Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Red Building

Recently I visited my Mom for Mother's Day. Going back to the mountains of Virginia always brings back memories. Driving up with my friend Linda we had a great time enjoying the views and the beautiful blue sky day we were having. By the time we got to the mountains the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees. It suddenly had turned cold. I had been attempting this trip since Christmas but the weather was in no mood to cooperate. So there we were, finally there and it was long sleeve weather, it figures considering the delay we had getting there for a visit.

Every time I make the trek back to my birthplace it takes a lot out of me. It is always emotional no matter how much I try to prepare myself for the experience, it always seems to make me sad. This trip marked over two years since my last visit. My half brother has a two year old, soon to be three that I was finally able to meet for the very first time. There she was in all her childlike beauty riding a pony at my sisters house and it just made me smile. She is adorable. It was the kind of sight that always warms ones heart.

The flip side of that is that it has been fifteen years since my Dad died. Since then we have held onto the property he owned for various reasons that I am not going to get into...lets just say that Dad had some outstanding debts that had to be retired. Finally we recently started talking about selling it. We had the property appraised and my sister recently contacted an interested buyer to discuss the property. When I was there I thought that this would be a good time for me to take one last quick look at the property and to take it all in. It was very sad to say the least.

The property has fallen into a serious state of disrepair. The house that I lived in as a child burned to the ground in the 1980's. What my father was able to rebuild would always be the reminder of what once was for me. The lone remnant of the property that I was able to remember fondly is what we always called "The Red Building". In 1976 my Dad started constructing an outbuilding, that we named "The Red Building" because of the paint we settled on. It was the first time I ever worked on a project with my Dad and I was only eight years old.

We moved dirt to shore up the foundation, the floor joists were provided by castoffs from the mine where my dad worked. I remember setting the four corners of the building and watching my dad use the level and setting string line to check to make sure he had the correct elevations and being in awe of him. My dad was so much more than just a miner, he was an electrician, a carpenter, and so much more. It was impossible for me to do anything but worship him as a child.

When my dad dropped a beam on his foot I stood by him and helped him ease himself to the ground and went for help. I doubt I did much but run and get tools, or bring him a glass of water or a cold beer but it was time that he and I shared that was just the two of us. Just a man and his son and looking back I am so thankful for that time and for those memories. It is a memory that my own half brother does not have and never had the opportunity to have.

Working on that building was one of the quintessential memories of my childhood. So there I was all these years later and I found myself staring at the overgrown property, the "house" falling in on it's self and yet I was only drawn to the red building. I made my way to the door and looked into the building as the door was ajar and not locked. I slowly fingered the nail heads there where the Master padlock once hung and I thought about my dad hammering away on that building. I remembered taking out scraps for the animals and dumping them on the ground at the the building. I remembered the hillside fire that scorched the earth on the mountain when my dad let a fire get away from him and we feared that the house would catch fire. So many memories came flooding back.

As I stood in that doorway I was looking back on years of history. My dad has long since passed but what I was looking for and what I found were sweet memories of my youth. I closed my eyes and on the right I could see three Zebco fishing rods that belonged to me and my sisters, the ends painted red, white and green so that we each knew which one belonged to each of us. I stood there and opened my eyes hoping to find a glimpse of those fishing rods. They are long gone, all that is left now are reminders of what once was.

When I was at my moms I talked to my sisters about my visit to dads property and I choked back tears. The last time I remember being in that house was the weekend we buried my dad and I had not set foot on the property in many years. That day though as I stood there on that property I could almost smell the earth that my dad had excavated to build that building. I could close my eyes and hear the sound of nails being driven into wood and I could remember the sight of my dad working shirtless in the backyard trying to teach me how to be a man and hold a hammer and I cried.

I cried for him, for loosing him so soon, I cried that he never lived long enough to see me grow up and become a successful man. I cried for the loss that every son has when they do not make peace with their father. I cried that finally after all these years the property is going to be sold and it is yet one more reminder that my own father and I will never find common ground that we can agree on. I cried because the very ground I was born and raised on will belong to another family.

The best part of my trip back home was remembering "The Red Building" and knowing that somewhere my dad was watching and he was with me as I retraced those steps from my youth, and knowing that he cried too.


Beverly said...

I am proud of you Rick. This is a touching reminder of your father, your family and your roots. I was drawn in by your post and can relate to it as I too lost my father "too soon" and understand completely about what it feels like to "go home". Beautifully stated. {hugs}

Anonymous said...

Rick I drove up to that old house a couple years back and it was very over grown at that point. I got out to walk around but feared for snakes so I just got back into the car. I hadn't been to that house since Grandpas funeral and Lisa lived there. Its touching to hear you talk about your dad. I never personally knew him but always knew of him. I wish I could have met him, and I know he would be proud of your achievements. "J"