Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Trails

The decision has been made and in front of the Range House is a big For Sale sign. I've spent most of the last two weeks cleaning, and tending to the property, with some help on the big yard projects, as well as getting rid of years of clutter and smaller, older furniture I will not need as I downsize. It's not going to happen overnight, the house could easily take a year to sell, but the market is only going to get worse so now's the time.

I'm having fun pouring over plans for cabin type homes online with a family friend from Wyoming, Malamute Bill, who builds them, and has been a wealth of knowledge. I know the whole project, start to finish, paying cash as I go, may take a few years. I am as excited as a kid. I already have the kitchen I like in mind, one room for cooking and eating, compact, yet with enough room to create while those I love gather round. One living area, not 3, and 1 or two small bedrooms, not 4. Of course a basement to use for food storage and root cellar and a place to hang up a saddle. The shop? Well it will probably be bigger than the house :-) It may just be a weekend home for a while, as I will likely continue to live near the city for work, but it's a plan. Something I can hope for now. When it's done it will be paid for, no mortgage, modest taxes. No cows, but a garden and perhaps enough room to whitetail hunt without getting in the truck. I've only had the Range a few years and it's much bigger than I need, with a "mother in law" set up that I'd thought my Dad would live in, and a kitchen big enough to hold a Summit Meeting in. Yes, it definitely is too large for one person, but at the time it was what I needed. Big enough for Dad to live with me, close enough to the city to get to work in 45 minutes. Walls stripped and dry walled over many a long evening (and several bottles of Guinness), my favorite art on the walls; the big Bev Doolittle painting I spent a small fortune on in my family room. Many evenings in which I enjoyed the spacious rooms, the corners filled with little things I love from places I've flown or lived.

There's been some great times here while my friends gathered round while I cooked an extravaganza of food and we talked and laughed. Evenings walking through the cornfields behind this little burg, Barkley going full point on a undetected bread crust I'd tossed out for the ducks, the sky a perfect prayer of blue that mirrors the blue of the pond.

But I should have bought more land, or further out, as the suburbs are all around me now, more and more fields of corn now full of cookie cutter homes. Crime is going up as are the taxes and the thought of what it will cost to heat and pay taxes on this old place if Cap and Trade passes is frightening.

I thought I'd stay here for years, perhaps after Dad was gone, sharing the home someday with someone I loved. But it wasn't meant to happen and I realized that most big dream houses, especially the ones we build later in life, are built on wonderful ideals but often without the dreams to fill those 30 foot walls. People walk in and say "wow. . it looks like a magazine home" but I realized what they didn't, that my home could often feel as empty as it was beautiful.

Dad, then battling cancer, and having a stroke, has fully recovered and thankfully, everyone's plans changed. He's back walking, driving and doing battle with the salesmen from Lowe's where he bought me a new riding lawn mower. He doesn't look 90, he doesn't act 90. Adopting two kids 20 years after his first child was born didn't phase him, why should a small stroke? So the plans for him to live with me are done. He said that if his health takes a downturn again he wants to stay out West with my brother who has since retired. That will be good for him. But I have this big house now, empty.

My Dad still lives in the same small ranch home he bought after leaving the Air Force. I still visit regularly though it's a 5 hour flight and a three hour drive to get there. I love my visits even as I cherish my independence. Driving from the airport in the rental car, down a road we used to run up and down, playing secret agent or soldiers when we were kids, I pull into the driveway and it's like going back 30 years. The giant motion detector spotlights are still in the driveway (thanks Dad, that went over real well with my dates in high school), the fence that my brother knocked over while getting the feel of his drivers license, and the tree my Dad planted after my Mom died. Everything's still there, still the same, and the big picture window, ablaze with light, greets me with the smile of a trusted friend.

Walking into the house I see the marks of our lives there; a lipstick "art" piece I drew on the inside of a cupboard when I was 3. The old tire that used to hang in the huge apple tree in the backyard, now in the flower bed, my Dad unable to throw it away. Walking through rooms full of so many mornings getting ready for school, shadows lingering on the walls from many a family dinner. I meet my brother R. at the house when I can, remembering the secret clubhouse we built in his big closet, the elaborate train landscapes we'd set up in the garage on a rainy day. We share the memories without even speaking of them, as they are woven into the fabric of our lives. I look at my Dad's dresser now on which lives a small well loved stuffed dog that was mine as a child, and I smile. Those things we loved as children remain in the domain of our memory, and will, until we cease to breathe. Wherever we are, wherever we live, our souls somehow always hover around the places where we remember mostly happiness.
I have a hard time picturing my Dad leaving his house, where he's lived since the 50's, yet leaving my own home? I can picture it. It may not have turned out to be the home I envisioned, but there is still a real satisfaction in it, certain things may never be realized but so all the more reason to try for them. I don't regret the hard work I put into this place, for trying to provide a place where my family could be cared for, any more than I will regret leaving it for reasons that are also now very important to me.

I'll remember with fondness the changing leaves against the tall Irish Cream colored walls, the animals that shared the cornfields, evenings with my best friends. The smell of homemade lasagna fresh from the oven while we laugh with stories from the shooting range and life. I really like this place. Yet I rattle around in it alone, looking out north towards the pond and beyond, up into the sky at the smoke trail of a plane that leads off to the open land of the north, searching for things I can not see. A life of self sufficiency. A life where I don't have to say "I shouldn't buy that revolver" because I have a $500 heating bill. A life honed down to just what is important to me and those around me. Beyond the horizon is another home, a smaller cozy little home, a new dream, or a contrail of a dream, leaving to a further defined life.

And in that life will come laughter and family and shadows on the wall of those that I love. Wherever they are, there I am at home.