News: Hearing Voices in the Clutter

By Margaret Carlson-

HOUSES, if we look and listen, have secrets to tell us. I didn’t fully understand my parents until I finally faced up to emptying their house. Doing so would have been hard at any time, but it was even harder because I had waited 20 years after their deaths.

Not by choice, I had left the house exactly as it was and exactly as they wished, with my brother, Jimmy, brain-damaged by an epileptic seizure at birth, at the center of it. My parents had created a world in a quiet suburb of Harrisburg, Pa., in which he could thrive, and they expected me to do the same, although my universe consisted of a daughter, a column and a house 150 miles away.

But at a certain point, I realized that I was caulking leaks and replacing pipes at an accelerating pace that had to stop. Finally, last spring, my brother saw he was beginning to sag like the gutters and agreed to move into a group apartment.

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