Friday, February 16, 2007

What is the Meaning of This

I grew up in a town about 45 minutes from Portland; population 640. We lived on 11 acres with a great view across a valley. There was a great big deck off the front of the house to enjoy the view. There was a barn. For the bulk of when I lived there we had cats. There was always an indoor Persian or two, and outdoors were stray cats we fed and loved. We had a lot of strays over the years. The country was a popular place for heartless people to dump litters of puppies or kittens by the side of the road to magically disappear from their lives. We brought many of them home, but I can still remember the litter of puppies we saw at the river who had been drowned. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen. I think I was 10. The strays we brought home we had spayed or neutered, and it wasn't like we had a money tree in the back yard.

Before my parents got married, my dad and my future siblings had some chickens and rabbits, but the barn caught on fire. It didn't burn down, but the animals, tragically, died and were not replaced. I had a horse for about six months when I was in fifth grade. It turned out I was too young and wimpy to be able to clean out the stall well, and it had to be trained to be able to ride it, so the horse was sold to the neighbors who had horses. We had a dog for awhile that we adopted from someone. I can't remember what happened to him. Later, after all the kids were out of the house, my parents kept Cashmere Goats and various types of chickens.

We didn't use all the acreage for animals or farming. It was fenced, and we got our firewood from the trees that grew plentifully. There were tall fir trees, oak trees, madrones, and maples. My mom spent years landscaping around the house with native plants, advancing farther and farther up the hill that rose behind the house. Eventually they put a bench up there so you could sit and enjoy an even better view.

My dad retired in 1998 and began keeping bees. He planted clover in the garden area in front of the house, and lavender in a long strip along the driveway for forage for the bees, his "girls".

In December 2005 the Pacific Northwest experienced a major windstorm. It knocked down hundreds of trees and powerlines, some of those fell across houses and cars and destroyed them. The damage was extensive across a wide area, which included the city of Portland, but also places away from the city in a swath of 150 miles or more. My parents were afraid of the trees falling down on the house, since there were trees right outside, a few dozen feet away.

None fell on the house that year, although many trees did fall and fell close enough to scare anyone. That spring, my parents hired people to log the trees that fell; those that were still standing were limbed, and they assessed/removed any others that posed a hazard. After that, they felt much better about the threat of dying by way of falling tree.

Life rolled along until my brother died in 2002, after that we all sort of floated in our own strange space reeling from the loss. When dad died in 2003, it was another shockwave and none of us knew how we'd get through it. It hurt so badly, not only because they were both young and healthy, but because it was the same damn disease.

Unfair. Unfair. Unfair. But anyway.

My mom moved away and sold the house in 2004, not wanting to stay there alone and not knowing what to do.

Last month, I found out that a tree had fallen across the house and destroyed it. No one was hurt. The house is gone. Just like that.

I grew up there, my dad built the deck around the house, my mom landscaped; memories were made there. My brother died there. My daughter played there. Birthday parties; Christmas tree in the window; my dad in the kitchen cooking; my mom baking pies; the lifesize poster of the Portland Trailblazers my brother had in his room; the waterbed my sister had that practically took up the whole room; the way my sister and I used to fight over who got to sleep in the top bunk by going to bed WAY early at night and claiming it; the long driveway we used to walk up after school; my daughter licking her first beater of whipped cream at Thanksgiving; my sisters, brother, uncles, aunts, nieces visiting...all those memories, including people not alive anymore.

I know it's weird but it feels like losing a family member all over again. The house had been sold, we could never go back and live there again and I had accepted that (eventually). But now, it's completely gone forever and ever. I have to get used to that idea, again.

The people are what is important in life, but the setting where all of those things happened meant something, too.

Life keeps rolling on, whether we're ready for it or not. It's better that way. That doesn't mean this is easy to accept. This is hard - for now - until it gets easier.

It will get easier.


Live on the Fly Studio said...

It's so hard, I know. My parents lost their house - financial troubles - many many years ago. And a couple years back, when I was home visiting, I saw my aunt and uncle and they had been out garage sale-ing. They said that they'd been to a yard sale at our old house. I hadn't been to the place in probably 20 years. So my brother and sister and I went there. It was a beautiful day, and we got to see some of the trees our mother had dug up in the woods and carried home over her shoulder, planting them with loving care. The trees in front were so huge! The lady wouldn't let us go into the house (drat - I wanted to see if my Peter Max wallpaper was still in my old room!), but she let us walk around to the back yard. And there, right behind the garage, was a concrete stoop our dad had made in 1974- with ALL OF OUR HANDPRINTS IN IT!! We could not believe that it was still there. (I was so cool I had put a peace sign next to my handprint). And the lady made a comment about always wondering about those handprints. It was so wonderfully sweet and emotional for us to see that. Of course, they had torn down all the trees in the back for a bigger yard. There went all my mom's crabapples, dogwoods and my hamster's graves.

Occidental Girl said...

Thanks for your story. How nice that you got to see your old handprints! That was sweet. It must've brought back so many memories, even more than you just mentioned.

I know life is about moving forward, but it is hard sometimes.

Lady M said...

My family went back to visit my childhood home, about 12 years after we'd moved out of state. The new owners had done some nice things, and were kind enough to let us walk through and admire the downstairs. The house seemed so small, but the trees had gotten so big. I'd fallen from the top of the willow tree as a little girl - sure wouldn't have survived the fall if the tree was as tall as it is now!

Your story was beautiful.