By: Dawn DeBraal
Deep in thought, I was walking through the field when I came up to the log cabin my great grandfather built in the high meadow. Pa turned it into a barn after building the new house when they detoured the highway. Back then, it became nearly impassible during the winter months to get back here. Dad constructed his new home on the other side of the property along the redirected highway.
When he moved out of the cabin, he boarded up the windows after some kids threw rocks through them. Pa made the front door bigger, installing sliding doors so that he could store hay.
My dad was born here. It was ‘a two-room shack with an outdoor john outback,’ he used to say in a sing-song voice.
I’d just come from his funeral and needed to be alone. So tired of the people who’d tell me in the worst possible way how sad they were that he died.
Dad was eighty-eight; he had cancer of the liver and suffered for over a year. I was not sad that he died but grateful he was out of pain. I watched him turn yellow and slowly shrivel up. In the end, he was the color of the leaves on the trees around that cabin. I wanted to be where he first came into being.
Whenever Pa had a bad day or needed to think, he came out here to sit. I found the log he used, damp but I didn’t mind, watching the leaves lazily drift to the ground with each breeze. The new house site was nowhere near as pretty as here, but it gave quick access to the hospital and the grocery store.
I didn’t mind letting go of my job to come and live with him when he got sick. It was time. It’s true, the song that says life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone. My husband and I divorced. I was sick of my job, and jumped at the chance to retire and move, feeling I was taking up a noble cause caring for my dad. I had the whole upstairs of the house to myself, setting up a bed in the den for him.
I thought of all the stories he told me. The time the horse and the wagon were stuck in the snow, getting their first tractor, when electricity came through. Every story was as unique as the leaves on these trees; together, they made a colorful story quilt.
I heard a twig snap, turning around to see my beautiful son. He was going through a divorce, and my heart ached for him.
“Mom, everyone left. You can come home now.” He put his arm around me, sitting on the log beside me.
“Sorry I bailed. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”
“I know. This place is beautiful.” Darin quickly changed the subject looking around.
“Do you want to go inside?” I asked him. It had been years since I’d seen it.
“Sure!” Arm and arm, we walked to the back of the log cabin. Darin put his shoulder to the swollen door that gave way. The inside was dry and smelled of dust and memories.
“This is amazing in here.” Darin looked around, touching the old wood cookstove left behind with the era. A beautiful enamel cast iron stove with warming ovens on top, still looking cheerful in this dingy setting.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” he breathed looking around, I agreed with him.
“Mom, can I ask you something?”
“I don’t have to stay in Danville. I can live anywhere there is an internet connection. Do you think I could fix this place up and live here?” I thought of all the work it would take to get the old log home going, a new roof, plumbing, windows, doors. But that wasn’t my concern, especially when I saw the dream in my son’s eyes.
“Yes, I think you would like it out here.” It made me feel good that my father could touch his grandson on this day, offering him a safe place to start over.
“Let’s call the electric company and find out what the cost is to reconnect this cabin.” The realization that life moves on hit me at that moment. I came out here to ask my dad, what will I do now that you are gone? I had my answer. The thought of having my son live in the same house that his great grandfather built, one that his grandfather was born in, gave me a sense of grounding. Something I had lost that in the last few days. Dad would have been happy about this decision.