Recently I returned home to pack up some of my belongings. I have been spending the last two years a thousand miles from home trying to get things set up so my family can have a new start and hopefully a better chance at life itself. The plan was that I was to move down and start a business and my wife would stay behind and try to sell the house. The living conditions down here are not ideal and certainly are something I would want my wife to have to live through. The plan had some gaps and holes here and there but it was all we had and we definitely didn’t expect it to take as long as it has for either the house to sell or the business to start turning a profit. Clearly, we were in over our heads and now found ourselves at the point where there is no turning back.
So back to my trip home, yeah … somewhere along the line the two years, the thousand miles, the fifteen hours, or even the eight states have taken a toll on this marriage. The marriage had been rocky for years and this was a last-ditch effort to see if we could make it without kids. There were many times where the visits seemed as if we had returned to high school and fell back in love but the stress of everything surrounding us led to numerous disconnected phone calls and it became far too easy to shut down the problem just by not answering the phone knowing that it was much too difficult to keep the argument going with the distance too far in between the words. So there I was headed home because the time just seemed to run out of the whole let’s see if this will work thing.
At first, I had a few things in mind that I just could not live my life without. There was this antique rifle that my uncle had given me after he found out he was dying. It was one of those that one would see in some old western. It was dated 1896 and it was a gift to him when he was eight by his grandfather. My uncle went out of his way to make sure I had this rifle and there was no way I was just going to let it sit there. One of the other items was an acoustic guitar that I was given as a kid; I think it was my twelfth birthday or something like that. My mother had been helping inmates at the state penitentiary how to read and write. She would sometimes take me along and I remember one inmate would make wonderful music out of this twelve string guitar. He would show me a few chords and I would try so hard to play like he did. That hardened criminal took on some extra jobs around the prison and made a few trades and bought me my very own guitar for my birthday. Just the thought of how much work he had to do in order to get me that gift made that instrument so priceless. I never really could play like him but I have dragged that guitar around with me since he gave it to me and it too was not going to be left behind.
I drove those thousand miles and those fifteen hours trying to figure out where life was taking me. It was difficult to think about life itself as well as the things I own without attaching some memory to it. I don’t own anything of real value, in fact the local scrap yard wouldn’t even want most of it. Nevertheless, what I have means everything to me regardless of its monetary value. The more I thought of life and these things the more difficult it became to grasp any positivity out of this situation. I learned somewhere in the drive throughout the early darkness that sometimes there isn’t a silver lining and the situation just sucks no matter how you try to fluff it up.
It’s been almost a year since the last time I stepped foot into my house; times have been either too busy or too broke to make the trip home. My wife has visited quite often but I hadn’t been home in a while. The house was empty with both the kids moved out and my wife had moved in with her mother shortly after we put the house on the market. I walked in and it didn’t have that warm heartfelt feeling, it was as if the life or spirit of the home had long died. I slowly walked from room to room just trying to access what was still there and where everything else went. I was tired from the long drive and depressed from the situation so my mood was quite somber.
At first I was looking for all my priceless belongings yet I started to notice all the things about the house that I had done. I came to pick up things like the golf clubs that I never use for the game I don’t understand but I wanted to take things like the French doors I installed for my wife or the 24 by 12 deck I built that the doors led to. I wanted to take the custom island in the middle of the kitchen that I built with all the little nooks and crannies that makes use of all possible space. I went upstairs and wanted to take the cabinets I built-in the bath room which I made look like weathered wood to go along with her ocean beach theme. I also wanted to take the ships portal and the lamp that were made of brass that were displayed outside that bath room. Both of these items I had found when I was out scavenging junk shops. Often I would take rides around New England going to all sorts of questionable junk shops or antique shops looking for various treasures to bring back to my wife. I enjoyed the hunt and I liked finding things that I thought she would like. These were the things I wanted to take, like that brass lamp; it was an oil burning lamp that converted into burning those little tea candles.
As I walked around the house I noticed all of these things that became a part of the house. We bought this house shortly after we got married and it became our home. It was not a glamorous house nor was it a new house with all the fancy things like central air. It was an old fixer upper farm-house from the 1800’s or older that constantly needed work and even more work. We were young and I said I could fix it, but most importantly it was something we could afford. We lived there for twenty years and for an auto mechanic I managed to keep the house going. I didn’t even own a hammer when we moved in but I learned everything that needed to be learned just to fix what ever needed to be fixed. I built that deck and put in those doors. I even tore down the front porch by tying a rope to it and yanking it with my four-wheel drive truck. I rebuilt that porch and replaced the front door that no one ever used but it looked so much better from the road. It wasn’t bad for a mechanic.
There was plumbing and electrical, sheet rock and insulation. I learned how to lay tile and pour cement. I painted and stained and trimmed and customized. I built display cabinets and kitchen cabinets, in fact I even threw in the kitchen sink. All of these things I did in hopes to make my wife happy. Happy that I thought of her; happy that I could do these things for her, but most important happy with this house that we raised our family in. It was all this happiness that I wanted to take back not all my tools and books. My son and I drove all over the state and picked all sorts different rocks from different areas. We had smooth river rocks, and blue rocks, and even some granite from the quarry. I made a base for the wood pellet stove my wife bought so that the stove didn’t have to sit on the crappy metal drip pan; I learned how to dye mortar that day. My son and I also went up into the mountain to the notch; I climbed up the rock face looking for loose chunks of rock to throw down and he put them in the back of the truck. We had what was once brick fire pit that was barely standing and I replaced it with those rocks we had found. It was so much nicer than that pile of broken bricks. These were all those things that I thought would make her happy and I wanted to take these things with me but I couldn’t and I knew that even if I did it wouldn’t make a difference.
My day ended with absolutely nothing accomplished except pushing my depression deeper within me. It was late and I set up camp in my loyal spot on the couch with a sleeping bag I brought with me. The house seemed darker and colder without life in it. There was no clicking of computer keys and no television in the back ground. There was no one trying to sneak out of bed and certainly no brother and sister fighting over nothing. It was just dark, cold, and alone. My time was limited so I knew I had to get some sleep and get up early to try to pack as much of the stuff I could actually take so I could get back to the shop and back to work. That next morning, however; I laid there and just thought how I wanted to just stay there. I didn’t need to go back down seeing how the purpose for me being there no longer applies. I could just sleep in and just stay home. I could mow the lawn and plant some trees, maybe paint this and that and fix that and this. Maybe it would feel as if the house had life again, but then I also did all of that so she would be happy and it’s too late for that now.
I started to become aggravated with all these things because I tried and tried so hard for so many years to make her happy with her home and after all that she wants nothing to do with it. It’s all a “piece of crap” and off she went leaving all of this heart-felt gestures behind because “no one wants it”. When in reality it wasn’t that no one wanted it; it was that she wanted something different. I became a fairly good mechanic and I also became good at fixing this house. I could cut up the tree that fell during the ice storm and even keep all the appliances running most of the time. I learned to do most of all the things I needed to do except the very thing I was trying to do; make her happy.
Frustrated, I began packing up the trailer with the things I drove all this way for. I packed up my gun cabinet and my guitar. I stacked up all the boxes of books because someday I’ll read them all. I threw in those damn golf clubs and all the various boxes of tools I acquired from my lessons of do it yourself home repairs. I was running out of time and my adversary was making me start to ponder on whether or not it was even worth taking things back because life was not going to be the same and I would never have the need to use those things ever again. When will I ever need this or even ever use that again. I threw in my skis even though I am moving south, keep in mind that my wife convinced me to take a ski lesson after fifteen years of refusing to ever put two sticks under my feet and point down the mountain full of snow. I loved to go skiing but rarely had the chance to even though we lived six minutes from the mountain. I kept looking at my watch and began just packing everything I owned, even boxes of stuff that I don’t remember ever owning. Desperation began to set in as I was now trying to save everything I had left in life.
I think it was the trailer that finally knocked some sense into me, literally. The rental trailer was made for short people so every time I walked into it I would rap the top of my head on the casing of the roof. There was time when my French was very loud and very rude. To make it even more painful, there were moments when the button of my cap would hit and cause my ears to ring, which at that time I couldn’t hear what I said but I felt ashamed for saying it. I sat down feeling the top of my head for possible blood when I gave in and realized that life was not going to be the same ever again, it can’t be. In fact, if things got better and we worked this out, it still would not be as it was and never would be.
I knew I didn’t have the time nor the space in this damn trailer to take everything I wanted so I had to take those items that meant the most to me and those that I actually could use. The skis and golf clubs were buried so they are going to have to stay in the trailer, maybe I try to golf while skiing one day and start a new trend. I packed up the trailer and locked up the house for what just maybe the last time. Southbound I became an as I returned I pondered on the same issue of life as I had on the trip up except this time I didn’t get any sleep during the thousand-mile journey back to this new life I will be trying to start for different reasons than I had to begin with.
Twenty years in that house that she wanted to buy. Twenty years of holidays, birthdays, laughter, tears, and a whole lot of yelling and screaming. Twenty years I saw here and there about the house where I had done something in hopes to make this house hers and for her to be happy about it. Twenty years of all that and now she would be the happiest if she could just sell the damn house and everything left in it.
I look back now and think of all those things I learned how to do and realize that even though I could not learn how to make her happy, I did build, fix, and find a whole lot of things and someone else will be happy with it someday. All those years we tried to make this house our home and her heart just wasn’t in it because all she wanted to do was move away, anywhere but there. All those years and I end up down here where she wanted to be and my home was back up in that old farm-house with the drafts and crooked walls. I sit here now, sleep deprived from the return trip, but I think about all the things I had done and just snicker a little inside and say to myself …
“not bad for a mechanic” … “you can’t fix everything”