Grandpa’s House


My grandfather passed away several years ago to cancer. Recently, my family spent some time down at his house visiting an old friend who lives there. All of my grandfather’s things were still there–dishes, furniture, books, decorations, you name it–in the same places they have been for basically my whole life. There is a familiar, comfortable feeling that always takes over when I walk into that place. It still has that welcoming atmosphere that beckons me to explore and to relive my childhood.

The house is literally in the middle of nowhere, secluded by the wonderfully wild surrounding woods. It’s like entering a fairy tale, and is still one of my favorite places in the whole world.

What struck me the most on this last trip was how even the smallest, most insignificant things can ignite a memory. No matter how many years fill in the gap, those memories are still powerful and as clear as if they just happened last week. Whether its a squeaky stuffed animal, the soft shag carpet, a hummingbird feeder, a picture on the wall (not to mention the fabulous shiny gold wallpaper), a red wagon in the garage, a waffle iron, a cheerful marionette–these and more all have a special place in my heart.

True, the house is a little outdated, with its decor stuck somewhere in the 70’s, but I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Because it still takes me back to my childhood. Even the smells, outside and inside, are familiar. Everything there is a part of my past–it’s home.

Those happy memories are now mingled with the bittersweet sense of loss. Because there is an obvious element missing: my grandpa. The magic of the place has faded with time into something less tangible, yet more potent. As if the house itself still remembers and whispers to me of the happy years we spent there. My grandfather’s presence held influence there, making the place come alive–and the lack of his presence influences it in a different way, with those ordinary, insignificant things that once held such magic to me now covered in dust, forgotten and silent.

It is that bittersweet change that struck me so powerfully on our last trip there and inspired me to do what I usually do on such occasions: capture it with words. The following is a poem I wrote afterward, in which I tried to preserve some of my favorite childhood memories and also depict that subtle transformation that takes place after a loved one is gone.

This is for you, P-Paw.


 Grandpa’s House

gpa13

 

Off the road

And onto the path

Through the woods,

The enchanted woods.

The world silenced,

In twilight robed,

Blue skies traded

For bowers of green.

Quiet.

Breathe.

Peace.

 

Thick trees,gpa19

Wild brambles.

Shadows lurk–

A secret place.

Chills creep

Up my arms.

A thrill, unconscious,

Pricks my soul.

Beauty.

Untamed.

Alive.

 

Birdsong echoesgpa14

Tree to tree.

Buzzing bees,

A gentle breeze.

Nature’s chorus

Ripples, breathes,

Casts a spell

To charm the ears.

Music.

Magic.

Sounds.

 

Honeysuckle,

Wild flowers;

Sweet smells mingle,

Wind chime tinkles.

Secluded cottage,

Knock on the door.gpa20

Who will answer?

A wizard? Faerie?

Smiles.

Hugs.

Grandpa.

 

Soft carpet,

Scrunch my toes,

Feel its comfort–

Warm, welcoming.

Familiar smells,

Grandpa’s house.

Always the same,

Timeless memory.

Snuggles.

Stories.

Laughter.

 

Climb the stool,

Sit and wait.

Watch him cook,

Breakfast is ready.

Fluffy waffles

Smell so good.

Mouths as full

As our hearts.

Food.

Family.

Love.

 

Hummingbirds dance

Outside the window.

Raccoons creep

Between the trees.

Afternoon walk,

Ride the red wagon.gpa30

A puppet show:

A squirrel, a clown.

Squeaks.

Giggles.

Fun.

 

Cake and ice cream.gpa28

Pig Latin, music.

Shining eyes,

Flashing grin.

Grandfather clock

Chimes the hour,

The spell is broken.

Time to go.

Hugs.

Waves.

Goodbye.

 

Tall grass,

Overgrown paths.

Empty bird feeders.

Flowers wilted.gpa24

Faded wind chime

Summons the past.

Knock on the door,

No one answers.

Silence.

Empty.

Gone.

 

Waffle iron

Put away.

Red wagon

Broken.

Lonely puppets

Sleep in shadows.

Soft carpet

Catches tears.

Sigh.

Smile.

Remember.

 

Grandpa’s house

Looks the same.

Smells like him,

But no music plays.

Dust-covered

Memories

Whisper stories.

Our stories.

Gone.

 

But not forgotten.

gpame

My grandpa and me.

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