Sunday, January 1, 2012

As 2011 Ends

My 'create post' page has been open for two days.  At least twice a day I tell Jason that I need to finish my post, and without fail as soon as I say those words, something else comes up.  That something else usually has to do with Emily.

Tonight Emily is watching football with her Daddy and I'm sitting in front of my computer with a cup of hot cider.  If I can convince my thoughts to focus on one topic I might actually finish this post.

Everything about the past year, both good and bad, can be summed up with the words 'your baby has a potentially life threatening heart defect.'  Emily is 5 months old now and there are still days where I cry all day long because of that heart defect.

I have both hopes and fears as this new year begins, but tonight those hopes and fears are going to take a backseat.  I received a phone call from my nephew Josh a few nights ago, and that phone call hasn't left my mind.  My nephew had a request, a very heartfelt and tender request, and in order to tell you about that request I need to tell you a story.

Those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning will have read this story.

Many years ago my dad fulfilled a dream he'd had since he was a boy and bought a mountain.  Oh, it wasn't the entire mountain, but it was a good chunk of it.  Every spare minute my dad had was spent exploring his mountain.

He built fences, he cleared roads, he planted trees, and he dreamed of the future.  We spent every summer holiday at 'The Farm' as my dad had named his mountain, and we created the tradition of cutting Christmas trees every December.

When Dad reached the point in his life where he could pretend to retire he spent more time at The Farm. He spent nights there, he meditated there, he buried his beloved dog there, and he began to build there.

Dad spent three or four years building his dream barn...the barn that would serve as our temporary cabin until Dad could decide where he wanted to build our permanent cabin.  From the foundation to the trusses in the roof, Dad built everything by hand, with hammer and nail.  When it came time to place the trusses Dad tied himself to a window on the second floor and dangled in the air as he placed each truss.

Dad preferred to work alone, and we would drive up occasionally to check his progress.  His progress eventually ended with this:

When Dad moved to Brazil for three years he told us, "Don't touch the barn.  I will finish it when I get home."  He and mom stored all of their important things in the barn while they were gone, and after my grandpa died and I emptied his house, I put all of his things that we wanted to keep in the barn.

Dad came home and began to finish the inside of his barn.  Dad kept everything there: his tools, his tractors, his crystal collection from Brazil, his camping gear, his bow and arrow set he had in high school, and most importantly his dreams of future summers at The Farm with his grand kids.

I could go on and on about the memories my family made at The Farm...the love and laughter we have shared there over the years.  But all of that ended one night a few years ago when Dad got a call in the middle of the night.

His barn was on fire.  It couldn't be saved.  It was most certainly arson.  The firemen were doing everything they could to prevent the fire from spreading up the mountain.

The next morning, a Sunday, my entire family made the hour drive to the mountain.  And as we stood there near the still smoking ashes we shed tears.  Lots of tears.  My niece, who was three at the time, said this, "Bad men who burn down my grandpa's farm are stupid!"

My sister-in-law summed everything up perfectly when she said, "They burned down Dad's happy place."

The person or people who burned the barn down were never caught.
And in the weeks and months afterword, as we hauled load after load of ashes down the mountain, we mourned our loss, and it wasn't just possessions we lost that day.

It's been nearly four years since the fire.  Dad never rebuilt.  I don't know if he ever will.
We go to The Farm once a year to cut Christmas trees.

My nephew Josh was two when his Grandpa's farm was burnt.

Three nights ago my phone rang and Josh, who is now almost six, was on the other end.

"Hi Noelle."
"Hi Joshy, what are you doing?"
"Noelle, Mommy said that I could ask you to print me some pictures of Grandpa's Farm."
"Sure Josh!  I'll print them for you."
"Can you bring them to me tomorrow after lunch?"

I told him I could.

"Josh, what are you going to do with the pictures?"
"I just want to look at them.  I don't like the pictures of Grandpa's Farm that are in my mind."
"What's in your mind Josh?"
"Grandpa's Farm is always burning," Josh told me.

That sweet little boy broke my heart with that phone call.

Josh's mom told me today that Josh has one of the pictures in a frame now, and carries it with him everywhere he goes.

I wonder if we realize how far reaching the consequences of our choices are.
The person who burnt Josh's grandpa's Farm will have to answer for a whole lot more than arson some day.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but my conversation with my sweet little Josh has made me resolve to make sure that the only lasting impression I leave with anyone is love and kindness.


Natalia said...

Wow!! I never knew all this. That's too bad some people had to ruin everything your Dad worked so hard for. Love ya hope all is good with your little family and hope 2012 is a good year for you all.

Sam said...

Wow. This is a beautiful post. And what a kid Josh is. I'm glad he has some happy pictures of his grandpa's Farm now. :)

Arson. Ridiculous. It never ceases to amaze and irritate me that people seemingly seek/find purpose in destroying beautiful things.

lori said...

Thank you for sharing that beautiful, heartbreaking story and for finding a positive message through it all. I'm going to remember it.

Dazee Dreamer said...

what a sweet, sweet boy.

Kim said...

What a gut wrenching story- it breaks my heart that someone would do that. I pray that one day they realize what they have done and they make it right. It doesnt fix everything, but it would make this sad story less heart breaking.

The barn was beautiful! I miss it too now. Happy New year Noelle!

Joann Mannix said...

What a beautiful resolution.

I knew your dad's story, but it still broke my heart to hear it all over again.

This past week, an arsonist struck in California. My friend's car was torched and his house was severely damaged. I don't understand how anyone can deliberately cause such heartbreak and devastation. I can only pray that those who do will find God's light.

John Bradfield said...

Great story. That's a lot to lose. Buildings can be replaced, but the memories and special things can't. And the fact that your dad built that barn himself means that even if you paid for someone to build a new barn, it would never be the same. maybe this is a time to make it a whole family project... Not right now, of course. You have Emily as your first priority.

Speaking of Emily and oral feedings, I have to agree. Babies can taste and if they haven't experienced formula from birth, they don't like it. We've finally started the binky trainer with our Emery. She takes it, but recoils with each taste. But, she seems to be swallowing. YEAH!

Good luck with whatever you do with the farm--and thank heavens they can't burn down your memories.

Of One Heart said...

Your Dad makes a lovely Grandpa. That Farm still lives in the memories of kids who were so tiny then... now, if that isn't making history, I don't know what is.