Crazy Quilt of Memories

Dear House,

We’ve been together a long time, you and hubby and me. We’ve opened our hearts and doors to family and friends, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and abandoned pets. We’ve made happy memories, sad memories, and memories I’d like to forget.

Like the time my niece tricked me into inviting her and her fifteen-year-old son and their dog to live with us. We hadn’t heard from her in forever. Didn’t even know where she lived. But when she needed a place to stay due to a failed marriage, and having used up all her other options, she knew exactly where to find me. All her silky-smooth promises to get a job and a place of her own slid off her back the second she and her obstinate kid and their untrained dog waltzed through our door. I was never so relieved to kiss two people and pat one dog goodbye in my life.

Then, there was that time my half-sister’s half-brother called me. My sister had a brother? When did that happen? After all these years why am I just now finding that out? My sister had passed away years before that phone call; still, we wanted to meet each other. So that following fall we anxiously awaited their arrival as they made the three-day trip from Colorado to North Carolina.

He had my sister’s baby blue eyes, short bowed legs, and curly gray hair. The four of us embraced like long-lost friends. From the moment they walked through the front door the week-long visit was filled with chattering into the wee hours of the morning, eating out and shopping and laughing till our sides hurt. We enjoyed each other so much that we invited them back again for a two-week stay. Even paid for their plane tickets. But, somewhere between that year and a half wait and absence makes the heart grow fonder, something went haywire.

The first three days, He and his wife were at war with each other. When that war ended, he started a war with me, which was a very bad idea. I told them to leave. My husband, the peace-maker asked them to stay. So the four of us, plus two of my grandkids and a dog, trudged through his grumpy, complaining, sarcastic, rude, insufferable attitude for the next ten days! When the day of good-riddance finally arrived, we rushed them to the airport, making sure they got on the plane, and haven’t heard from them since.

And remember that cold, early morning I got up to find my youngest brother sitting on the porch swing shivering? Though it had been a while since I’d heard from him and his mischievous, little boy grin tugged on my heart-strings, I couldn’t say I was happy to see him. Oh, he was playful and charming laced with a Bob Hope sense of humor. But I knew too well what lay beneath that innocent, enticing mask. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and crime. He spent most of his life behind bars and leaving a trail of broken promises, bleeding hearts, and confusion.

The white van parked in the driveway wasn’t even his, although he tried to convince me it was. And why was he driving without a license? Foolish of me to even ask. So with a faint, apprehensive smile and hoof-pounding heart, I invited him in wondering why he was here, what he wanted, and when was he going to leave. Hours later, and fearing the inevitable, can-I-stay-here-the-night plea, I kindly sent him on his way. But it would be days before I could shake off the flabbergasting disturbance.

And let’s not forget this summer’s events when our strong-as-an-ox Whippet mix jerked me off the deck making me fall and hurt myself. She liked doing it so much that she did it again when she broke from her leash and again when I tried to catch her. Between over-doing it with the yard work and falling one too many times, sent me to the emergency room with severe back pain. A few X-rays and four painful hours later, I was released feeling like I’d been hit by a bus.

Still recovering from that, hubby’s sister came to stay with us for a month. Never saw that coming! I’ve had many goals in my life, but at the age of seventy-one, none of them consisted of caring for a seventy-six-year-old twenty-four-seven with short-term memory loss and other frustrating annoyances. But when she was abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we opened our doors yet again. Finally, after weeks of collecting and getting documents signed and notarized and being put off and lied to by one care giving facility and another, she is finally in a nursing home where she is happy and safe.

After weeks of having our lives turned upside down, we are finally getting settled. I don’t have a strong urge to choke someone anymore and I can finally enjoy sitting on the back porch with my husband, our two dogs, and a hot cup of coffee without interruption. The cool mornings are peaceful and quiet. Hubby and I play with the dogs and laugh at some of the crazy stuff we’ve met with over the past few months. We share our intimate feelings and thoughts with each other. We read our devotions and thank God for the many years we’ve spent together in our house.

But, sadly, House, I’ve been noticing some drastic changes in you. Like me, you are showing signs of wear and tear. Your handrail on the front porch is loose, one of your steps is sagging and the cedar siding is faded. You need new windows, and doors and grass planted in those huge bare places in the front and back yard. And you’re old and outdated. You really need a serious face lift!

But these are just minor things compared to the thirty plus years you have served us. You’ve sheltered and protected us from hurricane winds and rain and ice storms snapping massive tree limbs that fell across the driveway. And somehow within your crowded space, you always make room for large gatherings of family and friends and for lots of rowdy kids to play.

To the world, you’re just a little house that needs a lot of work. But to me, you are my mansion on a hilltop, my castle in the clouds, my sanctuary of learning and thriving and growing and pushing through some of the most difficult times of my life. I’m looking forward to spending many more years within your walls, sharing your warmth with family and friends and continue making a crazy quilt of memories.

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