Original Post: August 13, 2011
I blew a tire last night at 1 a.m. at the intersection of Ball Road and Valley View, the intersection nearest the home my grandpa bought in the 50’s when there were mostly cow pastures. I pulled into the gas station on the corner, a blip of memory on my brain about how I used to buy gas for .98 cents a gallon in 1990, back when I was rolling around town in my gold VW.
Once I realized the tire was shot I got back in the car and sat there trying to decide what to do next. I was staring out of the window, hands on the steering wheel, listening to some Katy Perry song about Friday nights, reconstructing the intersection of my youth. That Starbuck’s used to be a DK’s donuts. This ice cream place used to be Foster’s Freeze. That used to be an Albertson’s. There used to be a Warehouse records in the corner. It’s all different, but still the same.
I walked here, I roller-skated there, I played in that park.
I decided to park the car and have AAA come in the morning. Called a friend for a lift and called it a night. While I was waiting for my ride, I suddenly became aware that a singular thought was repeating itself in my brain on a loop, like I had OCD, like my life movie had a glitch.
“I wish my grandparents were home.”
My grandmother, we called her Nana, passed in 2007. My grandfather, we called him Gwan-gwa, has dementia and is in the care of family members. My mom and my Tia Frances sold the house to put the money in a trust account for my grandpa’s care.
The house is there, but my home is gone.
Three generations of my family grew up in that house, ending with my son.
There was a giant maple tree in the front yard and us kids would climb the branches until we were higher than the roof of the house and we would swing down, flip around branches like gymnasts, and jump off. My grandpa finally started cutting branches off the tree when he realized we were climbing on the roof. Eventually, the entire tree came down. My grandpa would spend hours raking leaves on the weekends. He would rake them into giant piles and my cousins and I would run and jump into the middle of them. I remember the smell of dusty maple and crunch of old leaves underfoot like it was yesterday, or at least last week.
I’ve seen old photos of my Mom at 18 washing her own VW in the driveway, other snapshots from the early 60’s where Nana is dressed like a Mexican Doris Day, hair fashioned into a sweet roll bun piled on her head and Grandpa is dressed like a mormon.
“Who says you can’t go home?” Isn’t that the way Jon Bon Jovi sings it? I drove by the house not long after it was sold. It was about 9pm. The lights were out but there was a car in the driveway. I slowed to about 3mph while I passed it wondering if it was a young couple who bought the place and if they would live there for three generations, their kids running out into the yard, while Mom yells, “Don’t slam the door!” or “Close the door!” or “Don’t go too far!” Yelling something after your kids as they run out of the house seems to be something you have to do when you’re a parent. Admonitions to kids as they run from houses always falls on deaf ears, yet generation after generation, we do it.
I’m glad I got to help paint and clean. I’m glad we were all there together to do it. My family, painting, cleaning and readying the house for sale seems to be the only way we could have done it. Together.
So, at the end, when the last piece of furniture was out and the floors had been swept one last time, I locked the door, stood in the driveway and remembered all the good, the trials, the cooking smells, the arguments, the days, months and years that made a lifetime and I said, “Goodbye, Casa de Aguirre, Ruiz, Palacios. ”
A house is just a building with termites and plumbing problems, a home is where your family is, where your heart is. This building, this house was the hub of our family. We could always go home and Nana would feed us, slip us a twenty and give us a nice place to rest for awhile before we moved on to the next thing in our lives.
It’s inevitable though, this stage in life where your parent’s and grandparent’s don’t live at home and your new home becomes the hub for your children and their friends and their children. There’s a new building to house the memories of the new generations, a new building which becomes HOME.
He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge –Proverbs 14:26