Sweat Equity

Dear Dad,

Today I saw things through your eyes for the first time. Over the past month I have looked at our house and seen it through my eyes. I have seen it through my brother’s eyes and my sister’s eyes. I even had a glimpse of it through Mom’s eyes. I put myself in every one of their shoes and felt what they were feeling. The losses that they suffered. I wanted to be sympathetic to their feelings of loss as well as my own. I never put on your shoes… until today.

I realized immediately, what I had lost in this fire. We moved in when I was six, this is pretty much the only house that I know. I may as well have been born here. The loss for me is of memories of my childhood. The devastation that I will not be able to sit on the same stoop some day when you are gone, because now it is gone, scraped away today by an excavator like it was peeling back the tab on a soda can. In an instant it was gone.

It took me a few days to realize what my siblings had lost. My brothers lost a home also but they lived there far more recently than I. They still had actual things in that house. Tom was actually born here so it is the only place that he knew. Chrissy still lived right there, and was in and out of that house far more than I. They were all so attached.

I looked at it through Mom’s eyes and saw fear. I know because I am a mom. She feels the loss of all of the things inside of course, but for her it runs deeper. It is a fear that it could have been worse. She will question her every movement in that house and wonder if she could have saved one more. She lost her sense of safety. She is a Mom and we protect at all costs.

Dad, today I realized what you lost.

My heart raced and my stomach tumbled at the very first brick that was brushed aside by that huge machine today. When they pounded to the ground the sound was like they had fallen deep into the hollow of all of our hearts. It was as difficult to watch if not harder than the day that the fire took our home. Each sweep of that claw was another blow to my insides and I stood and watched as you turned your back and walked away.

I didn’t understand because I couldn’t imagine not being here. I had to witness the death and the burial of my home. I had to see that there was nothing left to believe that there is nothing left .No pulse, just a flat line.  I couldn’t imagine walking away and yet you did.

I stood outside for five hours watching as our metal was sorted and wood was crushed and bricks were tossed aside like feathers. I watched as that giant scoop picked up things as small as a pile of photos sitting in a basket that was some how protected by who knows what, and was left untouched. This was the reason that I could not walk away. The chance that I may get one more glimpse of a memory that was made there. One more faint beat of the heart of that house. I had to see it right up until the end.

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When I walked inside and Mom asked you if you were alright, your words opened my eyes finally. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to see what you lost. You said that you couldn’t stand to watch thirty years of sweat and work just knocked over like it was nothing.

I get it now.

Last week my garage door broke. Brian looked at it and figured out what parts we would need. He ordered them and we waited for them to come in. We didn’t use the garage for a week but as soon as the part came in, he was down there installing it. It needed a few more adjustments before it was working again but I looked at the pride in Brian’s eyes when he had set out to fix his garage. It was his sweat that went into it that day.

A few months ago we installed a wood burning stove into our living room. It took several weeks to get the entire project completed, but I know that Brian is proud of the work he did. With the help of his uncle and a few other hands he did that. It was his sweat that went into that stove.

We built our enclosed garden last year, we’ve put strips on the roof to melt the snow, we’ve repaired sewage pipes and basement floors, we’ve replaced doors, fixed dishwashers, washing machines and all things mechanical. We’ve moved furniture and we’ve painted rooms. We have sweat that went into this house.

We have lived here for three years and our sweat is in the walls and bricks. You had thirty years of sweat. I see it through your eyes now. You have spent thirty years fixing things, replacing things, building things and sweating. I remember you showing me how to use the drill to screw  some drywall in the basement. To me it is a memory but to you each one of those screws was a piece of your hard work, sweat and pride.

You took care of those bricks. You made sure that everything was working. You were the steward of that home. It was on your shoulders to keep it working. You did a perfect job. Thirty years of taking care of that house. I see it through your eyes now. So many projects and home improvements, so much sweat that you invested. It is called sweat equity for a reason. You invested so much.

I get it now.

I understand why you couldn’t watch that machine flick away our house in an instant. I’m sorry Dad. You’ve been so strong and I’ve forgotten to look at it through your eyes, but I see it now.

Dad, I pray that each day will get easier for you. Today we laid to rest the home that you have loved and pridefully cared for, for thirty years. I pray that your pain will become less each day and that as time passes your heart will begin to heal. I pray that you can find pride in your next home and that even though it will be new, I pray that you can tinker and tweak and fix till your heart ceases to beat. I love you.

Cherise

Why Me?

Dear World,

Why me?

Why did I choose this checkout lane at the grocery store? It was the shortest when I got into it, and now I’m seeing why. The cashier is one hundred and ninety and has scanned one thing in the time that it took me to shop for my full cart load. I’d move to another one but they are all full now with three people deep. Why me?

Driving to work this morning I wonder why did I get into this lane? It was moving so much quicker than the one I was in, and of course as soon as I make the switch, it comes to a screeching halt! Now I will be late for sure. Why me?

Why did I loose my job?

Why did I wreck my car?

Why did my husband leave?

Why did an eight year old die of cancer?

Why do my kids hate me?

Why did my parents house burn down?

Why did my father pass away too soon?

Why me? Why you? Why any of us?

We all ask it. We ask it over and over when things just sort of suck. It’s like, if we just had a reason why the world is blowing up in my face right now, I might be able to understand it and move on.

I sat with my Mom last night and she said those very words to me. “Why me?” Her eyes filled with tears, not enough to start dripping, she is far too tough for that. Just enough that I could see the little red veins start to pulse and the tiny waves of clear liquid put a shimmer over her fading green eyes. “I’m a good person, why me?” and then my eyes began to fill.

I remember when my grandma Scott passed away so many years ago. It was what I remember as the very first time that I questioned “why”. I was still in high school and though we were separated by many miles and several states, I was very close to my grandma Scott. She was the world to me, and to everyone else that knew her.

A few months prior to her passing we visited her for the last time. The car ride lasted about fourteen hours and felt like six years. It was agony knowing that this was the last time we would see her alive. Say everything you have to because this is it. Horrible! Why her? She was a good person. I watched as cancer took her and destroyed her. It let her have a comeback only to tease us all into believing that she was alright. Then it sucker punched her and come back worse than before. That was the last punch. KO

I prayed every night. Maybe at the time I didn’t know how to pray, but I still did. I would try to make deals with God. I would say “I’ll never do this again if you just save her” or “I will be the best kid ever if she just lives”. I begged, I pleaded and every night my prayers went unanswered so I thought. When she passed away I wondered why. Why?

It has taken me until a few years ago to realize and come to terms with the fact that I don’t get to know why. I don’t get to have that information. Maybe someday I will, but here on this earth, I probably will never know why. I won’t know why the ones that we love so dearly leave us way too soon. I won’t ever know why my parents have to rebuild their lives after over thirty years in a home, because of a fire. I won’t ever know why I am sitting in front of this computer right now instead of somewhere else. We don’t get to know the why, but I like to imagine that it’s a really good reason.

January 9th 2015

It is midnight and everyone in my parents house is sound asleep. My brother who normally stays elsewhere on the weekend has decided to stay at home. He is deep asleep after an evening out with his buddies. No one can smell smoke because it started in the basement. By the time it reaches the main floor, the fire is already too extensive to escape. The smoke fills the first floor like a wave of death and then makes its way up the stairs to take the rest of the living. The smoke alarms go off but at this point there is no floor. The roof is already spewing flames and the beds that they sleep in are now coffins. Why?

This easily could have been their story and it was not. We don’t question why it didn’t happen that way. We are thankful and feel blessed. We praise God that he spared all of my family. We are beyond grateful that this was not our reality. We don’t question why it didn’t happen this way.

Instead, it happened just as it was supposed to and life went on just as it was planned. Like a well rehearsed play, Saturday morning came and when the fire began, two people were in the house instead of four or five that could normally have been. Two people made it out of that house. My Mom rescued my niece and she continued to run in and out of the house to save their beloved pets. She saved two of their five dogs. We ask why? Why just two, why not all five?

It turns your stomach and it makes you breath faint when you think of it, but the reality is that we don’t get to know.

I hate to replay that day, and yet it continues to rerun in my head. It is on a continuous loop and each time, I look at the different people. For my family, this was the worst day. If I look at the movie with those eyes, all I see is my family. I see our pain. I see our lives changed, charred, ruined. I see my Mom’s black lips that are chapped and quivering. I see my Dad’s blank stare in the direction of his life. He watches lifelessly as it evaporates into the sky above. I see my younger brother’s heart peal from his chest and die in front of me. He was born there and now it is dead. I see my older brother confused and bewildered as his daughter is taken off to the hospital to be checked out. I see my sister go into frantic mode as time races and everything is happening so fast.  Every thing I see is hazy and it is like I look through water beads. All of our faces are chapped within minutes from the stream of tears and the extreme cold.  I see us. I don’t see anything else or anyone else around us. The firemen don’t have faces and the on lookers don’t have names. There is no one but us.

Then I replay it once more and see those faces of those people that were a part of our worst day. Those firemen that were at our house. Now they have faces. They are people in the flesh and they have lives just like ours that are going on right now. They have families and loved ones and they have good times and suffer tragedy just like we do. I think that fireman Joe, spent his morning at my parents house. He fought hard to get the blaze under control. He was on his knees in the ice cold slush that covered our street. I watched as he knelt for balance as he held the hose and aimed it directly at the devil inside. He swayed only once and caught himself quickly. The force of the water exploding from his hands.

I think about Joe. He shared the worst day with us. Why?

Where would Joe have been if he hadn’t been on McNeilly road kneeling in the ice cold water.

Would he have been in a car driving down the interstate on the way to see his sister that lived a couple hours away? She just had a baby and since it was his first day off in two weeks he couldn’t wait to see his niece. Suddenly a patch of black ice reached out and grabbed his tires to spin his Honda Civic into oncoming traffic leaving him crushed between the layers of metal until rescue workers could finally cut him from his seat. Would he have been paralyzed from the waist down and suddenly his career of being a firefighter was over? His whole life that is what he wanted to do and in an instant it is gone. For Joe, being at my parents house that morning was the why.

I think about the reporter lady that was taking pictures. She was very kind, asked me a few questions and seemed genuinely concerned for my family. I don’t know her name, if she gave it to me, I don’t remember. She was there that day. Why?

Where would she have been if she hadn’t been there looking through her lenses magnifying the horror of our lives with every shutter snap of that camera?

I imagine that she would have been on her way to the office to print some pictures from the day before. She woke up late and didn’t have time to brew coffee before she left. All she needed was just one cup and she’d be awake. She stopped at the convenience store that was a block from her office.

She never stops here for coffee, but it was early and she thought for sure it would be quick.

My parent’s house never caught on fire so she was not there. Instead the news reported two people killed in a convenience store robbery. One woman and a man that was behind the counter. The woman was found laying in a puddle of coffee that had poured over her chest as she fell to the floor. For her, being at my parent’s house that morning is the why.

I can imagine each and every person involved in that day and I can even think to the future. Maybe it was because my parents needed a home that they could grow old in. Maybe it was because they needed to know that their kids could step up and care for them. Maybe it was a wake up call to get their things in order in case they should leave this earth unexpectedly. Maybe it was to show them how many people care about them. People that don’t even know them that drive past their house every day on their way to work that just care.

I can come up with a million more maybes and a billion more whys. They might be right. They might be wrong. We don’t get to know.

We don’t get to know.

It’s not fair. It sucks, but we don’t get to know why.

We do get to have faith that the reason is important. My parent’s loss could be someone else’s gain. It could be their own gain. We just don’t know. Time will go on and we will start to heal and rebuild as soon as we stop asking why.

I pray that over time the why no longer matters. I pray that my family can look at the worst day with the eyes of someone else and see that it was someone else’s best. I pray that we can all trust in God, that it does happen for a reason and while we may never understand it, it is perfectly planned.

Amen.

Cherise

P.S.

Some words that have helped me to remember that it is all a part of the plan…

“If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it” Not sure where this quote originated but a friend shared it.

“It’s ok to get angry with God. He can take it. Just don’t stay angry. It takes courage to believe that the best is yet to come.” Robin Roberts