The House That Built Me

Almost a year ago my Grandma finally passed away.  I say finally because the moment that my grandpa died a few years before her she started wishing that she would just die.  Don't get me wrong she still loved us and loved when we would call or visit but inevitably she would cry and she would talk about him.

Tonight, I can't stop thinking about them.  And by them I mean my grandparents and all of us that are here because of them... all the cousins and their kids, and our parents.  I found myself wondering what was the latest status of our grandparents house, last I'd heard my Aunt was still dealing with repairs in preparation to sell.  So I text her to hear the latest.  In one of those freakishly odd moments that life hands us, she text back and said that they just signed the papers yesterday and that the new family is moving in this weekend.  She said it's a young couple and they have two boys, just like my grandpa and grandma did when they bought the house all those years ago.

If you know me, you know I'm sentimental.  Losing that house, feels like I'm losing the place where I could go to still feel them.  I'm not really big on grave sites.  Since I can't go there anymore, I just want to share what it feels like as I'm sure many of you can relate to a place that feels like home.

My whole life whether I was a little girl in my dad's backseat or whether I was that lost girl in my 20's I can remember pulling up in the driveway and the back door opening and my Grandma standing there with a smile.  Grandma might have been harsh on our parents at times but to us she was the breakfast maker, the back scratcher, and the picture taker.  Me, my brother, and my cousins spent so much time there.  We'd go to the bowling alley with them when they were on a league, we had many bbq's in their little backyard on that wooden table with benches, we climbed onto the cement wall and climbed trees, shot hoops, and played bar (it's not as white trash as it sounds, our grandparents had a bar in the family room in the basement and we would put on MTV and perform songs while my brother was the bartender who served us up drinks--- coca cola and sprite mostly--- in between our dance performances), ok maybe it wasn't the best game for kids, but we thought we were cool.
(Cousin Melanie, Me, Cousin Jamie, and my Brother Travis on the wall)

If Grandma was the caretaker, Grandpa was the troublemaker... He'd play ghost at the bottom of the long stairs and scare us so we'd go running and screaming; and while Grandma would cook breakfast he would give us girls a twirl all around the kitchen.  
(Grandpa dancing with me, I love that the look on my face is pure joy and laughter... that's how I always felt with them.)

In my early 20's I stayed with them for awhile, maybe a month or so.  I remember my Grandma telling me I had a gypsy soul and that I was restless, and Grandpa said that I just needed the church in my life (which was funny because he never went that I knew of).  I was troubled in my early 20's, and when I think back on that time the song "The House That Built Me" by Miranda Lambert always comes to mind.  I love when she sings, "I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing, out here it's like I'm someone else, I thought that maybe I could find myself".  I was there for sanctuary.  Sanctuary from my dad, from my disappointments in where life was taking me, from myself and the choices I had made.  It was just like a country song, I was back there trying to remember who I was and where I come from.  It's scary to think that I don't have that place anymore.
(Me sitting on Grandpa's lap back in the 80's, he sat in that same spot the last time I would ever see him.)

I can still remember the exact place I was when I got the phone call from my dad that Grandpa had Leukemia, and I can still remember the exact thing I was doing and where I was the moment I got a phone call from my dad that Grandpa had passed away.  He died peacefully in his sleep, thanks to hospice, and the constant care of my Grandma and my dad, my aunt, and my uncle.  My brother and I instantly hopped on a plane and were there, gathered around the bed with all the rest of the family to say a family prayer before they came and took his body away.  I remember watching the men of my family carry him out of the house, my brother gently holding our grandfather's head in his hands.  How crazy that the little boy that used to sleep with Grandpa, that used to be his little shadow on the golf course, was now a grown man holding this old man's head in his hands.  

I remember sitting at my grandparents breakfast table sharing what I knew would be my last meal ever with him, I remember the way he told me to love again, to not close off my heart to it.  I remember the way he said with the most loving of concerns that he wanted me to lose some weight so I wouldn't get sick and could live a fuller life.  After the dishes were done and we embraced for the last time, both of us shedding tears, and Grandma taking pictures all the while; I got in my car and drove away... I lost it. I promised I would find myself again, I promised I would eat better and take care of myself, I promised I would make him proud of me.  It wasn't until his memorial service when a friend of his came up to me and said, "Karstee, out on the golf course your Grandpa used to tell us stories of all the places you've been and the things you've seen, he sure was proud of you!"  He was already proud of me, he just didn't want me to give up on myself.  It breaks my heart to admit that I still haven't followed through on the promises I made that day.  
(Grandma and me, just a couple of days or so after losing Grandpa.)

The last time I got to see my Grandma, it was weird.  She was a single lady occupying a house full of memories and I'm sure for her it felt haunted.  She had changed, she slept in longer, stayed up later, drank wine, and ate poorly, and by poorly I mean she didn't seem to have an appetite.  I could tell I was her granddaughter because when I'm depressed I have all the same traits except for I have an insatiable appetite.  We watched each other's favorite movies, ordered pizza, and drank wine, and shared feelings.    When I left that weekend to come back to Colorado I felt like I'd gotten a glimpse of a woman, not just my Grandma--- a real woman with fears of inadequacy and a longing and sadness that she just couldn't conquer.  My Grandma would later take a fall in that house that would send her to the hospital where after surgery she would leave this world.  

And their house sat there empty of people--- waiting for belongings to be divvy'd up, memories to be scattered, pipes repaired; and now finally that home is ready for another family to begin what will hopefully be generations of happiness and solidarity.