There is nothing in my house that does not delight me. It is calculated thus, as all houses are – no accounting for someone else’s taste but it is suggestive of the peeps who live there, even when one hires a decorator.

I started making this little house different unbeknownst to my want: I was grieving, sad and lonely. Pissed. My favorite person had died, and I did not get to die with him, which had been our secret plan.

I remembered later, long after he died, when I was coming around toward but not there (normalcy) yet because I was able to think about how we had joked that we would final-exit together -- garage door shut, tailpipe stuffed, engine on. This made us grin each time we brought up the subject because we didn’t have a garage; we had a carport.

We contemplated being 80, our minds and bodies slowly betraying us toward a dwindling compos mentis and a thwarted ease of walking, squatting, and getting off the floor. We had no idea how bad it could get, even before mental and physical awkwardness. But we decided we wanted none of what little we could guess -- not for us the exposed life of stiff-bodied, blank-minded unknowingness. We hadn’t even taken into consideration pain, crabbiness because of pain, concentration on oneself rather than each other; oh, on and on, to death for him, to wishing death for me.

We had long decided we were not moving into “the home” where we could be kept alive forever, drugged and set before the tube. We would choose our time and hold fast together in the back seat as we had done six decades before when I got knocked up.

I thought then, in my youth, after the rabbit test, that I’d pinned myself in a corner. Who thought marriage was a good idea? No matter how much I loved the guy, I’d watched every marriage I knew, from my parents to my grandparents to my friends’ parents to casual couples in restaurants. I knew that marriage sucked.

Let alone a child at 21? Because my beloved did not have to be a pregnant person, he was happy about the rabbit test. It was not an era of easy abortion, and I was not at ease with having a baby and adopting it out. I was, after all, 21; I was, believe it or not, Colleen, an adult. I didn’t think much of the ritual of marriage, but I did adore everything about him. We would marry.

And so we did. Living together in sin was not an option in those medieval days in the Midwest with Catholic parents.

And honestly, aside from arguments, fights, leaving one another for a weekend or 12 days, and so forth, we had married and could not give it up for the life of us. We survived children, strict budgeting, a too-young-to-get married box, he in ‘Nam, I rearing a child...into love and trust and the prospect of a long soulmate life into our golden years, a travesty of an expression if I’ve ever heard one.

After suffering and pain on his part and exhaustion and caretaking on mine, his body just got sick of it all and died. Too young – 64 – and on I went into the sunset with no guide, no hand on my back, no laughter within range.

Soon, I sold our house and moved into a smaller house where he wasn’t coming out of the woodwork. Within two weeks, I knew this was where I would stay, for the house was holding me in its arms. I began work on it, made a house of color to color my days, to allow me smiles, to remind me how varied my life had been with him…. I mean, while married, I had my life of writing and editing (solitary, boring, endless, pitifully paid, now and then a thrill); he had a life as a homicide detective, a poker dealer, a golf club maker, a wanderer (with me), a house builder. His path was much “funner” than mine, so I followed to great and sub-great adventures.

There is nothing in my house that does not delight me, and even though I bought the place because he had never been in it, now he is coming out of the woodwork. After all, I’ve placed photos and drawings of him in every room (he was trés photogenic and always slim, somewhat of a sartorial dude, conscious of how he dressed, even if it wasn’t tux-time but a shorts and polo shirt day); several times in every room, you’ll see him. He is once again my companion amid the color, and I wish I had his wallet that I inadvertently painted at a time when we were using the same desk – he for bills and crosswords, I for art. He feared that if he sat still for too long, I’d paint him.

The house that is full of him comes in full I-Feel-Happy pallet – Ahh, orange ‘n pink ‘n Mella yella Wella, wella, life’s-a-swella Wanna yella “Bella! Bella! Tarantella! Kiss a fella Make a me a smilin’ gella All awhile a tella tella Stories happy, mella mella Into my life no hella-spella Only mella, mella, Bella Ahhh, Tangerine Cerise, Vermillion . . . ‘n mella yella

This poem is me, thinking about thee, lovin’ fella. See ya in my dreams, in my poems, in my house, coming out of the woodwork.