"I was not your boon companion." I say aloud to the house in which I labor sweat-covered in the dank and fetid September heat.
"You are not my familiar hearth, nor my beloved childhood home."
But unbidden tears still wash my face and choke my faltering voice as I bid good-bye to my parent's home on this final Florida night. Tomorrow it will belong to someone new and the ghosts of my family will have to adjust.
Memories cloud rational thought as I sort through thirty-four years of Florida living. I remember my bitter sadness as my parents blithely spoke of warming their aging bones in a land alien to me. My own children were mere babies then, and I grieved the loss of my parents and youngest brother as if they had died.
Stretching, I begin the dreaded chore.
Carefully preserved in shoeboxes, hundreds of photos depict our family's lifetime. Some, taken a century before, show children who would become my ancestors. Others recall our precious visits shared in Florida's forever summer. In one, my three sun squinting, swim-suited babes stand by a plastic pool, looking for all the world like those kitsch souvenir monkeys: "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil." They pose happily, oblivious to the record-breaking snowstorms blowing about back home. In another, they smile as they flank the grandparents they learned to know and love on that long ago trip. A final one shows the great-granddaughters my father never met, but would have loved dearly.
I sit cross-legged on the floor amidst the remnants of lives lived in the warm sun.