The saddest thing about houses, I think, is that they can’t tell when someone is dead. They blithely support all the crumpled prescription slips on the countertop as if the deceased will be back any minute, lovingly maintain full laundry hampers that will never be emptied. Only dust makes it clear, in time, that they are empty for good.

I’d resolved that wasn’t going to happen to Dad’s place.

He’d lived alone for years, stubbornly alone, insisting on doing what he could do on his own and cutting out the rest. “The rest” had mostly meant me and Mom, though with her in the home for Alzheimers I suppose he could be forgiven. He could barely take care of himself at the end, much less anyone else. We hadn’t spoken in months, nearly a year.

About a week after the service, and two weeks after they’d found him slumped over on a park bench, I first broached the house to try and see about getting it cleaned out. There wasn’t any nostalgia on my part, since Dad hadn’t lived in the house I grew up in for years, but in many ways that made it worse. The place was all Dad and only Dad to me, every mote of dust suffused with his presence.

Wandering through the garage, I saw that his tools were still laid out on the workbench. I don’t know tools; he might have been tinkering with an automobile part that sat there in a greasy puddle, or maybe on the wood carvings he’d occasionally whittled away at.

Maybe they’d just been out to be out, to have something to look at and work with. It couldn’t have been easy with his arthritic fingers, but organizing tools had always been one of Dad’s great joys.

The kitchen carried that theme of organization that had been Dad as long as I could remember. Prescriptions laid out crumpled but neat in the order they expired, lists of chores that he was still able to do at 85, and of course the big stained whiteboard calendar that had been his weekly schedule as far back as I could remember. I’d always hated it, hated the way it had filled up with soccer and softball, and I’d caught hell a few times erasing events I didn’t care to attend as a kid back in the old house.

Only one event was on the calendar for that month, written in over the ghosts of a hundred others on the day Dad had died. “THURSDAY 3/31: CALL SON.”

I recoiled a bit at that, stumbling backwards and groping for purchase against the shock.

Dad didn’t have any sons. I was his only daughter.

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