Yesterday's Magazette

7 – It Stood On Love

It Stood On Love

By T-M Fitzgerald

The old farmhouse he lived in certainly was no palace. It’d definitely seen better days. The place was said to be about a hundred years old, barely having the four walls, ceiling, and roof one usually imagines any house having standard. There were lots of windows though; old, single paned ones painted with the thick lead-based paint used throughout the seventies. “Keeps the weather off,” he’d say as he’d grin and shrug. The house even sported its’ own resident ghost ‘once upon a time’; rumored to have been that of a young man who’d shot himself while cleaning a rifle of some sort.
He and his wife had cumulatively lived there for better of forty years. They raised three kids, kept the farm, canned produce, repaired fences, and lived off the land. His favorite pastime was hunting ‘billygoats’ on the mountain behind the house. Thing was though, there weren’t any billygoats to be found in those Northern Pennsylvania woods.

The half-circle shaped dirt drive in front was worn to stone by years of plowing, shoveling, and regular wear and tear. There was no such thing as a sidewalk lining the drive or any paralleling the road beyond. Instead, great clumps of bright, orange tiger lilies sprouted each spring. Back in the day, the man had lost a good dog on that road out front, which explained why he was so rigid in keeping his current dogs in the backyard. “Hey!” his voice would thunder as the dogs tried sneaking around front. “Get your tails back out here!” His voice echoed around the house.

From his back porch one could easily see the meadow atop his mountain and in that field sat a stone pile; a landmark in its own right. Countless rounds of ammunition had blasted way to targets set on those stones; most generally making center mass as new rifles and shotguns were sighted in over the decades. “Not bad,” he’d say. “Not bad. ”

Initially, the house once claimed a huge porch across the front. The front entrance took you into the open, country kitchen that also sported a deep, walk-in pantry where an old, white water heater sat complete with red top and copper pipes. The cooking stove was to the right, refrigerator to the left and a deep, porcelain sink straight ahead. “You ever get that wood stacked up on the porch?” He’d ask in more like a not so subtle command. “Wet wood don’t burn you know,” he’d say as he’d step purposefully off the concrete steps to stride across the expanse of yard to the barn to milk cows. “Stack some behind the stove while you’re at it.”

The bath jutted off the original kitchen. It was a room on that house which seemed to have been added in afterthought during the early part of some unknown decade. A past paint job had one time left that room a ghastly shade of greenish blue. No matter; Color wasn’t important as functionality. It was indoor plumbing. It made him no never mind that an unstoppable leak in the ceiling had developed over the mauve sink or that the old bathtub faucets could only be turned on with pliers. “Let ‘em drip a little. It’s supposed to get below freezing tonight. Don’t want the pipes to freeze.” As far as he was concerned, there was hot and cold running water to wash up with and a mirror hanging on the rusty, old, fourth-hand medicine cabinet to shave by. “That’s all I need,” he’d say. “Beats the old two-holer we had behind the house over in Athens.” He’d chuckle in fond reminiscence. “There were mornings Roy and I’d run rippity-split through snow up to our backsides. It was so cold, your cheeks would flap like this…” He’d rapidly twitter-patter his gnarled, too-tanned hands and his blue eyes would twinkle. “Them was the days you used the old Sears catalog for the paperwork. Weren’t no squeezin’ the Charmin back then. ”

The living room sat off the kitchen through the doorway between the refrigerator and stove. The most distinguishing thing a person would see was the big, brown, wood stove that heated the entire house. On the wall straight ahead was the heavy, wooden, white door leading upstairs. The staircase leading to the three rooms beyond was enclosed in a dark, damp, windowless stairwell. As you’d picked your way gingerly/precariously to the twenty-first step on top of the dangerously sagging four-by-six landing, you’d peer thoughtfully behind you in both amazement and wonder; in amazement because you actually made it to the top one more time and in wonder because when you made your way back down, you’d wonder if/when which step was going to give way to an express route to the ancient, dirt-floor cellar located directly beneath. “Just don’t step in the middles,” he’d say. “And take your time. I ain’t fell through yet.”

Some of the uniqueness about that old farmhouse consisted of the menagerie of pets raised in it through the years. There was Monarch the raccoon, Gonzo the goat who was kept like a house pet. (He had his own room upstairs.) There was a black and white rabbit that had free rein all over the house that ultimately met his unfortunate demise after eating a stray foam curler of Grandma’s. There were baby chickens hatched in diaper boxes under bare bulbs and goldfish that grew to amazing proportions in a simple tank kept on the counter.

Over the years, the house changed in composition; the porches were pulled off, entrances were rearranged and walls were added or pushed back. The kitchen and pantry became the living room and what was originally the living room became a kitchen and dining area. The downstairs bedroom that used to be behind the old living room had its walls reconfigured and became little more than a back room used for storage. That room became home to the ancient, energy-sucking chest freezer he bought back in 1971. “Still works,” he’d nod. “Ought to go get me a new one pretty soon.” (He never did.)

Changes in composition weren’t limited to just the house. The people who lived there changed as well. As years waxed on, the children grew up, moved away, the family moved out/moved back in. Times were changing and nothing stayed the same…except for him. Everyone said his house was a deathtrap. “Someone should drop a match to it” or “It should be condemned.” But never to him. It was his home. A roof, four walls and indoor plumbing; who needed more than that? His family had spent countless years making numerous memories in that place; had raised their children and some of their grandchildren there. And only twenty-three days shy of their forty-seventh anniversary, his wife died there as well. “Those danged ole’ cigarettes.” He never thought she was really gone. “I sure do miss the heck out of her.” As dilapidated as it had become, he didn’t want to leave that old farmhouse; and he never did. Not really; only for the milk to finish the mashed potatoes that night.

His only son still lived with him there and it was him who decided to make potatoes to go with dinner. When John discovered he didn’t have enough milk for mashed potatoes, Grandpa decided on driving down to the local convenience store; He arrived just fine, his faithful companions Howard and Lady accompanying him as per the norm. He never made it inside the store; an apparent heart attack.

It seems everything in his life had a particular if not peculiar order about it. All events in his life happened when and where they were supposed to; the right place, right time, or in the very least, in the right circumstances. Grandma passed first, her little dog following , and two and a half years after she passed, Grandpa followed suit. His faithful companion Lady, passed not long after her master and Howard the dog moved away.

His son continued living in the house for a time but the occasional visits back ‘home’ really weren’t so meaningful since Grandma and Grandpa were both gone. In May 2007, the old farmhouse, a place full of memories, good times, and a different people…burned down. Several weeks after the fire, the burned out shell still remaining was knocked down and bulldozed away. There’d never be any ‘going back home’ for anyone. Nothing is destined to remain the same forever and that fact was made dreadfully apparent after his death. But the memories of a man, his world, his life will go on as they were meant to. After he left, his home seemed to lose its own will. That day in May, the house that once stood on little more than love became nothing more than a memory falling into ashes and blowing away with winds sweeping down from his mountain.

T-M Fitzgerald is a native of Upstate New York who currently resides in the midwest. A registered nurse by profession, Tina-Marie spends a great deal of time writing, her favorite stories being ones that remind her of the days back when.

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