You pull into a driveway lined with stones he stole from a demolished institution. Exotic ornamental trees in dire need of pruning attempt to draw your attention away from the heaving pavement and its unsuccessful disguise made of tar. An ancient pine frowns down at you from the confines of the front eighth-acre. He tried donating it to the Rockefeller Center for use as a Christmas tree one year, but even they didn't want it. Such is the way.
As you approach the crumbling concrete steps you can't help but notice the sun-faded blue tarp draped over the garage. When its roof caved in that's all he could muster. There, in the moldy darkness, rust hundreds of tools that he never learned to use. We curse our fathers for what they didn't teach us. We fumble our ways through precious lost years.
The first room you'll enter is laden with cedar; a Florida room they call it, though it's anything but tropical. The kid's got his toys rightfully strewn about as his predecessor once did. It's a great room to play in, even with its leaking skylights. The wood's grain is warped, its color tinged dark. His early addition's a lesson in acceptance. We'll leave this room now. There are too many windows.
Linoleum so hideous it shames its creators clings to the floor of his out-of-date kitchen. Its plumbing, at best, is like an old ship's. There wasn't a way to heat food sans the stove until last month when his son gave a gift in the form of a microwave found in his closet.
A new wife convinced him to rip up the carpets. They were matted and tattered. They'd been soaked through with humans. Lo and behold there was hardwood beneath. A mother's intuition may have sniffed out the wax. It won't matter long. The dogs' nails are sharp. Some living rooms do a lion's share of living. It's best to forget most memories there.
Cast iron baseboard surrounds the circumference. It's the Cadillac of heat, though the main floor was barren without their knowing for years. That zone's pump had failed them. No hot water moved. Circulation was halted while the boiler cranked-- and then that same son. There's a tally somewhere in an odd drawer in Heaven. There's a list of the deeds we never should mention for claiming their worth negates any merit. How does one go through a life with such discipline? It seems a waste to fear being mortal.
There's only one bathroom. That never would fly for a four-bedroom house built in today's age of modern convenience, or even by the standards of four decades ago. Extra space abounds where its three owners aren't. They take turns. They share. It's a novel idea.
And in my favorite place, the basement, the wood-stove's still warm. The smell of charred timber mixes with mildew that no amount of heat could remove from the rug or the walls or the layers of my brain cells. That basement floods easily. There's no ark in sight. They'll all be okay. They're watched by a hawk.