My father passed away almost 5 years ago, and my mom is selling the family house.
Everyone has memories of the homestead, so I'm not unique. But, because my dad is gone now, they strike even harder. That house is something tangible, made of his sweat and blood, and that's all that's left.
I can recall being an awestruck 7-year-old watching him build the rock walls around the house, cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve, swinging a sledgehammer like it was as light as a feather. I would hand him stones the size of baseballs, while he hurled mammoth boulders that I knew no other man on earth could have even carried.
I watched him landscape every inch of the yard, build a deck, cut trees ... it was those moments that I learned to aspire to something. I was just the fat kid at school that people would pick on, but someday I would be a man, like that, and I knew I would make good.
My dad was only 22 or 23 when I was born. The man gave his entire youth to create something for his family, from the time he was 19 until he died at 54.
I sometimes think about where he was in life when he was my age, and it shames me. Not just because I have no house or children at 36, but because of why, because of the selfishness and foolishness and flat-out cowardice that has left me so far behind.
That house would be -- should be -- my redemption, a way to maintain and add to what he began, to show him, wherever he may be, that I can carry those stones now.
And all that only adds to my bitterness, because the market is much different than in 1974, and the lot in Ansonia that he built that house on is worth a hundred times more now, way out of my reach.
And I think that's just wrong.
You know, this post originally started as my recollection of all the pets I had buried in woods at the edge of the back yard, and how I would feel weird not having them be part of the family anymore ... but now I realize, there's a whole lot more in that soil.