It really doesn't seem like that long ago that I was a child living at my father's house.
That year my parents divorced.
When I close my eyes, I can remember with such precision and accuracy the look of the lot before the house was built. I remember the large pieces of schist that were stockpiled on an earth torn construction site, in the swatch of land that had been cleared of forests.
Those big pieces of schist.
I can still feel them in my eight-year-old hands.
They were gritty and heavy.
They were gray and brown with flecks of mica.
I carried the smaller pieces. My mother, brother and sisters carried the larger pieces. Together, we carried those pieces of schist in to the house to frame the three beautiful fireplaces that would soon exist.
In the kitchen, there were double ovens, a glass cutting board built in to the counter, a SubZero refrigerator that matched the cabinetry and an Insta-hot. By 1979 standards, it was gourmet.
There were Pella windows in every room that looked out on a swimming pool, pond and beautiful Concord forests, surrounding the house. When it was finished, the house would consist of four large bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms. The total square footage, including a finished basement, was just shy of 7,000 square feet ... situated on just over three acres.
This was the house that was meant to be home for our family.
This was the pool that was meant to be played in by the seven children, in-laws, and the twenty grandchildren that would come in later years.
But sadly, that house was never home for our family.
And that pool was very rarely used.
My mother never moved in to that majestic house. She and my father separated before construction was finished and mom moved far away, returning for the first time 15 years later to help me prepare for my wedding day.
My father's girlfriend moved in to the house before my parent's divorce was finalized. Over the next few years, every one of the children that was supposed to live in that house, moved away. Every one of the children that were supposed to live in that house moved away much sooner than they should have moved away.
When I close my eyes, I can remember with such accuracy and precision where everything was located in the step down living room, just off of my father's bedroom. I can remember the big brown marshmallow couch. The dark lamp that was carved like an Indian princess. The step table. The marble chess set. Many of these possessions had arrived from our old house on Walnut Street. These were comfortable remnants of an earlier, happier time.
A time when we were a family.
Thirty years later, I can still see and feel it all.
The feel of the carpet.
The squeak of the closet doors.
The portable electric heaters that we carried around with us from one room to the next.
The red heat lamp in the bathroom off the hall. And while sitting in that bathroom, looking out to the front of the house wondering, "Why? Why? Did they put a bathroom window at eye level from the toilet to the front door?"
I remember the sense of anxiety that always existed. I was a child in an adult's house. I missed my mother and I craved my family. Yet here I was living in my father's house. The best times that I can remember were when Dad and I would sit at the kitchen table and eat bowls of maple walnut fudge ice cream together. This was my father's dream. He worked so hard for it. He had picked out the land. Designed the house. Helped to build it.
This was Dad's house.
It has always been Dad's house.
Even when his wife of 23-years and his seven children were displaced by divorce. Even when his second wife of 24-years was taken out by the police in handcuffs for pulling a knife on him.
This house is his dream.
Tonight, I received a phone call from my brother.
My father is not well.
He has been in the hospital for the past week and the doctors believe that he will need to remain in the hospital until he can be discharged to a physical therapy facility. From there, it is likely that he will need to be transferred to a nursing home. Even though he has his friend, Mary, helping him at home, he cannot stand up unassisted. At the moment, he can no longer function independently. The prognosis is not good. Just a few months, if he doesn't improve.
Hearing those words was like a punch to my gut. For the first time ever, medical professionals have quantified the "anticipated" time remaining that my father has left. I pray with every ounce of me that they are wrong.
My father's health has deteriorated rapidly, not because of Parkinson's. Nor is it because his body is being ravaged by cancer or muscular dystrophy or dementia. In my opinion, it's because my father has lost his will to live. In my opinion, it all began with him selling his drugstore. And seeing his second marriage end in divorce.
Wondering, what was it all for?
My father has deteriorated from the strong man that I once knew. And his house has gone from something majestic to something sad. A place where true love has never once lived. A place that was supposed to be so much more. But a place that to my Dad, has always been home. It's all that he has left. After all of these years.
Within the past month, there has been so much turmoil surrounding my father that a rift has formed among my siblings that may never mend. There has been a reassignment of responsibilities for power of attorney and health care proxies. There has been name calling. Accusations. Even though I believe that everyone is doing their best to work on Dad's behalf, everyone is getting hurt.
Including and probably most especially, my father.
All Dad wants is to go home.
And all I want, all I have ever wanted, is for my family to love each other.
To look beyond what they perceive to be bad and see only the good.
Even though Christmas was last week, I think it is fitting that all of this turmoil has erupted at this time of year. Christmas is for giving.
Christmas is forgiving.
Forgiving the dreams that never came to fruition.
Forgiving ourselves as we forgive those who trespass against us.
My Dad's dream is to go home.
And my dream is to see my Dad happy.