As another summer comes to a close, it seems an appropriate time to look back on the house as it appeared when I first arrived here in Round Hill in April 2010 (see below – click on all photos for larger views).
What do you think? Four summers of plenty of sweat and elbow grease has made quite a difference! When I first arrived here, the old place was in a shambles. As many of you may remember, I bought it sight unseen other than through photos and video clips. Upon arrival, I wasn’t dismayed. In fact, the state of the house barely registered as I was still in that peculiar state of seething fury that sustained me during the first three or so years after Don’s death. Perhaps it’s good that I felt that way. Otherwise, I might well have abandoned this project as there was just so much to do in order to make the house even passably inhabitable. The truth is that living here has been a pretty spartan existence. Fortunately, that didn’t bother me much. Most of the time, I was entirely oblivious. I expect that my few-and-far-between visitors wondered if I was off my stick for staying here. Well, perhaps I was.
Anyhow, things are better now. Great strides have been made this summer. With the help of my spirit ally, Larry, many projects saw completion. I won’t go into a detailed enumeration, but suffice to say that the house is looking and feeling much happier these days.
And, things are finally to the point that I’ve even been inspired to get creative – painting floors and fish on doors – and so on.
One of the nicest projects was to get some new windows for the brook side of the house. The best of the original windows could then be added to those that I had been rebuilding for the front of the house. When I arrived in 2010, most of the front windows were a rotting, unsalvageable mess. However, now with the extras, I was able to assemble enough for the three front windows. I even had enough of the rippled antique panes of glass to fill all of the upper sashes. They look wonderful from inside the house – like looking out into a slightly watery impressionist painting. In daylight, the same panes throw beautiful shadows and reflections on the interior walls.
The collapsing cellar entrance is now well shored up with concrete and reinforcing rods. No longer must I worry about a cave-in on the way into the basement!
All in all, it’s been a terrific summer — between playing music with friends, cooking up the bounty of the prolific vegetable patch, and seeing the completion of a number of projects. It’s all been good. The forlorn old house has grown into a much happier place.
Last night marked five years since Don’s death. I worked on this post for quite awhile, but the right words did not happen, so I finally gave up and got some sleep with the hope that I would know what to write this morning.
These annual posts are difficult for me. What to say?
Of course, I like to begin by choosing a few photos of Don that help me to remember him as the strong, healthy, man that he was for most of his life. Those days far outnumber the brief period of his illness. I don’t like to think of those last few months, but unfortunately, I cannot shake those memories and find them difficult to push away in spite of my best efforts. Anyhow, I thought this group of photos was particularly nice because they were taken along some of the many trails we hiked with Sabrina. We hiked, snowshoed, and paddled on trails, lakes and rivers all over eastern Canada. They were the best of times.
So, what to say this year – that hasn’t already been said before?
As might be expected, I still miss Don very much. He is in my thoughts each day as various situations trigger some recollection or cause me to wonder what he would have done or said if he’d been here. But, you know how it is – life goes on with or without you. And so I carry on, although there have been times when I’ve become very tired of everything and ready to throw in the towel. But I am still here. I keep the promise that I made – that I would carry on.
What else might be said?
Without any doubt, I know that Don’s death has changed me. Life is about change and we are all in the process of transformation from the time of our birth to that of death. However, certain events can precipitate radical change whether we like it or not. Being left to carry on alone has provoked me to become a person I barely know. For example, I am, by nature, a very shy and reclusive person. If I had my druthers, I would have spent the remainder of my life with Don, working and then doing the things we liked to do – hiking and traveling together when not just putzing around our own place, gardening, building things, or whatever. I do still do these things, but have had to force myself to interact far beyond anything that is within my comfort zone, especially when traveling on my own.
It may not be apparent to others, but all of this muddling on alone has been difficult in the extreme and has taken its toll over these five years of traveling, selling the farm, buying an old house to work on, moving, figuring out what to do, managing finances, trying to keep the dogs and me well, sort out the endless crap that we all have to deal with in life. Those tasks or problems that were once discussed and dealt with by the two of us, still had to be done. Many times, I have felt absolutely sick inside about having to deal with yet one more problem, but one way or another, in the end, I do – because I must. The proverbial buck stops here. The good thing in all of this is that it usually seems that I’m doing just about what Don and I would have decided upon together. It seems that a good part of his thinking rubbed off on me during our thirty-four years together. I used to feel like I was half a person after he died, but maybe it is more like being one-and-a-half in his absence. In any case, whatever is going on, it seems to be working and I manage in spite of myself.
So, what else can be said about these past five long years?
I guess I have learned a thing or two about life (and death). In truth, I knew most of this already – gleaned during the time while I was caring for my father during his terminal illness. However, repeating the process a second time while caring for Don served to reinforce these lessons.
* Be kind to others. It costs very little to be kind – to speak kindly to others – to reach out and help someone when they need a hand – to give something to someone when it will make a big (or even a small) difference to their existence. It is true about paying it forward. Everything you do for the good or bad, will eventually be returned to you – so try to make it all good.
* Treat others as if it may be the last time you see them. That might just be the case. If you love someone, tell them. It’s not sissy stuff. It means a lot. I am so glad that, in the finally weeks of my dad’s and Don’s lives, I told them how I felt. It meant a great deal to them and to me.
* Objects are just things and don’t really mean a hell of a lot. Our society puts great emphasis on material stuff, but it’s true about not being able to take it with you when you go. Worrying about your stuff is a real pain in the ass (just ask George Carlin). It’s also true that leaving a bunch of stuff behind for someone else to deal with isn’t a good thing. But more importantly, after you lose someone, or maybe two or more someones, you begin to twig onto the fact that stuff is sort of dumb. It’s relationships and experiences that are what count. These last few years, I’ve lost, given up, given away or had so much stuff broken, but it’s all seemed virtually meaningless compared to losing the people I love.
* Try to leave the world as a better place than when you arrived. Most of us may be feeling like what’s happening around us is beyond our control. That’s probably quite true. However, maybe this is just the right time to push back. The time to make the greatest difference is often that moment when it feels like things can’t get any worse. Believe me – I’m kind of an expert at recognizing those moments. Think of all the good that we humans could be doing here on this planet – but what are we doing instead? We have so much potential. Why are we squandering it on stupid shit? Why can’t we put all our considerable intellect, effort and resources into solving real problems – like curing cancer and other diseases, ending poverty and starvation around the world, lessening our impact on the environment. Can we not choose right over wrong?
Well, that is all for this year’s reflections.
To Don: I miss you and will love you – always.