The Cave

When my parents were house-hunting in 2015, they liked this house. From pictures, they thought what we came to call “The Cave” (or to Dad, his “Man-Cave”) WAS the basement. Turned out that it was actually an extension on the house, and a whole additional space.

It’s this huge, open room…probably more square feet in that room alone than some entire houses.

But it was very much Dad’s from the start.

And he filled it.

It “came with” a full-size pool table as ell as a full-size foosball table, and a dartboard/darts with lighting. He added a mini air hockey table, a huge arcade-style basketball game, and a full-size arcade skiball machine. The old treadmill and a small exercise bike kinda rounded stuff out as far as “equipment.” But he also had this large hotdog cart (that never got fully assembled or tried). A full size popcorn maker (that worked but didn’t get used enough). Some sort of slushie machine (flavored ice).

And he was always planning on having a full-size poker table, as well as a full-size slot machine. There’s some sort of “Plinko” game somewhere in stuff as well.

Definitely a difference between him and me on that stuff. He relished these larger, “physical” games and such.

Whereas I far prefer videogames and card games and miniaatures games. Between the BOTH of us we could definitely have had an “arcade” in that cave. But I sometimes told him rather than the big machines, I’d rather we get some of these video arcade machines.

I own two as it is: a TMNT one with the original arcade game and a sequel; and a Mortal Kombat one with the first three MK games. And prior to the covid price-spikes I was highly intending to get Dad the Ms. Pac-Man one!

Even before losing him, I was already “plotting” to find time to lug these two Arcade-1-Up machines upstairs to show him and to “place” in the Cave. Especially as he’d already decided to get rid of the skiball and basketball; I’d been figuring move these games upstairs to his Cave, put them on furniture sliders, and then be able to easily slide them around to where-ever would be best; his lift-chair, or where he could get at them with the power chair or scooter.

All this stuff, though? This is BEHIND the “living area” of the Cave. The “front” of the Cave is a living area–lift chairs on both ends of a couch; a couple other large chairs; a wall-mounted 80(-ish?)-inch tv; a fireplace, floor to ceiling windows out to the patio, etc.

I’m not 100% positive at this point, but I think I might actually have been a big reason for the setup like that. Figuring the sitting furniture could be lined up like being against a wall to be around for the tv, but leaving room to get around and to the rest of the space for everything else. Then when you’re sitting on the couch or a chair, you can watch tv as if that’s the extent of the room. But it’s wide-open and not just some small little tv room or something.

The previous owner had the walls COVERED in “beer lights,” apparently. Neon signs and such for various beer brands and whatnot. Lacking those, Dad had a bunch of “pictures” or “paintings” hung around the cave. I put those in quotes cuz for the most part, none of them were specific. They’re “art pieces” he got from some wholesale thing, and mostly are there for the sake of being art on a wall, as opposed to anything of significant personal resonance.

In the “foyer” between the Cave restroom and the laundry room, though, there are (at least as of this typing) two 11″ x 17″ Green Lantern prints: the covers from the 1990s’ series issue #100, both signed by artist Daryl Banks. Soon after my parents moved in, I hung them, figuring they “paired” well, and also was curious if or how long it would take for them to be “noticed.” (Not long, but they remained there.)

Particularly after 2017 and Dad’s health issues from then, he basically “lived” in the Cave. I can only remember a handful of times his actually going back to the bedroom; mostly “bad nights” when stuff was going on and he couldn’t get comfortable.

So while his “stuff” made it HIS “Cave,” it also is the part of the house I most associate with him, personally. This house is full of his presence, but the Cave was HIS.

(And while the term “cave” might sound negative, for me it certainly is not…I just never cared for the term “Man-Cave” since it was also the main tv-watching space for him and Mom (and sometimes me) and so was a different connotation). And along the way the term just stuck.

With Dad gone, though…the cave has such a different FEEL now. And part of me hates the idea of “getting rid” of so much from it…even as I’m comforted by the fact that he had already agreed to–and was somewhat actively attempting to–get rid of the basketball and skiball. We never really USED the air hockey, so I don’t have much “associated” with THAT to keep it. The exercise bike thing does’t work properly (but it was perfectly fine for his physical therapy use!). The hotdog card, slushee machine, and popcorn Mom and I just are not gonna use, or certainly not enough to justify ’em…especially when microwave popcorn is just as good and so much more convenient.

And while I’ve crammed soooo much “stuff” into this basement–I’d made the “mistake” once of referring to it as my “Comic(s?) Cave, and that’s what stuck with Dad, so this was always my comics cave to him–Mom and I have pretty much decided that I’m going to largely “take over” The Cave.

I struggle with guilt over that on the one hand, cuz there’s that part of me that’s almost “excited” for the space, to see what I can do with the space, to have MY collection out and open and such. While on the other hand, the fact that I “get” that space is because Dad is gone, and that price is absolutely NOT worth it ONE LITTLE BIT.

So I balance that with the notion that it’ll be “sharing” Dad’s space. Dad’s “Cave.” And where he was always so interested in what I’d done with the space here in the basement, moving a lot of stuff up to the Cave, he would have been able to see it, too, rather than just photos.

Because of trouble with his knees, and then losing the ability to walk in 2017, Dad was only ever IN this basement once or twice…BEFORE moving in. So everything I’ve crammed in down HERE, he ONLY ever got to see as photos or videos; or hear about from friends who’d been down here (or Mom, the handful of times she’s been down).

But as much as I wish I could change the past, as much as I wish he could still be here…there’s that cold, clinical fact that he’s not and can’t be and so the space is there, and rather than leave stuff around that he was already going to get rid of or that needed to be gotten rid of and having a huge, gaping hole in the house (so to speak)…it “should” be used.

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