Saturday, May 30, 2015

He Wanted a Home

This photo is of last summer's views. Before we built the ramp this spring.

From time to time, I speak of my wonderful mother and daddy, and some of you do know them in person. But perhaps the tale I'm about to relate will explain to you the essence of my dad. In my opinion, he is the ultimate optimist, the eternal saver, and the original fix-it fox. My dad truly believed he could fix anything and everything, never throw it away. Fix it. When he married my mother, they lived in an apartment for a little under three years, but he wanted a home of his own in the worst possible way. One night, the story goes, he cast his eyes across a field owned by my mother's father, spied a shell of an old house that was being used to store bales of hay and straw. "There. For a little bit of nothing, I could fix that up for a house to live in."

The wintry view through blowing snow a couple of years ago when I was stuck coming down the drive. This old house looked so cozy and warm...

And so he did. Well, actually it was just a little bit more than a little bit of nothing. It was a whole lot of something, and that something, I believe, was pure determination blended with love. How could I not love this house, I wonder, when I feel stuck, homeless, lost in time. My dad pulled off a rehabilitation akin or better than those done by Rehab Addict, one of my favorite HGTV shows. He had to pull out all the hay and drive out the raccoon and skunks that had nested right here in this very house. He had to determine what was salvageable and what was truly not. By the looks of these photos, I can't imagine how he decided that. My mother says he brought home one or two boards each paycheck, and he determinedly proceeded to make this house his home. She said that it took about one year to finish the house to a liveable state with no rest rooms or finished floors, but they moved in. If people came to visit, they had to watch my dad work! She said his brother in law, my Uncle Paul, (the daddy of my sister cousin), helped a lot, and often my dad's father went into town to get the other brother in law, Uncle Keith, when the situation called for a lot of hands.

For a little bit of nothing, he said...  What a vision!

These summer rains make me think of the story he liked to tell, my grandmother loved to tell, and now I'll share it with you. During one especially torrential downpour, my dad didn't come home from working on the house. Mom, Dad, and Baby Me were staying about a mile away across the field in my grandparents' home. He usually ate a bite of supper and came here to work, slipping in to sleep a few hours and then going to work an 8-hour shift as a lineman for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. On this monsoon-like evening, he just didn't show. My grandmother finally got into their car and drove over here to check on him at five a.m. in the morning. It's legend by now. My father was down in the hand dug basement he had made after raising the home on stilts and cutting off the bottom few feet that had rotted away. The water was pouring into the basement, eroding the mud sides. The whole house was on the verge of slipping into that crater of a basement and simply giving up the ghost. But daddy was scooping water and bailing mud out of his basement with a ten or twenty gallon bucket. My grandmother said She didn't even go up to the edge of the basement to look. She just sat there and watched the mud and water slosh up and over the rim of the earth. I guess she came home and told my grandfather, "That man wants a house in the worst way." <3

My grandfather, Paw-Paw, peering into the hand dug basement. No doubt my father was deep in the recesses of his dream!

Fast forward to a year later. Daddy, Mom, and I moved into this wonderful house, minus its wood floors saved from an old schoolhouse that was being razed. The fireplace was moved, the linoleum laid in the kitchen, which is still in fairly good shape after 65 years, coats of Panama Green coated living room walls... much like it is today. Daddy decided to add on a garage and a dining room and extra bedroom or pantry lovingly called the knotty pine room due to its tongue and groove pine boarding. That sufficed from about 1959 to the year after my dad had quadruple bi-pass heart surgery. Around 1990,  he and his Amish friends proceeded to build a bedroom from the garage and a barn from the materials gleaned from my grandmother's home. We had been forced to tear that dear, old, two-story girl to the ground due to the Right of Way of Highway... Another tale, of course.

I come from that kind of person. At heart I am that kind of person, except I don't have the skills or strength or knowledge to do what my mother and dad did and could do all their lives. I ran a different direction with my life, teaching school and flitting about. But it's no wonder that I'm about as stubborn as you can find. Determination and stubbornness...  almost the same coin, but they do spend a little differently. These old photos had been misplaced, and my mother, understandably, was forlorn about it. She thought I had done it, but I finally found them in a drawer where I know she tucked them right before she fell last Thanksgiving. Hallelujah! We are happy to see them once again and marvel at the gaping holes, the terrible condition, the pond in the front yard, and the little baby on my grandmother's shoulder, which is, of course, me.

Yes, that is a sixty year ago, little me. And yes... That is my dear five foot nothin' gramma with white high heels on...  it was summer, obviously. She worked so hard every day in those heels until her little feets were unable to wear almost ANY shoe at all! She didn't take her apron off to drive over. I wonder what on earth she was thinking about her crazy son-in-law! What I sure don't have is a photo of my dad standing beside this house. No sir. He was too busy deep below, on top, or somewhere else earning the money to pay for it.

At times I have pondered moving away to a brand new home with no crumbing linoleum, no creosote peeping through the walls from the old telephone poles he used for joists, from the square peg nails you can still see, from the little sections of termite-eaten shelving in a storage closet...  but nah... Not yet. As with most things, houses, cars, passions, this house needs a bit of time, effort, and money thrown at it to resource some new surfaces, paint over a bit of fading, revisit the re-birthing of a new vision for an old space. That kind of remodeling is fine with me here because, after all, I now sleep in a room located just a little to the left of the house you see in the old pictures, just a bit outside of the space that looks remarkable like an old fireplace had been jerked from the side of the house (because it had, its bricks carefully saved to use on the new fireplace built in a crooked little fashion by an old Swedish stonemason for my mother. I sleep right there in that window overlooking Mom's new ramp.

In honor of June and the month of Father's Day, this post says officially that I adored my Daddy, love to pieces my mother, and delight in every way to see their amazing attributes demonstrated in my wonderful son. My dad wanted a home, and he built one. I want a home, and I have one readily available for my attention and love. It may be time to "scoop some mud."

Have a wonderful June. Whimsy and Hugs!


Miss Merry said...

Wow, what an inspiring story! Your dad was a very special man. Can you imagine a young man today working that hard to have a home of his own? Sure doesn't sound like those people on house hunters who want it all yesterday! What a hard worker! And what special memories! So glad you found those pictures and were able to share these memories with us! I bet when you think of him, you burst with pride!

NanaDiana said...

What a wonderful story. You dad was a really determined man. I think that generation was a whole lot different than this one. They had to scrape to survive--and they did it. Bit-by-bit they built homes and fences and lives for themselves. xo Diana

Becky K. said...

Incredible! Every woman would wish for a man who would work that hard to provide for her. Your mother was blessed....even though I think many in the midst of all of those long hours he was working would wish that he was with them instead. But looking at it through the rear view mirror it is a very romantic story. Your Daddy definitely earned every bit of your love and respect.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, wonderful story of a home built with love. Your daddy was definitely a doer. The house is wonderful. I've always loved that house and it's location. I love you dear friend. Lisa P.

Tessa~ Here there be musing said...

This lovely post, leaves me a bit without words. And you know, it takes a lot, to leave me thus.

It is a beyond beautiful tribute to a beyond wonderful man.... Your Dear Father.

And to your Mama toooo. Because she was with him, while he did the magic.

While he did the impossible. While he produced a Home, out of nearly thin air. No it was out of wood and mud and determination. But isn't that a form of magic?

Many, many, many hugs to you, my Dear Friend...


Heaven's Walk said...

Oh Gayla! I so love hearing stories from your past! I can't even imagine the number of cherished memories that you still carry with you while living in the house your daddy built. Your mother must absolutely love it too. :) What a treasure!!! Every little crumble, every tiny bit of wear and tear is another sweet memory to tuck away. you have the summer off, right? I think it's time you wrote a book, girl! :)

xoxo laurie

Twyla and Lindsey said...

Wow! How amazing! You are so lucky to still live in that house! Twyla

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful, Gayla. I love it!
Your cuz, Ellen F.

Anonymous said...

You have touched my heart in a way that you will never know! Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt story of the love of a family. I have a house much like this one where my mother grew up. Many want to "get rid of it" but because of your post I am inspired to fight for it because it represents love and family to me. It may not be pretty to some but to me it is a castle!

Linda said...

Your Daddy reminds me of mine, bought an old house in Excello and remodeled off and on for years. When I was 18 they tore out the coal room and made me a new bedroom. There are days I wish I still lived there��