It’s been 106 days since my father, Hector Jourdain, died and 62 days since his funeral. In the 44 days between his death and his funeral, my brother Robert and I did almost nothing to his house at 70 Dufferin Street. His shoes stayed by the door, his cane hung from the radiator, his clothes stayed in his closets, his cupboards and fridge stayed full.
It was a transition time, an adjustment period for us, the house and dad’s spirit as we planned what to do. Forty-five years of life in that house. Forty-five years of accumulation by a man who never threw anything out because it might be useful. Forty-five years of filling a wood workshop in the basement and a metal workshop in the garage. Forty-five years of life and all it throws at us.
We gave dad a good send off. His house was full of people, stories, laughter, food and drinks. I spoke about him before the funeral began and we included communion in the service. The priest did a great job capturing the essence of dad, describing him as steadfast. Our cousin Raymond did one of the readings in French. Afterwards we had a feast at the reception.
And then we got to work. The plan was to pull up the old carpets in the house, revealing the old hardwood on the main floor and a mishmash of tile and linoleum upstairs, find homes for some of the furniture and get the house ready for market. That is when Divine Guidance literally walked in the door.
As the carpets were being pulled up, a stranger arrived at the house. He had heard through the owner of the company pulling up the carpets that we might be selling the house. He was interested. We walked around the house. I shared stories about dad. We talked about our intentions for the house, that Robert and I knew it needed to go to someone who would give it the tender loving care it needed for its next transformation. The house is solid, was well looked after and a bit dated in décor. It was why we were pulling up the carpets. So what needed to be done would be clear to whoever bought the house.
He came back several times and with family. It felt like he and his family were connecting to the house. They understood it and they understood a man like my father. He made a private offer on the house, Hector’s House, including keeping some of the furniture and equipment.
The rest of the furniture found good homes. Sofas, chairs, a cupboard and kitchen things went to a recent immigrant. Dad’s chair went to a young woman whose physiotherapist recommended she try sleeping in a Lazy Boy to deal with a pain issue. One chair went to a woman who wanted it as an upholstery project. The final glass coffee table was claimed yesterday, my last day at the house, as a truckload of unusable stuff was taken from the basement of the house – the third such load. And, of course, Robert and I and my children chose a few precious items for our homes.
In some ways, the hardest part was dad’s workshops. They were his identity; signifying who he was and what he most loved to do. Most of the woodworking equipment and tools went to my two older sons. A few things are staying with the house. Dad’s neighbour, who of late I’ve been calling my neighbour, came over one day and sorted the woodworking tools and equipment. I told him how things were to be divided for my sons, with more allocated to the son who has a house and a room for a workshop.
A few before and after pictures of the basement.
When he was done with that he organized everything else into categories. I couldn’t have done it so well. He came over another day and helped organize the odds and sods that were left in the house. He and his wife had become good friends of my dad and of me. They also have a few precious mementos of their friendship. They were watching over the house for us. They had listed their house for sale last summer. For a variety of reasons, it took several months to sell. Their close date is May 7 – my mother’s birthday. The close date on dad’s house is today – May 1. Divine timing.
We advertised the metalworking equipment and the response was surprisingly swift. Among the equipment, dad had two lathes: a smaller one and a big solid one. There were lots of inquiries about the smaller lathe and none about the bigger one, probably due to price and size. One of the days I was in Lunenburg, people showed up for the equipment. One man showed up early with one of his sons. He was interested in the smaller lathe but there had been earlier inquiries about it.
While he waited, he helped two other men get the drill mill out of the garage and into their truck. He and I chatted. The more we talked, the more it became clear that the larger lathe would suit his purposes better but it was priced at almost twice that of the smaller lathe. I called Robert and we talked about the price and the man.
We offered him a much reduced price from what we had advertised. Because he is the kind of man who will take care of the equipment in the same spirit as dad. Because he will make great use of it. When I told him the price, his eyes grew wide. He told me he would never sell it. When he was done with it, it would go to his sons.
He had to come back to get it as it was too big for his truck. So, a few days later he showed up with a flat bed truck and his two young sons who clearly show an aptitude for mechanics. Polite, friendly, curious, talkative, endearing. It was clear the new owner of the lathe knew exactly what he was doing and that this was meant for this man and his family.
Dad’s garage was covered from end to end with tools, scrap metal and other bits and parts. While people who came for the equipment looked around and also bought a few other things, it was still a significant task to clear it out. I was told about a colleague of dad’s and called him. He came, looked around, thought about it and then came back with an offer for everything in the garage. Not only did he take away that which was useful to him, he cleared out everything. I’m pretty sure there were at least eight big garbage bags that came out of that garage that he also took away. The house wouldn’t have been ready without his work. He is a gentleman I will always remember kindly.
Before and after shots of the garage.
It is a strange thing to watch your father’s lifetime of equipment, furniture and life gradually and quickly disappear from the rooms, walls and the shelves. That it goes to places and people where it is useful and/or will be loved means a lot. Old blankets went to a friend to be used in building sweat lodges. Food in the pantry (that which wasn’t years beyond the best before date) went to a community food pantry to feed people who need it. There were enough dishes, pots and pans and kitchen stuff to fill the cupboards of three homes. My mother’s teacups went to friends who will treasure them. My kids each have some things that are meaningful to them. My daughter-in-law is taking mom and dad’s wedding clothes and will make memory bears out of them.
My house right now is a maze as I hang onto things for me and my brother, who couldn’t travel here because of the pandemic. We still have lots of things to sort through, especially pictures. And there are a dozen or more boxes of things to give away as soon as charities are accepting again.
Borrowing a phrase from one of my teachers, we have put a period on 70 Dufferin Street. On our life there. On a regular in-person connection to our hometown, even with all the family friends still there. Our family no longer has a presence there.
The house is ready and waiting for the new owners. I celebrate that it is not a transaction with unknown buyers, but a caring transition to people I know dad would have liked, done without the fanfare of a for sale sign. A quiet transition, like dad would have wanted. There is no question in my mind dad has had a divine hand in what has transpired in the last 62 days – and I just noticed January would have been mom and dad’s 62nd wedding anniversary.
Robert and I will be able to go visit and see the new lease on life that emerges in the next chapter of 70 Dufferin, after this period that marks the end of an era.