College / Family

The House That Built Me

The trouble with inheriting things, while it can be a blessing and a connection to a loved one, is that once that person has passed, everything you inherited will forever and always remind you of them. That can be particularly troubling when you’re trying to heal a broken heart.

My grandmother passed Thursday, June 7th, 2012. Since she passed, I have been learning what it is to deal with true heartbreak and loss. I’m struggling. I’ve never really lost anyone that I was this close to and it’s been having serious effects on my life. I failed Economics last term. I missed an internship conference call. I skip class every now and then because I’m too embarrassed to show up with puffy pink eyes. I think there’s at least one night every week where I’m suddenly, out of the blue, overcome with a deep lump-in-my-throat sadness and I’ll just cry. I’m probably torturing myself listening every now and then to the last voice mail she left me and watching the video footage I filmed of her. Why is it that we insist on listening to sad music when we’re depressed, replaying the heartbreak over and over again?

It’s hard to imagine that everything that was hers that is now mine had a different life before it came to be with me in my apartment, in my room. I got her T.V., her dark oak tea table, her big old jewelry box filled with pieces neither my mom or aunt considered their “taste,” some dusty smoke-scented books, and two key chains. She is everywhere.

Tomorrow I will be driving up to her house with my mom and my step-dad. Her house is located on 30 acres in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it’s two minutes away from the podunk town of Ford, Washington, but whenever people hear “the middle of no where,” it usually creates a better visual. Truth is, I could never describe Rabbit Hill, my grandmother’s name for her home, the way it deserves to be described. Her driveway is about two miles long and it’s all dirt. When I would drive in the car with her, she always slowed down on her driveway to minimize the impact of the dust behind her. I would roll down the windows to hear the crunch of the gravel underneath the tires, a sound I always found comfort in. Home, it said. You can relax. Finishing the drive up the steep hill and rounding a corner, you see the silver rust-ridden tin roof first. It sits atop a teal-colored house, surrounded by tall, swaying pine trees dripping with sap. To any other person, it might not look like much, but the close friends of my grandma’s who have spent time on this property have said it is magic.

View from the barn

My grandma was my refuge every summer from the time I was 8 until I was 16. Sometimes I would spend just two weeks with her, others I spent the entire 2 1/2 months with her. It depended on how long of an escape I needed from home. Her house was the one place where I would be left alone, unabused. She understood me better than anyone and she always had the answers. Now that she’s gone, I feel like a chicken with its head cut off, blind and unsure of any direction my life once had with her guidance and advice to fall back on.

We’ll be painting and doing some other prep work to prepare the house to be put on the market. We are also scattering her ashes, an event I am dreading to the bone. It’s a sad time in my life and every day since my grandmother passed has been a marathon. It is really difficult to come to terms with the fact that, after the house is sold, I will never be able to visit the ashes. Did my grandma know that? I wonder. Along with that question come the one million others I never thought to ask her. Funny how when a person is still alive we don’t even think about things like that… it’s only after they’re gone that your mind throws you all these questions you will never have answers to.

If you’re a country music listener, you know the song “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert. Before my grandma died, the lyrics to that song never really had any meaning for me… and now they do.

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

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave,

Won’t take nothin’ but a memory, from the house that built me

I know there are a hundred articles and essays out there that say “don’t take the ones you love for granted,” but seriously. Don’t. I never took my grandma for granted, but I’ve learned a lesson. I should’ve spent way more time with her. I should’ve called her more, emailed her more, told her I loved her more.

Never forget that your family is the only true thing you really have in this world. If you’re not on great terms with them, fix it. Never mind whose fault it was. Get over the ego and the pride, apologize. Because whether you think so now or not, you will regret it if you wake up tomorrow and it’s too late.


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