Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

The story of life is quicker than a blink of an eye, the story of love is hello, goodbye.” Jimmy Hendrix

I’ve been here for two weeks, rummaging, unpacking, sorting, and getting ready to let go. The letting go part is impossible even though I have no other choice. 

A stranger’s text appears on the phone. The query, similar to others that have come, questions the age, size, and condition of an item.  There is a story to be told about each piece, a story of a departure, a struggle and a rebuilding of a life in a new land. Not sure any of those who come to the door will want to hear these tales, but I need to hear them again. They give background to a life lived. 

I am in Calgary in the home I grew up in. My parents are both gone. My mother would have been 90 on the 23rdof June, but she died nine years ago.  My father died eight months ago. I’m here to empty their home, my home once, and get it ready for sale. 

One by one strangers come to the door. They pick up a vase they are interested in buying and I tell them where it was purchased. “That’s from my parents’ first trip to Venice. They were there in the mid 1990s. They did a lot of travelling after they retired.”  

A buyer admires our original television set with its spindly legs and heavy knobs. “So cool,” he says. I tell him how my parents saved for months to buy it, how when we moved into the house we slept on the floor until they could afford to buy beds for each of their children, then for themselves. The couch that came next, then finally that old T.V., how I used to sneak behind my father’s chair long after I was supposed to be in bed, just so I could watch whatever story was unfolding on the lit screen.  

Another stranger looks at a unique light fixture in the hallway and wonders if it is for sale too. I tell them the story of how my father, who was never a handyman, nearly killed himself when he fell off the ladder while installing it, how my mother wondered why she hadn’t called an electrician. 

These strangers are polite, they listen to all my stories, ask questions. They sense I’m grieving. Still. Always. Even as I’ve never valued possessions, my parents did. It was their way of rebuilding a life they had to leave behind when they left Egypt. I tell these visitors that story too, perhaps because in the retelling, it becomes real again.

I find my first published novel, Nicolai’s Daughtersin my father’s nightstand. It is weathered, the pages well thumbed. I reread what I wrote when I signed a copy to him. Dad, I wouldn’t have even begun to dream about writing a novel if itwasn’t for you and Mom instilling the confidence and belief in me that I could do anything. I have always known I was lucky to have you guys as my parents.

And I remember what he said when he finished reading that novel. “I loved the characters and their stories. I wanted it to go on and on. I didn’t want it to end.”


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