Two years ago I packed up most in my little house in Puerto Rico with the help of my son and we boarded a plane back to New York. With my father in tow, in a wheelchair, and two little dogs we must have made a spectacle going through customs. I was almost certain that it was the right decision to bring my Dad back to the home that I knew, not the one he’d become accustomed to and enjoyed for eight years. Living in Puerto Rico had been, for him, the realization of a dream to return to his home town. My uncle and aunt were in frequent contact with him. There were games of dominoes held on the porch. Relatives and friends found their way to the little yellow and white house we call home on the island. Little by little the family dynamics changed, my aunt passed away suddenly, my uncle became bedridden, and my father began forgetting how to get home when he picked up his morning bread at la Panadería. He stubbornly refused to come home to New York, Not yet!
A neighbor called me one Saturday morning to tell me that the police were going to issue an order for my arrest for neglecting my father if I didn’t come and take care of him quickly. I flew down the next morning and stayed with him for a month. I thought about staying in Puerto Rico. I almost quit my job. I decided to return to work the night he wouldn’t go inside and it was late. I worried that I couldn’t handle it myself and I was right. My dad was very ill. He could barely get around. We found out through MRIs and CT Scans that he not only had multiple strokes but he also had Alzheimer’s disease. We went through the ups and downs of moving him into our Brooklyn apartment that had never been his. The sound of the lock opening in the middle of the night as he attempted to flee is something that I’ll never forget. The progression of home attendants that didn’t work out for various reasons was disheartening. It was tough to say the least. We’re fortunate that we found a fairly affordable assisted living facility for him. He is well taken care of and I can sleep at night without burdensome worry.
Two years later I’m back in Puerto Rico and have placed my little yellow and white house on the market. My anxiety has been high. I’ve been torn between the idea of letting go of a dream. I can truly understand what emotional hoarding is all about. I know deep in my heart that when I do sell the house that I will be left with a blessed open space in me for new things that my Higher Power wants me to experience. Being tied to an empty house is not fruitful for me. There are so many losses I feel about my dad. His guitar playing, his singing, and most definitely his cooking! I miss his storytelling. I miss him. He’s still very much alive but I miss him. The interactions stolen by progressive Alzheimer’s disease is heartbreaking. But the house is not my father.
I imagine that a new family will move into this lovely space and enjoy meals here such as the ones we cooked in our happy kitchen. They will appreciate the early morning sun pouring through the dining room windows, and the neighbors who are caring and kind and who weathered Maria- that awful hurricane that devastated the island. They will enjoy the nearby beaches, the glorious sunsets, and the sounds of the coquis chirping throughout the night.
I don’t have all the answers. I know that the house captured my heart and that as I ease through the motions of selling it that someone else will come forward and also feel the life and love that this corner of the world holds. So, we’re packing and sharing memories. Today, my daughter reminded me that I can come back to this beloved island whenever I want. It’s bittersweet this trip, but the sweetness is one that I savor. We’ve had a good run here on Puerto Rico. My dad got to live out meaningful years here. We visited often and loved every day we were here. For all this, I am grateful.