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Paco Roca's The House

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Delicate drawings that depict a family coping with grief and emptiness in an old and familiar space.



Working full time and balancing my UX Design course and Learning Sciences course didn't allow as much time for personal reading as I would've liked. During the fall semester I started picking up graphic novels from the library to read before bed, none moved me more than Paco Roca's The House.


Grief


There were many moments throughout this book I had to pause to reflect. The way Roca paces each frame, a way for us as readers to think and reflect perhaps about someone we ourselves have lost. Roca is exquisite with his use of flashback and flashforward, shifting between memories of a once able bodied father who mischievously ate neighbor's fig trees and later grew his own garden, filled with lemons and pomegranates.


His children now coping both with his loss and the space he took care of, knowing the three of them could not fill his shoes as they clean up a now overgrown and unkempt backyard of a beach house they choose to sell.


I'm reminded of so much when reading this, as this pandemic has taken so many loved ones those around us, and how we've just grew accustomed to people dying daily that we've become immune to grief perhaps more than the virus itself.


Then we see popular media figures die back to back and we're reminded once again of how short life can be, but how full the lives of those once with us were.


Personally I know of multiple family members and friends who have perished within the past few years both from covid and other ailments, but the most moving of symbols was losing a cat I never quite got to own this past year.


For a good portion of my twenties, when I still lived at home on Long Island with my parents, my neighbor's black cat would pop up frequently in our backyard. But Night's personality was unlike any other cat's. He butted his way into our lives in a way in which I have never seen anyone or anything before this aggressively friendly. From popping up into the backyard to working his way into our home finding spots to call his own everywhere, he chose me to be his owner.


What is most difficult about the story behind the neighbor's cat, is his actual owner, Mike, who committed suicide about five months into the pandemic in August of 2020. At the time I had just started therapy two weeks prior. It hurt me so much to see that someone had been in such grave pain to choose to hang himself in the backyard shed instead of seeking help. As someone who has had a suicide in the family before, the trauma of having to absorb the pain of someone's death and go straight back to work was haunting.


Mike had every pet you could possibly imagine, cats, dogs, snakes, birds, reptiles, you name it, you could finally see whatever void he was trying to fill, he filled with animals.


Night's sister died shortly after Mike did. And when I moved back to my apartment after working at home on Long Island with the cat by my side daily, Night almost immediately after I left. I've heard from a friend that if pets are really sick they sometimes only hang on because their owners are around, and when I left to see him deteriorate so rapidly, I was consumed with guilt.


I finally became Night's owner the day I had to euthanize him, he was in so much pain and half the weight he usually was, I could not watch him unable to move. Seeing something living, breathing, full of life turn into a rag doll you take home with you in a box is a multi-layered emotional experience that we all eventually have to face.


But it is also in moment's like these we better appreciate what was given to us, the time we have on earth one another. Seeing each other as humans.


Back to Paco Roca's The House, depicting the family arguments that happen when someone leaves us, but also the type of resiliency and love we can find in one another when we most need it, even if we don't know we need it. Sometimes we are so used to blocking our emotions and feelings out, running on auto-pilot, switching between this app and that app, going through the motions of things we're supposed to be doing, be it cooking or going on dates, we rarely take a moment to fully experience and understand the person in front of us or even a pause to understand ourselves and what we're doing a little better.


As a fan of cinema and literature, great works give us a moment to pause, to think about something bigger than ourselves but also our place in it.

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Salam!

One day I want to live in a cottage in the middle of the woods with 50 black cats surrounding me as I type away my great Iranian novel. While one of my end goals in life is to write a memoir about my time in Iran, here is where I pull out thoughts deeply wedged in my cerebrum. 

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