house dripped with my father’s personality and sense of style. It wasn’t a pretty house, but it was very solid. It was a house designed around function. Function trumped beauty always. (Hmm. I’m somewhat like that myself.)
Dad’s initials in the
driveway DP 1959
This is a story I often tell about hurting my dad’s feelings when I was young (and you may have heard it if you know me well). One day as a teenager, my dad asked me: “What would you do with this house if I gave it to you when you were older”. And I replied, “Tear it down and build another one”. I remember now the look of shock on his face, but thought nothing of it at the time. Sorry dad.
My dad bought the house in the early 50s, and he added another room to it when I was born. My bedroom was off the kitchen. My parents’ bedroom was off the living room. Although I don’t see many houses like this in Toronto, I know of many of them in Thorold. Must have been a style back then. But let me tell you, it’s not fun having your bedroom off the kitchen. Even though it’s a typical Italian house in Canada, with the actual, functioning kitchen in the basement, living next to the kitchen made it hard to go to sleep when company was over. And it’s awful waking up in the morning to find company in the kitchen, and you have to walk past them to get to the bathroom to comb your hair.
The house had a few quirky things, which we were positive would make it hard to sell: The open sewer in the basement (with a wood cover). The asbestos covered furnace piping (didn’t even know it was asbestos until the agent told us!). The weird contraption attached to the basement wood stove that brought the stove heat up to the basement ceiling, across the length of the house to the other side, where it exhausted in my parents’ bedroom. The resulting soot covered walls in my parents’ bedroom. The grapevine trellis across the front yard. And when I say grapevine trellis, don’t think it was a pretty wooden thing, think of 3 rows of serious 3 inch pipes sunk into cement, with more of the same piping laying across them supporting thick wires for the grapes to grow on. The wooden shed out back which was so obviously a chicken/pigeon coop. But – it sold in much less time than we thought. And I wish the owners good luck – I would never consider owning a house requiring the maintenance those grapes will will require. Nor would I relish removing the pipes to cut it all down. When my dad built things, he build them to last as long as a Roman age. If one nail would do, he’d use 3.
But I will miss lots of things about that house:
– the way the pear tree looked out the bathroom window
– sitting out front on lawn chairs in the summer, under the grape vines. Even better in fall when the grapes started to smell
– picking cherries (especially if my brother was around and I could shoot pits at him)
– The unexpected room you’d find in the basement, which was the wine cellar. And the smell of the vinegar barrel
– The crazy room beyond the wine cellar that my dad built, under our veranda, which was our fruit cellar. I think it was 5′ 7″ high. Reid’s favourite room. (Fruit cellars are way cool, and I often dream of having one at my own house)
– Sitting in the back yard, on the laundry line steps, drinking a cup of tea and watching the garden grow
– The breezeway. Somewhat like a covered porch between the garage and house proper. I have memories of my grandfather sitting in there, passing the time, in summer. And then my father did it too.
My parents have moved on to a retirement home in Toronto. My dad’s memory is failing, which is the only reason they were able to move on. So much of his identity was tied to that house. But I’m glad to say they are very comfortable in their new apartment. And having them so close is amazing. I can pop over there any time. And now that my brother, sister-in-law and I don’t have to go to Thorold every weekend (first to help them move, then to finish cleaning out the house to get ready for the closing), perhaps I can spend more than a quick hour or so with them on a weeknight here and there.