In a bit less than six hours, I’ll be closing on my parents’ house, which has stood vacant since the summer of 2009. My family is the only one that has lived in the house — when my folks decided to purchase it in 1978, it was three boards and a foundation. When we moved in on 13 August 1978, it was the first new house my parents had ever owned. With the exception of about two years of college, I basically moved out when I was seventeen, but it’s still very much the house I think of when I think about home — Christmases, birthdays, and the like. And of course, when I think about the house, I think of Mom and Dad.
So I went to the house today, for one more walkthrough before this afternoon’s signings. It’s cold and gray with flurries today in Northern Kentucky, one more dose of raw before spring really gets here. “What instruments we have agree…”
I sat in the van, in the driveway, for a few minutes before I went into the house. I sent a text to Mrs. M back in Mondoville to let her know where I was, got out of the van, and walked up to the front door, carrying my keys and two bottles of Sun Drop.
You see, Sun Drop was my Dad’s favorite soda, and is typically mine as well, rivaled only by IBC Root Beer. But unlike IBC, Sun Drop isn’t sold up here — it seems to be most popular in the deeper South, what folks might think of as NASCAR country (in fact, Dale Earnhardt was apparently an endorser). While neither Dad nor I were fans of stock car racing, we both were quite keen on Sun Drop, and started drinking it when the drink was reintroduced in Tennessee in the 70s.
But when we moved to Kentucky, we learned that no one carried it, and it became something of a taste of home. When we’d head back there on family trips, we’d buy some, and if there was room in the car and the budget, we’d take some back North with us. But after my mom’s folks died, there were fewer occasions to go there, and so Sun Drop became a rare taste indeed.
Then, in their later years, more distant relatives would come up to visit, and knowing what my Dad liked, they’d bring cases of 2-liter bottles with them, like Carry Nation‘s version of Smokey and the Bandit. And when I moved to Mondoville eight years ago, Dad and I joked that one of the reasons I took the gig was to have access to the fizzy yellow drink. Dad came down to visit me twice — once to look over the house we were buying, and once with Mom, whose illness made travel difficult and rare. But when there was room in the van and the budget, we’d bring 2-liters with us at Christmas or during summer vacation. Dad said that was only fair, as he figured I’d drink a ton of it before we headed back home.
So before I left Mondoville yesterday, I bought a six-pack of Sun Drop, and as I said, I carried two of the bottles into the house. I stood in the kitchen, alone. It’s where Mom died, and as I looked out the back door, it occurred to me that I was standing where the police had found her body. Behind me was the stairwell, where Dad was found on the steps leading down to the den.
But I both never had to see those things and I always will, and I know that my parents aren’t there. Their bodies are back in Nashville, and I trust that they themselves are someplace far better. So I knew that talking to them was silly, but I did anyway, because I figure it didn’t do any harm either.
And I drank a Sun Drop there in the kitchen, and then I walked out onto the back deck. I saw buttercups blooming along the back fence, fooled by an early dose of spring before the cold weather returned today. My mom would both have loved the burst of yellow amidst the grey, and been angry that the cold weather would likely nip them within the next few days. But the entire back yard was her garden, and I suspect the new owner will be surprised from time to time by bursts of wild color at unexpected moments. I hope they please him.
I poured the second soda off the back deck — the yellow of the drink, the yellow of the distant flowers breaking the monochrome. Then I walked back inside; it’s cold today, and I didn’t think to bring a jacket, or even a long sleeved shirt.
I walked back down the stairs to the front door of the bi-level, and turning my head one way I saw the kitchen, while turning it the other way gave me a view of the stairwell. I spoke, hearing a tinny echo in my voice against the walls of the empty house.
“I love you guys. We miss you. And Dad, I hope you liked the Sun Drop.” Again, I know it was silly, but harmless, and I guess I’m glad I did it. Then I stepped outside for the last time, locked the door of what will be someone else’s house in a bit less than five hours, and drove away.