My Attic, My Cave
My Attic, my Cave
By Michael Feldman
Recently I went to visit my brother in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From sunny California.
Also to visit my fathers house. I have not been there since he died 24 years ago. He died from Pancreatic Cancer at the age of 89.
My brother who I have not seen for about 10 years when we used met in Las Vegas for a family vacation. We rented a large suite in a big hotel. Joe and Florence only gambled the penny slots and he got free drinks from the casino.
Joe seemed to look the same but a little shorter and grew his hair longer and dyed it black. Something some older people do to look younger. He always wears black pants and black shirt. The Elvis look. Pittsburgh seemed to have many Elvis styled men walking around. Living old memories. Eating a lot of Italian food.
Since the steel mills were shut down the city looked cleaner and new generations were building cafes and bakeries also many ethnic restaurants were now becoming popular. The universities were bringing in many students from all over the world. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean, also large Russian and Jewish communities are still there from the original old Pittsburgh.
My dad’s house was in such a community. Mostly Jewish but now changing to an ethnic community.Young and old. Houses filled with rabbi families and some with students.
At first looking at my dad’s house from the sidewalk it looked strong and big. But the more I looked it was falling apart. The windows were blocked by newspapers and the front door had many locks. The old door was heavy with wear from winters gone by. An old lawn mover was abandoned near the front steps. Cracks on the sidewalks leading up to the porch. Porch furniture was dirty. A large pine tree was blocking the view of the second floor windows. When I was a kid i loved to look out the windows of my room when it was snowing. I would sit by the window into the night and do my artwork. Paint pictures of the snow and sometime paint imaginary place.
Lots of things have changed. Especially since nobody had lived there for 24 years. But the charm and memories were still there. It was great to know there was a home I could come and live at from growing pains in my life.
I unlocked the front door after a hard push over the wrinkled rug. I was totally amazed. All the lights were on. My paintings were still hanging up that I painted in art school. And all of the furniture my father and stepmother lived with were still there. Marble coffee table and sofa with plastic cover. The reclining chair my father used to sit in was still in front of the TV. Old VHS tapes sitting by one of the televisions in the living room.
The rose colored carpet was now very worn and dirty with many stains. Sepia photos on the mantel of family after the war in Germany. I was just 10 years old when we moved to America.
We were lucky to have such a strong beautiful home. Also many photos of my dad Harry and Sarah my stepmother through out their lives. photos of them dressed up and casual photos in the park and parties they had gone to. So many pictures in small glass frames.
What startled me was that nothing was in order. A total mess of garbage bags filled with clothes and towels also curtains and sheets. An array of junk from old dishes to newer toasters, nick knacks and old books. Broken items. Broken china. Broken empty picture frames. There was hardly room to sit. Televisions on top of television most not working. Some tv sets had the picture tube taken out and the tv used as a junk holding stand. The kitchen which had been remodeled before my father and Sara died was now getting old. Food that was easily over ten years old was still in the cabinets. The refrigerator was torn out and an empty spot was there. Lights would be on and the off. Windows were blocked with plywood. The bathroom off the kitchen was hardly used.
Upstairs on the second floor are three bedroom and one very small bed room for a child. Also a bathroom with an old tub. My father and Sarah in one bedroom, me in an adjoin room and my brother in another. The smallest room was used for storage.
My old room was recently repainted, but it looked like it was specially painted to cover up something that happened in the house. My dad’s room was also painted and new beds installed. Again more trash in trash bags that needed to be thrown out. The closets were a mess filled with everything from boxes with junk to old unwanted clothes. Carpets stained with recent paint droppings and windows nailed shut.
The hallway brought back memories of my father dying of pancreatic cancer. Walking down the steps throwing up in paper bags. He wore old pajamas. An image I will not forget. After Sarah died he got cancer and six months later he passed away.
What happened to my dads home? Nobody lived there. My brother visited the house almost every few days.
The memory of my happy childhood crumbled with the house.
As I opened the door to the attic I felt a cold breeze come past me. Almost as though a ghost passed by me and had been trapped on the third floor. I creaked up the stairs past old boxes and shoes on the steps. It was very dark of the night. I used my cell phone as a light. There are two rooms again filled with discarded items and empty frames where paintings once were displayed in. It was so dark. I wanted to take photos and my flash created an eire feeling. Ghost seem to come from the walls. flying across the room. some photos in frames looked at me as though they knew who I was. I took more and more photos. Sounds came from the room with every flash. Images were blurry and colors turned to green and white.
I had gotten the feeling that I went back into a primitive time as though I was in a cave looking at the marvelous walls of art, hunters and animals being hunted. A part of me that is so old and so needed to remember. Millions of years old. Just like cave art my paintings and old photos told of a history. Who was that woman staring at me in the photo on the mantel? Where was I in time? I had opened the door to not only recent memory but also millions of years old. A part of me.
I wanted to bring away with me some art that I could meditate on but was more frightened to disturb the spirits that were in that room. It was cold and a breeze of cold air again passed me.
I hurried down the stairs with fear and locked the door.
Then I went to bed.
Throughout the night I heard sounds as though someone was in the house. But they were not frightening sounds. More like my father and Sarah arguing as they always did about everything.
They were making quiet sounds maybe saying
” don’t wake him let him sleep”
Maybe this visit needed to be. For closure and gratefulness of learning not to be afraid of our millions of years of ghosts and art that is left behind to show we are and we’re part of living life.