My Father has lived in his house for 27 years. He has lived in it, alone for the last 12, save for visitors. Soon, I think, he will need to move to a place where others can help take care of him. That will be a huge change. We grieve. I fear it. And I am sad. I won’t stay in his house anymore.
I have never lived in this house. This is my Father’s second house in Casper. The house on Country Club, was “home” to me. We moved to Casper when I was in the 8th grade. After a year on the west side, we moved to Country Club Road. Despite the pretentious name, it was a tiny, tract house. My room was in the partially completed basement. It was my sanctuary, my safe place during high school, Air Force, and College years. When Marian and I moved to Florida, I still thought of it as “home.” Some of my fondest memories are spending Christmas evening with my oldest nephews and niece, along with tubing on a snow covered slope on Hat Six Road.
My father worked for Marathon Oil Company, as a draftsman. In 1984 his company closed their offices in Casper, and he was transferred to Cody, Wyoming. He sold the little house on Country Club. I saw it, briefly, at the end of a Yellowstone trip we did with my parents, my sister and her husband and kids. I never saw how it was transformed into a home. A year later, my Father was given a chance-of-a-lifetime retirement option, and he took it. Mom and Dad moved back to Casper, buying the house on Jonquil. This all happened between one Christmas visit and the next.
My home was gone. Over two decades, Jonquil slowly became a safe harbor. I remember opening the front door, and feeling the rush of warmth and unconditional love of my Mom and Dad. Sometimes we would set in the Living Room. Usually, we went to other parts of the house.
My mother’s touch is everywhere. She loved the southwest, and Native American art. And she added things which reminded her of it. They wintered once or twice in Lake Havasu, Arizona, before she became too ill to go. My Father went there twice, after, but it wasn’t the same.
The last time I saw my Uncle Delbert was in Casper, in the Living Room. Oxygen lines had been laid everywhere so he could plug in and breath. We watched The Princess Bride. When he left, I knew it was the last time I would see him.
This tri-level house has bedrooms on the third floor, living room and kitchen on the ground floor, and the family room in the basement. The stairs connecting the floors have been an endless source of fascination for grand children and great grand children.
My Father sleeps in the Master Bedroom. Over time, he moved to a smaller bed, configured to meet his health needs. The color scheme and many furnishings picked by my Mother and Father remain. He has groused from time to time, that there aren’t any Guy Things on the walls.
The other two bedrooms have been used by an almost endless number of children and grand children. The pink bedroom contains a beautiful matched maple bedroom set. I was the first in the family to use it, when we still lived on Country Club. Until my Father got air conditioning a few years ago, these bedroom would be quite hot at night. It is odd that I don’t remember it being that hot on Country Club.
The blue bedroom has seen several different beds. But the one constant throughout, has always been the pictures of the children and grand children. My Mother used to call her ten grand children “her glory.”
The kitchen was always the center of the house. My mother prided herself on her cooking. My parents believe strongly in the gift of hospitality. Of course, when Family came over, my mother was gracious enough to step aside, and “let” others help, doing cooking, washing, and cleaning. My Father’s cooking has been more simple in recent years. He welcomes the cooking of his children and grand children.
One especially memorable meal was one my Father cooked for my two children. It was trout. And this wasn’t just any fish. We had gone to Alcova Lake. And he had taken my children fishing. They were still in elementary school. Elizabeth fished first. To everyone’s surprise, she caught a trout. David wanted to hard to catch a fish, but it wasn’t to be. When we got home, my Father fried the fish up and they snacked on it.
My Mother kept a well-stocked closet of toys, in the basement. She started her collection with left-over toys from my childhood. I was surprised to see my old Fort Apache, from a long ago Christmas in Sidney Nebraska. She cruised garage sales to round out her collection. And soon, there was a vast array of toys to build with, cars to drive, and little airplanes to land. It was humorous to see children come in, give only the quickest of greetings to their Grand Parents, and then make a bee line for the basement. Without hesitating, the door would be thrown open. Soon, there would be toys everywhere.
I remember saying goodbye to my Mother, as she huddled on the sofa, to weary and in pain, to move. I tried to hold back my tears – knowing I would never see her in this house again. A few months later, after her memorial service, we had a house full of people. There were her brothers and sisters, and an unbelievable crush of relatives and friends. I remember how weary I was, crashing on a sofa, talking quietly with whoever was in the room. In our sadness, we shared, we loved, we cried, we laughed. My Mother would have approved.
I share a love of old movies with my Father. Of course, these old movies were ones I never saw in a movie house. That wasn’t the case with my Father. As a child, he saw them on the big screen. And, when he was in the Navy, one of his assignments was Bremerton, at the Fleet Movie exchange. His job was to catalog the new movies coming out, and make sure they were issued to the right ships. Of course, he had to inspect them before shipping them. One of his favorite movie stars from that era was Rita Hayward. I was never at a loss as to what to get him for his birthday or Christmas. I think we have given him every John Wayne movie ever made, the TV series Star Gate, and a host of Jimmy Cagne, Cary Grant, Thin Man, and other movies.
My parents turned the little basement bedroom into their office. My father uses the internet to check his stocks, and other things. One of his favorite indulgences is to play a few games of solitaire. Not wanting to waste his day, he limits himself to three or four games.
My mother was interested in genealogy. One year, when she visited us in San Jose, she was very curious to know more about something just beginning to be called the internet. We sat her down at our old Atari, with a 2.4 kps modem. There was no such thing as a browser. She began to make queries, limited to text. She worked on our computer for several days, drawing out information for her studies. She was both grateful at the information available, yet disappointed she could not get to more of it.
After she died, my Father asked us to go through her stuff, and sort it out. My brother, Steve, took the accumulated genealogy material, promising to work on it when he had time. I look forward to the finished product. One of the things I noticed was that she had been trying to make prints of photos, using a first generation laser printer. I am always a little sad that she did not live to see the high quality printers that are commonly available. I can only imagine to what use she would have put it.
The house has a sun room. This room has evolved over time. When my Mother was still alive, there was a glass table, and the room had a light and airy feel. Now there is a more sturdy wooden table, and shelves for starting plants.
The walls are adorned with yet more pictures of their grand children. I imagine if we had sent more, she would have papered every wall of the house with thme.
My mother, and one of her sisters, refinished two cabinets, transforming them into a china cabinet. It houses the Nartaki china my father brought back from Japan, after serving his tour in the Korean War. There are also other nick nacks which softly remind me of my Mother.
Stepping from the sun room to the backyard is to go back in time to a place which is forever summer. The deck and the lawn have hosted a hoard of family and friends over the years. Our kids crowded into the camper with my brother’s daughters, playing Uno and other games until all hours. There were more barbeques in the backyard, with wall to wall people than I can remember. There was even one wedding. When I am in the backyard, I can clearly remember the people there, and, sometimes, what we talked about. The children, of course, loved running back and forth, hanging from trees, and doing all those things that have a parent keeping a sharp eye on.
My father’s passion is gardening. It came in to full bloom, so to speak, on Country Club Road. And he brought it to fruition on Jonquil. One thing he did not count on was he voracious deer which live down by the river, but roam in the evening to graze. Over time, he has tried lights, radios on a night, and finally settled on high fencing to keep the deer at bay. At various times, my brothers in law have repaired his cages.
His gardening is with a purpose, to create the next edition of “Gunpowder”. This is an ever changing mix of Jalapeño and Anaheim and other peppers, dried, and ground into a powder. In the past, he has used grow lights under the house to get the plants started. One of my sisters used to tease him that people must be wondering what he was “really” growing in the crawl space.
A couple of years ago, my Father decided to replace his dilapidated wooden fence with a new one. One of his grand children did much of the work. And it was left to my brother and me to fence in his primary garden. Aside from the incredible number of rocks, our biggest challenge was to stair-step the fence up the slope, since the prefabricated sections could not be racked.
His back yard is adjacent to a golf course. It gives the illusion of a sweeping backyard that goes on forever. Many times we have sat on the deck, watching golfers come and go. Once, my Father had some thought of golfing. But, the time and money required to become proficient were more than he wanted to invest.
My Father adjusted to life without my Mother. For a time, we watched to see if he was “slipping”. Happily, for many years, that hasn’t been so. We continue to come and visit. However, as I look around, I see the future. I see a time when someone else will come, and live here. The knick-knacks and paintings will disappear. The walls will be repainted. And, I won’t come and stay here anymore.
When I first started blogging, I made a vow to myself. I wasn’t writing for other people. I was writing for myself, that I might remember. And I will remember, always.