Ashes to Ashes

The last family photo made at Grandma's house. Christmas 2013.
The last family photo made at Grandma’s house. Christmas 2013.

A house isn’t a living, breathing thing. Not really.

But a house that is full of love, full of happy memories is beautiful and warm. It’s a place of comfort. A soft place to land when you fall. A beacon of light in what can otherwise be a dark world.

My grandparents’ house was that for me. As a child, it was more magical than Disneyland. I learned to roller skate down the hallway, learned to cook in the kitchen. Some of the happiest times of my life happened between those walls.

Once upon a time...
Once upon a time…

Over the years, we played football and volleyball in the yard. Put a baseball diamond in the field across the dirt road. My grandpa played with us sometimes, barefoot like he had when he was a boy. For a time, my grandmother allowed her dining room table to be replaced by a ping-pong table so we could have family wide tournaments on Sundays after lunch. We gathered for holidays, sure, but we also gathered for Sunday lunch. The house was often filled to capacity, but it never felt too crowded.

We’ve celebrated births and mourned deaths in that house. Even after my grandpa was killed a few years ago, being in his house made me feel like he was still around. I almost expected to hear his voice, calling to us from the living room like he used to do.

In January, on the coldest day of the year, the house burned to the ground. I’m thankful that my uncle and my grandma made it out. That overrides the sorrow over losing such a special place.

But it still hurts.

There are some places that become part of us. That help shape us and form us into the people we will become. Their house was that for me. We prayed as a family before every meal. An American flag flew out front, a testament to my grandparents’ patriotism–something they passed along to their children and grandchildren.

Jeremy, me, and Jeff, after a Sunday afternoon of playing at Grandma's. We had probably been playing Dukes of Hazzard...
Jeremy, me, and Jeff, after a Sunday afternoon of playing at Grandma’s. We had probably been playing Dukes of Hazzard…

Grandma is 94, and planning to rebuild. Her remarkable faith and courage is something that we can all learn from.  And I know that her new house will soon be filled with the same love and laughter as the old one.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times that I’ll wish for those old paneled walls and tiled floors and red brick. That I won’t miss seeing Grandpa’s old recliner and the photos that lined the hall.

But time marches on, whether we’re ready for it or not. The older I get, the more thankful I become for my family. And while I know it’s normal to miss the house because of the memories it held, I also know that the bricks and the concrete aren’t what made Grandma’s house magical.

It was the people inside.

Grandpa and Me
Grandpa and Me. If I could go back in time to that moment, I’d give him a hug.

 

 

 

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