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.


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.


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