You will still find him about the house.
His jackets are hung up next to front door and his shoes remain neatly stacked in the wardrobe. He would always wear his shoes indoors – even in the evenings, when everyone else would be in socks or slippers. This got on his wife’s nerves but she let it go because truthfully he did have sensitive feet. A pebbled beach was his worst nightmare.
You can still see the walls he painted, the shelves he built and the floorboards he polished. In most of the rooms one wall is brightly coloured while the rest is white. In the kitchen it’s a tangerine orange and in the living room raspberry pink. Everything is carefully chosen and nothing was done without quality. The dark wood of the three framed maps perfectly compliment the raspberry paint. And you’ll notice the maps are hung deliberately off-centre.
A ceramic of five clay men holding hands in a circle is hidden behind a leafy shrub in the garden, pushed down into the soil. This was given as a present and came with a tag attached that read ‘Friendship Circle’. He immediately went to put it in the outside dustbin, but the wife and daughter argued that this was a bit rude as it was a present and it wasn’t really that bad was it? As a compromise he agreed not to throw it away but still refused to have it inside the house. He was particular about ceramics.
The huge canvas faces their bed. When anybody new sees it they can’t help but be impressed. It is an almighty splatter of life. The colours appear at first to be in a mess; juicy, warm colours spread like jam. But if you take your time shapes will reveal themselves to you, like watching clouds. The green brushstroke is a half-submerged crocodile. The light pink flick is a flamingo’s head. And the red in the corner is the exact same colour as old blood. The droplets that came from his fingertips were that very colour.
The painting envelops you in the warmth of one of his hugs. Tea and sawdust.
In this house you may catch yourself sitting alone, staring at the dust. Wrapping two arms around your body to try and make up for the absence. The elephant in the room is you.
Don’t sit there too long or the loneliness that hangs from the curtains he fitted will make you cold.
At the bottom of the garden is a pond no more than a meter wide. Every year, to the neighbours’ astonishment, the frogs return. Those same frogs he released as tadpoles years ago; somehow they manoeuvre the suburban streets to find their tiny pond. They in turn lay their eggs, watched intently by twitching cats perched above the stirring water. On a bright day in spring you can see tiny black things scattered in the grass. Take one on the tip of your finger and there you have it – the minute, shining, perfect froglet. Wobbling its way into the world on barely formed, determined legs. Just like the rest of us I suppose.