One of the reasons we chose Arkansas as our first full-family vacation destination was because we thought it would cheaper than the mousy alternative. And it was. Four days and three nights of the Natural State bliss for less than five hundred bucks. Yes, five hundred bucks. We also went there to introduce our little two to family they've never met and teach Jacob a little about his heritage.
The last time I was there was almost five years ago, the summer of 2004. I was just barely pregnant with Adam and we drove up to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 60th wedding anniversary. We didn't stay long, something we've long forgotten was so urgent we even missed my aunt's famous fresh corn, chicken fried steak, and homemade peach cobbler. I promised I'd come back for more at Thanksgiving. She died November 10 of that year. I miss my aunt. And I miss her corn.
Every year I'd send my uncle a card on his birthday with a note stating we'd try to come visit this year. And five years later, we finally did it. We all enjoyed visiting with my mom's side of the family, although Jacob is a tad bummed that marrying his third cousin would be frowned upon, but I'll write more (and post pictures) of that later.
Sixty miles away from them is my father's side of the family. Meet my grandparents:
Oh, how I wish my kids could've met them. You know, for real and in person.
But this was the best I could do. This and a quick swing through their old home. The home they lived in for sixty some years. The house my grandfather built with his own two hands. The house they left on March 4, 1998 when my dad took my grandpa to the hospital after he'd called with slurred speech knowing he was having a stroke never realizing they'd never see it again. The house we vacationed at two weeks every summer. The one house no one moved away from.
Hurricane Ike blew down the hundred year old oak tree blocking the path. Poison Ivy lined what used to be the sidewalk. But Mamaw's white irises and azalea bushes were blooming all around like a little bit of her spirit was still there caring for them.
I ambled my way to the porch with Jacob on my heels to get a glimpse through the window figuring that was the best I could get. Sure enough, the door was locked, but the window was wide open. So of course, I climbed right in.
I am kinda wishing I hadn't now.
My dad's sister and her kids own that house now. Apparently they've been looking for something.
I could barely move in that house for the holes in the floor. There was no longer a ceiling, just exposed rafters. The fireplace was missing. My mamaw's unde*gar*ents were in a pile on the overturned couch. A cat had peed on them. Their favorite picture of J*sus was moldy and thrown upside down near one of the floor holes. The 1938 refrigerator that was still running the day they left was still there though. With all kinds of food in it. 1998 food. Really.
I took no pictures of the inside because I didn't want anyone ever seeing it. Now, though, I'm wishing I had at least one just so you, my internetz, could see just how horrific it was. Is. Mamaw lived three months after Grandpa died. She lived with my parents because he took care of her; she couldn't live alone and my parents couldn't live in Arkansas. Every. Single. Day. All she asked was to go home. She wanted to take care of her flowers, her squirrels, her birds, her kitchen. She never did get to do it again. We had no idea how long she'd live, but if we'd known it would've only been three months, someone would've cared for her there. Shoot,I would've cared for her there. I hope, though, she has no idea up in heaven how bad her earthly home has become.
The neighbor said my cousins were "renovating" the house but one of them got a new job and couldn't make it out as much. Like, at all in the past three years. He, himself, had to hire someone to cut a portion of that Ike tree down just so he could get to his house. I don't think they ever had any intention of doing anything admirable with that house. They all thought my grandparents were made of money and would hit them up for car payments and vacation money. They didn't have much, but if they came asking, they gave what they could. I figure my cousins were looking for money, mining for their fortune. If they found anything, I don't know. I do know that the $2,000 that was left after paying for Mamaw's funeral was packed in the little black purse she carried everywhere. And that purse was buried with her. Maybe I should delete that in case my cousin's ever read this. I wouldn't put it past them to do a little grave-robbing.
When we'd go visit, Grandpa would always have a piece of quartz for my sister and me. A big pretty piece he'd dug out near the lake or in the mountain behind their house. We always looked forward to our new "diamonds".
My cousins left all the last quartz Grandpa dug those last months of his life right out on the front porch. Walked right past it. Left it for anyone to take.
Those were the only things I wanted. And now I have them. I hope my kids will love them and appreciate how hard their great-grandpa worked for them one day.
That house probably won't stand much longer, but I hope they'll be able to take their kids to see the flowers. I have a feeling they'll last.
Day One Hundred Eighty-Six
22 hours ago