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The Idea of Home

In 2008 my grandfather passed away in a hospital bed before I could get to him. Despite my best efforts to get there before he crossed the great divide, I could not get there fast enough. That day as I packed in a hurry, I heard my phone ring. Despite not wanting to believe that my grandfather had passed away, it was chillingly obvious what the phone call symbolised. With every ring being more sonorous than the last, I fell out of this world and into another. There I stood in my kitchen, a hollow shell of a person, incapable of thinking, feeling or reacting.

After Henry's passing, I slept in my childhood home for a week before I travelled back to my own. I was only fifteen at the time and barely knew how to use a camera - but it was the only thing I had with me. Whilst there, I made an active decision to document every single trace and memory that I had of him through the objects he once touched, built and admired.

 

This photograph was taken during a conversation in my grandfather's room. This was the view that he woke up to every morning. Before his 71st birthday, my mother, aunt and I were invited to his room to look at the x-rays of his lungs, where his cancer had put down its roots. Being in a family of doctors, they had examined the photographs with a cold objectivity. I did not dare to look at him or the x-rays, for I did not possess the same objectivity.

 

In my 15 years, I had never stepped foot into my grandfather's bedroom. Whilst my mother and aunt examined the x-rays, I took my chances to explore the room that had been just across from mine and my brother's.

 

To touch the walls, to feel the fabrics that I had always wanted to. To walk around the room and imagine what it was like to be him.

 

We didn't spend a lot of time after my 6th birthday, but the time that we did share was the most memorable of my childhood. As we grew apart, I became exceptionally shy during our weekends of walking by the riverbank, and our days of reading and fishing. My shyness made it impossible to tell him that I loved him very much.

 

A month later after his birthday celebrations, Henry passed away in the hospital. In his last week, he hadn't enough strength in his body to shut his eyes. He had no choice but to sleep with his eyes open.

 
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The house I once spent most of my time in was left feeling cold and uninviting. I saw traces of him everywhere I looked. Like the last apples he picked or a page of a cookbook he had marked for when he next made supper.

 

Now the table we once dined at was gone and replaced with a small round table, draped with delicate lace. Instead of eight chairs, there were only two at the table. Instead of fresh flowers, there sat a woven basket of dry flowers decorated with wheat grain ears.

 

Henry was a keen gardener, and outside of foraging for mushrooms and berries in the woods, the two of us would spend hours upon hours in his garden. Every morning he would serve fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and a loaf of freshly baked bread. We would sit in the kitchen, planning our day ahead; every idea was met with a smile.

 
 

And so every day for a week before my leaving, I sat at the kitchen table looking out into the forest, nursing a small mad hope that he would soon rest his hand on my shoulder.

 

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But every evening as I looked out into the forest and saw nothing but black, I was harshly awakened by the sobering thought that he was no longer there.

 
 

After the funeral I never came back to the house.

 

I only came back to the cemetery to lay fresh flowers on his grave.

 

M.A.R.L.L. + H.S.L.