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.


You Get Nothin for Nothin, Advice From Dad

Iphone Pictures 1047


Dear Dad,

With Father’s Day approaching, I thought that I should share some of the advice you have given over the years. Growing up, I looked up to you as a hero and it is partly because of some of the trademark phrases that you used on a regular basis. I am sure you had many more pieces of advice that have come with me into adulthood but here are just a few that really stand out. Keep in mind that as you read each piece of advice that in my head I am hearing them all with a strong New York accent. I just don’t think they’d be the same without.

“You get nothin for nothin!” Isn’t that the truth. You have said this phrase for as long as I can remember. As a kid, you have everything provided for you. Your parents cook, clean, clothe, fix and care for all of your needs. As you get older their role lessons and lessons but it is easy to see why so many have the impression that some things are free. Since the beginning everything was, and suddenly as an adult it is no longer.

This wasn’t a shocking transition for myself, however. I have heard you say “you get nothin for nothin” over and over so I already knew what was coming to me. It has been a valuable tool that has made me who I am today. I take nothing for granted and I earn everything that I have with blood, sweat and tears.

I learned from you early on that the only way to have what I wanted was to work for it. If there was a deal that seamed too good to be true, than it was. I have learned that no matter how good it sounds, taking the easy road or the free road will only cost you more in the long run.

I try to instill this lesson in my children today. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that life is easy. Sure, I want to help them as much as I can, but I want them to know and be prepared for the fact that life is actually pretty hard most of the time. People don’t just come knocking on your door with handouts…. at least not on my door anyway. My kids will know that you do in fact get “nothin for nothin” even if I can’t say it with the New Yorker flair that you do.

Another good line that I love is “Ifa, woulda, shoulda, coulda.” This has taught me that there are no re-do’s in life. I can’t go through life looking in my rear view mirror thinking “if only I had done this” or “I should’ve done that.” I can recall you saying this all of the time and I am pretty sure that as a kid I didn’t get it. I don’t remember when it actually sunk in but this phrase is so useful.

I have learned to do everything that I do, to my best ability. Leave no room for second guessing myself later. I have learned that because there are no re-do’s, I need to do it right the first time and then there won’t be a “ifa, woulda, shoulda, coulda.”

This phrase also taught me that there are no excuses. We all make mistakes, some of us daily. If we made an excuse for each of them we would be buried with a long list of reasons not to try. There aren’t any excuses in my book. There is only keep trying and keep pushing for more. I do stumble and I do fail from time to time, but there isn’t an excuse attached to each of my failures. Instead there is plan for success. I look at my mistakes and correct them rather than dwell on them. Well, I may dwell for a minute, but then I move on!

This lesson is one of the hardest lesson to teach myself and my children. Pulling yourself back up in the face of failure is always hard and many times I would like to stay down. This is also a lesson that has made me, me. I feel like I am stronger each time I get up after a fall. I don’t look back, or at least try not to, and I don’t wonder about “ifa, woulda, shoulda, coulda’s.”

This next quote of yours has been right time and again. “Blood is thicker than water.” This one was so hard to understand growing up. I can remember many times that I would have issues with friends and you would tell me that it didn’t matter because “blood is thicker than water.” I think I would even get mad sometimes when you said it. Especially, when it was in reference to a break up. Friends seemed so important back then, even more important than family.

The truth is, that over the years I have seen how much you were right. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my family and nothing they wouldn’t do for me. I have seen them give the shirt off of their back and I have given mine as well. We have all stuck together through ups and downs and watched as friends have come and gone.

I would say that the only addition to this, the family that I gained when I married Brian, has become as thick as blood. I may not be blood to them but they are my family and we would do anything for each other.

I want Cassidy and Jacob to know that when they feel like there is no where else to go, that they can always come to their family. I want them to help each other without thinking twice and I want them to know that no matter how bad things are that they have an ally in their parents.

Time and again I have tested this line and it has always been proved. I have had the help and support of my family whenever I needed it. Blood is thicker than water and I am glad that there isn’t anything stronger than my family.

Finally, the message that you taught us was about telling the truth. I can’t remember there being one catch phrase, but I do know that the message was always the same. The truth is the only option. There were plenty of times that I screwed up and tried to cover my tracks with a lie. The lies only made things worse and the punishment only got greater.

I would be scared to tell the truth when I made a mistake and I can remember you saying “you may be in trouble, but if you lie about it, you are in even more trouble.” Lies were never tolerated in our house. It took me a while to learn how important the truth was, but I think that it has stuck with me.

I encourage my kids to come to me with the truth as well. I want them to know that once they lie, it will be hard to decipher  if they are always lying or telling the truth. They are young and hardly grasp the lesson I am teaching, but I will continue to repeat it until it has sunk in. Trust is immeasurable. You can not have a relationship with anyone, without trust. I feel like my word is my bond and once I become a liar, my bond is worth nothing.

Dad, you have taught us so many things that I honestly didn’t realize until I got older. Having kids of my own has really shown me how important those lessons were. I guess all of the times that you repeated these phrases truly sunk in. Consider them to be a legacy now, because I will repeat them over and over to my kids. Hopefully, they will have the opportunity to pass them on as well.

Love, Cherise