It’s taken me too long to write this post.
I started it almost a year ago and had to stop. I realized I couldn’t just write about the house. I couldn’t write about the house without writing about the man who built the house.
And I realized I couldn’t write about the man who built the house without writing about why he built it.
This is a big story. A sad story. And it’s really not mine to tell. I had to ask permission. But I will still only tell it from my perspective.
The man we are talking about is my Daddy.
The house began with a dream. And this is what I remember of the beginning of that dream. I was a young child so there is a chance that my childhood lens might be a little clouded or rose-tinted, but this is how I remember it.
I remember making the drive out to Seabrook. It seemed like such a long drive. We’d come out just to look around. It was fun.
There was this big white house with double porches. It looked like one of those really neat houses that you see in movies. I dreamed of living in that house. There were two other white houses across the street. They were smaller, but just as pretty. They looked like family.
There were railroad tracks.
And old buildings that once were special to this small town. Had it really been a town?
There was an old post office that people still used. What fun it would be to have your own post office box! And a key to match it and to have to ride your bike to get your mail. I dreamed of having a post office box.
There were other old buildings that I wanted so badly to explore. They looked so intriguing.
And there were pecan trees. So many pecan trees. What I eventually came to understand was that this used to be a pecan orchard and some of those ‘other old buildings’ were the packing sheds.
The neighborhood smelled of onion grass and it made me want to reach my hand down under the earth and pull a small bunch out and take a bite. It smelled so delicious.
There were two matching silos. Had those been used for the pecans too? I wondered.
There was a dock that you could fish off or swim off or go crabbing off of. But you had to live there to do those things…
And we didn’t.
That was the dream.
Mom and Dad would drive out there and imagine all of those things too. I’m sure just as I did, including wanting their very own post office box.
It was always a little sad when we would drive back home. To the house we knew and the busy street we lived on. Not that we didn’t love that house too, but it just wasn’t part of the dream.
I remember going to Park Day with our homeschooling group. We met at a house that was in Seabrook too (ironically this would one day be my family’s house, my one-day-husband’s family). As we turned left to go home, we would all longingly look out the car window to the right and say, “Maybe one day we will be able to turn right to go home…”
It was strange when that day came. I was 13 when we moved out here to this quiet little neighborhood. The roads were still dirt. The houses far apart. There were woods everywhere. Oh how we loved all those things.
Playing manhunt with friends became a favorite. Climbing trees and picking pecans off the ground to eat was another. Staying outside til after dark and taking long walks down to the dock that we could finally call our own, well it was a dream come true for my family.
We eventually moved into another house just down the road from the first one. I loved that house. I used to babysit for a family that lived in that house and now we did. It was strange at first. But it would eventually become our own.
I left that house to go to college. I remember the night before sitting on our porch swing. A favorite place. I cried. I had just said good-bye to my then boyfriend, who would become my husband. I didn’t want to say goodbye to anyone else. Not to my parents or brother or sister. Or to my house where I felt so safe and at home.
I came back often to visit. I just couldn’t stay away for long. I was sooo homesick.
I got married in that house. Well, in a church, but you know.
After that my parents decided to build a house in the neighborhood.
That decision didn’t come easy.
I wasn’t living at home anymore. I had my own house somewhere else. But that place was still so special to me. The thought that they wouldn’t live there forever was a strange one for me. That I wouldn’t be able to come sit on the porch swing made me sad. But things were happening out of their control and they knew they had to do something.
They put that sweet little white house up for sale.
I knew it was just a house. But it had been my house. I grow attached to things easily, so it was hard to let go the day they closed on it. It was so hard for many other reasons too.
My parent’s world was starting to crumble. At first it was just small pieces. But then the pieces started to get bigger and bigger. We would later learn how big.
I remember watching my Daddy build this house. It seemed to take a really long time. So much was happening in his life and I remember thinking, building this house is what’s saving him.
And I still believe that it did.
We don’t really talk about that time much. It’s almost like we aren’t allowed. My parents have never said that. But it still feels that way. There were so many people involved. People we still know. People we were so close to.
That’s just it. We were so close to so many and then we weren’t.
How do you recover from that? I mean fully? How do you talk about it? How do you share honestly without causing further pain to others?
I don’t want to do that. Not anymore at least. Maybe that’s why I’ve waited so long to write about it. I’m not bitter anymore.. I’ve extended grace and forgiveness even when it wasn’t reciprocated. I’ve moved passed the consuming anger, even if I still get angry.
Even though I would never want to cause further pain to those involved, I think it’s important to acknowledge the hurt. I think it’s ok to say, wait a minute, I’ve been left wounded.
Watching my parents go through that was excruciating. And still is at times. Knowing there was nothing I could do to take away their pain. Nothing I could do to help them regain their life as they new it before. And learning how much had truly been lost… the relationships, their identity and occupation, the good standing in their community and church, their reputation. If it had just been money. If it had just been a house. If it had just been a job. If it had just been a friend or two.
But oh, it was so much more.
It was devastating and baffling and confusing. Almost like being side-swiped by a car. It just came out of nowhere and left our heads and lives spinning. The damage left us totaled, but mostly mom and dad.
But the hardest thing was to remember there used to be light in his eyes and there isn’t anymore.
I know things are going to happen. I know that no church is immune to problems. I know that people are imperfect, that they make mistakes. It is foolish to expect anything else.
It’s one thing to make mistakes. It’s another to pass over someone lying in a proverbial ditch with a gaping heart-wound. That’s just not ok. That’s what it felt like.
But I guess in a way it is ok. Because nothing happens out of God’s control. Nothing goes unnoticed by Him. Nothing happens in a person’s life unless He deems it right and good and for our ultimate holiness and His ultimate glory. That’s why we can forgive and move on and look to the future with hope.
If nothing else, (and there is so much more) I’ve learned that people are fragile. More fragile than we think. Sometimes we can’t recover and wont until we reach heaven. Sometimes people smile when they really wish they would just die already. Sometimes their hurt runs so deep that several generations are effected by it.
People can’t be looked at through a lens of black and white. We are so much more complex than that. And so our problems. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish you could use a Bible verse like a bandaid. Or what worked for you. I wish we could expect people to give the right answer when they are hurting. But that’s impossible when they still haven’t found it yet.
You can’t expect people to stand up and walk without a limp when they have been so badly crippled.
I’ve also learned that it’s ok to talk about it as hard as it is. To share the pain. Not to inflict more pain, but in hopes of find healing for yourself and for others.
In giving us our stories, God never meant for us to keep silent about them. He meant for us to share them with speech seasoned with grace, as it were with salt. Sometimes salt burns. But sometimes that’s needed for healing to take place.
So when I walk into this house that I now call home, it’s sometimes weird to think that this is where my parents used to live and now I live here. I never lived here with them.
But I love that I live here now and that they live just behind us. At first I thought it would be hard to be so close. But after a year, it has only been good. So good.
So good to see my Daddy’s house being used. Being filled with lots of grandchildren and noise and messes. That the table he built twenty plus years ago is still being dined upon by many who love him. Who know the man he is and used to be. And who only wish for his happiness and healing.
But even though it makes me so happy to be living here. I sometimes get sad too.
I get sad when I look at the concrete floor in the living room. I remember seeing it right after it was poured. I remember seeing my dad looking so beaten down. So discouraged and confused and hurt.
I remember the long hours he would be here. To escape. To survive.
I remember worrying so much. That he would fall or get hurt when he was by himself. That no one would know to come help him. And no one really did know to come and help.
I remember watching Mom up so high on the scaffolding white washing the walls that turned out so beautiful.
I remember the question in her eyes. What’s happened? Why?
I remember the isolation we all felt. And still feel at times. Knowing that people were innocently wondering and talking and not knowing how to treat us.
There is so much good represented in this house. There is so much pain too. Because it represents a time in the life of my family that is hard to remember. Hard to look back upon and see the good.
But we are choosing to see the good. And we are thankful for the blessings God has bestowed on our family. Not everything was lost. And so much was truly gained. Understanding God’s grace over my life has been one of my greatest joys. I don’t know if I would have otherwise.
I hope a year after living here wasn’t too soon to share this story. I hope you understand my heart in this. I hope you see my family differently. I hope you see our fragility. But more importantly, I hope you see the strength of my Heavenly Father. And that His grace is all sufficient in our lives, no matter what course it may take. That you can be left standing!
Thanks, Daddy for the privilege of living under a roof that you built. It brings me so much pride to brag on you and your beautiful workmanship. You are one of the most gifted and talented men I know. I love that we are neighbors and that we share a yard. I love that your grandchildren run on floors that you laid. And that I cook in a kitchen you made. I love that you aren’t perfect, that you make mistakes and that I can love you anyway. And I love that you love me the same. You and mom have come so far. God has given you a story. A story that is meant to be shared, so that His glory isn’t wasted.
I love you, Daddy.