Home Renovations Hold Painful Connotations

My mother is planning on redecorating the house within the next coming year or two. Being that my parents never renovated the home since they bought it in 1986, renovation is a very positive thing. But somehow I am not taking it so well.

On the one hand, I am excited to see my childhood home become more modern and increase in beauty. On the other hand, and this is a very heavy hand, I want to keep living in the home that my father used to live in. I am afraid, for example, that when we redo the kitchen, the new kitchen will feel starkly devoid of any memories of my father; that I will in turn feel my father’s presence less—or more accurately—feel his absence even more.

I have been pining away at this thought for the past year or so—the conflict that I have between wanting to have a better, brighter childhood home, and not wanting to change the way things were when my father was alive.

I do not know if there is a term for the grieving that happens when one renovates one’s living space such that it is unrecognizable to the person whom they once shared it with, for whom they long. I know that holding onto a loved one’s material items is a common form of holding onto their memories, and taken too far, a not-so-healthy one.

In general, I try hard to put organization and minimalist, Zen living above keeping items of sentimental value, but for some reason, renovating the space I used to share with my father, the home in which he and my mother raised me—I can’t seem to emotionally prepare for this.

Then this morning, I had a thought. The greatest part of the grieving lies in the feeling of moving on and redoing the home without my father ever having stepped foot in it or experiencing it for himself. Surely my father cannot physically inhabit this space, but I could think about what my father would say if he were in fact here during this renovation.

I could imagine the sort of design he would prefer. I could think about the discussions he would have with my mother, as she spoke with the interior designer to set up the plans.

He wasn’t one for modern-day design, but I am sure he would appreciate the user-friendliness of the new cabinets and the increased counter space.

My father cannot inhabit the space, but I can mentally bring him into it. I can imagine how he would participate in the process. And I can envision him grabbing an Israeli salad from the fridge and chomping down on it on our new kitchen counter. (He usually ate his snacks standing up ;))

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