I wrote this post on the flight back from my grandfather’s funeral several months ago. I was on the fence about sharing it, but today my mom called with news that brought everything full circle…
This weekend, I said goodbye to my 100 year old grandfather.
Six months ago we gathered for his 100th birthday. It was a weekend full of family, and fun. My sister and I got to spend a rare kid free few days playing tourists in a town we often traveled too but rarely saw. We went to lunch shopped, had cocktail hour on my aunts front porch, and reconnected with distant relations that we rarely got to see.
This weekend, we also gathered to celebrate his long life. We also got to reconnect with our distant relatives, and have cocktail hour in the kitchen where so many of my life memories were made.
During the service, the minister commented that my grandfather had lived most of his life (80) years in about 2 square miles. He moved to the area when he was 10. The store his father, and then he and his brothers owned. The home he built for his family on land his father gave him. And the church he belonged to and then helped to build and grow. All of these places were in a solid square of land. Later when he moved in to take care of my great grandparents, the property was across the road. At the ripe age of 91 he remarried and moved a few miles away to live with his new wife and my aunt and uncle lived alone in the house.
As my family gathered it became clear to me that this was an end of something. The house which was built by my great grandmother is the last place that carries on unchanged since my childhood. Other than painting the rooms a color other than green, and updating flooring, everything in that house is the same as it always was. So many memories reside there and in its surroundings.
My first day there I was with my parents and aunts and uncles when we had to go to the funeral home and decide if the casket would be open or closed in the viewing. One look, and I knew, I needed to find some other way to say goodbye, because while physically it was he, it wasn’t my grandfather in that box. When we got back to the house, I asked to be allowed in the shop to try to find what was left of my memory of a good kind man.
Sure enough, one whiff of the smell of oil and gas brought me back to my childhood. Walking by the barns and into the pasture. Gazing at the field he used to plant with enough produce to feed every widow in the county. There I found him. Every part of that land reminds me of childhood rides on the pony or in the buggy. Walking in the pasture with the cows. The man I missed spent most of his days outside until he wasn’t able. He mowed his own lawn well into his 90s.
My aunt has been trying to sell the home place. I understand and don’t condemn her for it. It’s a lot to maintain. She wants to retire from tending barns and pasture, cutting grass, and an old house with problems. The past few years of tending my grandfather in his failing have taken their toll. It’s hard when I realize that this trip is probably the last time we will have gathered around the dining table. The table where my aunt taught me how to set properly with china. Where birthday Christmas was always spent until we all grew old enough for college. Christmas in my memories is spent in that living room opening gifts. First with my great grandparents and then grandparents.
What saddens me perhaps the most, is that it was the place we gathered. With it gone and perhaps that won’t happen for a year or more. I hope for my aunt’s sake it’s soon. With it gone, with my grandfather gone, will we find a reason to gather?
What my mom shared with us today is that the property has closed and was purchased by a group that wants to keep it as a farm. they are planning on renovating the big barn in the second picture as a teaching space. They are even incorporating an owl into their logo in honor of the name of the well on the property. It was a stopping point for travelers on the way to the tobacco markets and called Owlsborough. Originally, the house stood in the midst of 100 year old oaks. Over the years they had to be taken down. If I could have had one dream it was that this place would be kept as is and not subdivided. It looks like that is what will happen. To top it off, it might just be a place we could visit with the kids as a tourist in the future.