I have always been a nostalgic person. I am drawn to all things that preserve that which is simple, good, slow, and true.
This is why we built a farmhouse with shiplap, barn doors and rough sawn floors. It’s why I framed all the black and white photos of ancestors I’ve never met before, and the reason I begged my Grandpa to let us buy the last 5 acres he had left.
I am determined to restore that which is inclined to deteriorate.
Last year we built our house at the foot of the driveway of my Grandparent’s farmhouse. The porch swing where I used to sit on my Grandparent’s lap is now framed by the window above my sink. When I drink coffee on my back deck, my eyes gaze toward the rolling hill that slides toward the pond where I used to scoop up frog eggs and put them in a fish tank in my bedroom. Sometimes I wake up to the purr of my Grandpa’s tractor and I can hear the faint songs of their wind chimes and it reminds me that even though time keeps moving, good things remain. Every day, my two little boys pull their rain boots up over their pajama pants and head out the door with their disheveled hair. Their legs seem to spin faster than their feet can steady themselves as they yell back at me, “we’re going to get a cookie from Grama, MOM!” As I watch their little silhouettes become smaller and smaller up the hill, my heart is full because it is all slow, simple, good, and true.
Sometimes they come right back with a cookie and sometimes they stay awhile. They get settled on the living room floor with their feet kicking behind them and chin in palm, while my Grandma crochets her 476th blanket in her 1970’s rocking chair.
My Grandpa has deep almost-black eyes but they sparkle as if reflecting a treasure chest of jewels hidden deep inside. Ever since I was a little girl, he would look straight into my eyes, into the part that was a little unsure if I was ok. Just as his eyes almost disappeared in his smile he would say, “you are so beautiful inside and out.” It wasn’t the language he used, but it was the love-fueled words that built the most sure footed parts of me.
Sometimes he walks down the hill to my house and knocks unannounced to return a piece of Tupperware or deliver his homemade Tomato soup, the secret is soda water so the milk doesn’t burn, he explains. Hours go by and we’ve covered politics, parenting struggles, stories from his past, and more often than not we end up with tears in our eyes. The unspoken truth is, I am hanging onto the moments as my kids grow and are slipping through my hands just as he is hanging on to the moments as he watches his wife age and as his own life is slipping too.
“I could have been a better husband to Ruth and a better Dad to my kids” he confessed at 12:45am as we were loading the last boat after a long 5 hours at the ER. My Grandma was staying over at the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia. I followed them to the ER behind my Aunt because I knew he would not agree to go unless he had a ride home that night. We were sitting side by side in the waiting room and behind the face mask he said “I cant stay here tonight. I have to get back to take care of my dog.” It was as if he was really asking for some reassurance that he wouldn’t have to stay, I muffled back through my mask, “Grampa, it’s your right to leave. Don’t worry, you don’t have to stay.”
On our way home, I looked at him underneath the bright neon ferry lights, he suddenly looked smaller and aged and not the way I remember him as a child. “You did what you knew how and the best you could with what you had. But…you did better when you knew better because you have been the best Grandpa to me.” I said.
So, today in the same way we know that winter is coming because of the chill in the air and how the light sits different between the trees, I know this time I cannot restore that which is inclined to deteriorate.
I am making an effort to prepare myself to carry forward what they have given me but honestly, I don’t know if I am deserving of the task. Can I be a resting place for the young, the wild and free? Can I allow my roots to stretch wide and deep and be a still tall tree where the unsure little ones shade themselves under my leaves? Can I blow life into underdeveloped lungs convincing them that someday they are capable of breathing without me? Most of all, am I skilled enough to keep all the things preserved when the place they came from… is nowhere to be found?
The truth is, we will all face the day when it is our time to take the torch from the marathoners before us. The transition is like a whisper and it happens slowly but we feel it coming like the quicken of a baby before it’s ready it to be born. The question is, whether it be passing on the stories passed to us, making the Thanksgiving Turkey, or being a safe resting place…what will we pass on that is slow, simple, good and true?