Updated: Nov 16, 2019
The stroke of white paint splashing and covering the hallways was the first memory I could recall of him teaching me how to make a place a home. The room immediately brightened as he slid the roller across the ceiling, masking the last of the beige-like brown color that dimmed the house. It was my first memory of turning something unflatteringly not yours into something you really want.
Blood, sweat, and possibly tears, went into this 1950 house, where he landed when most engineering jobs were on high demand. Houston was not exactly the environment he was accustomed to, but eventually became a way of life.
While his five siblings stayed fairly close to their hometown in Central Texas, he spent the last forty plus years being a three hour drive away...an engineer who profusely traveled for work, and juggled spending every other weekend with me - all in the midst of showing me what his skills can do a domestic setting.
Before I knew it, I was watching my 14 year old brother and him take a sledge hammer to the kitchen wall. Seeing the dust from the Sheetrock exploding from impact further excited me as I tried to imagine what our new dining room was going to look like. Then there was a patio that needed to be built. Watching men bash through a wall was fun, but partaking in the brick smashing was so much better.
As time went on, more transformations occurred by his own hands.
Then there was the grand finale, the mothership. The Place.
The Place was being built toward the beginning of my senior year. Even then, as he walked me through the naked structure (no Sheetrock, no electricity or plumbing) - I knew this could be ”it”. My high school activities kept me away from watching him move by move build this dream place. And when it was finally finished, it became a pause, a reset button, and sometimes my only haven as I sat in that beautiful loft in total silence.
It was bound to happen sooner or later...Life happened, times have changed and so did Houston. When I first heard his move was happening, I embraced this chapter with great joy and hesitation.
As new developers were leveling houses all around him, for years he held his ground with great pride. Leveling The Place was not an option. Then one day, a young couple eyed down the house and The Place...and are now making it their new home to start a family.
With great happiness, I rejoice in the fact that a new generation will get to experience all that he did. .But with great sadness, it was time to say goodbye.
I flew in, last minute, to help him move. Already, that first evening I tapped into the memory of him showing me how to use a knife for the first time as I started to chop up the mushrooms for dinner. Unknown to him, it was the first vegetable we had chopped up when he was showing me how to cook Chicken Marsala when I was 8.
All the memories came flashing back. The tree that I used to climb suddenly became the home of his new tool shed. Where The Place stands once housed a garden where we grew lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and carrots...the only fresh produce I would ever eat growing up. A pond full of gold fish gave life to what was considered a “normal” backyard.
And now, I say goodbye... Perhaps it didn’t all hit me when basking in the actual place. There were even moments when reality sunk in that the neighborhood I once knew is hardly recognizable. As I snapped the final photograph of the view from his driveway, I immediately turned the focus on myself afterwards. The homes of the neighborhood kids I once rode bikes with have now been torn down and redeveloped behind my back. At this angle, there’s nothing here that deserves a goodbye.
I sat at the airport ready to leave with my final thoughts swinging back and forth. I bought champagne and raised a glass with him the night before as it was the final moment we would have together in The Place. For the first time, he revealed the journey of how hard it was to juggle his duties at work and working through every spare second trying to bring it to life.
”It was a lot of work...a whole lot of work...but in the end, it turned out to be worth it.”
Deep down, I wonder if that’s truly the case for anything when it comes to going after what we really want...
When having his new house built, I knew and he concurred that there was nothing out there that could replicate The Place. It was his. It is all him. But seeing him in that new house in Central Texas, I knew that this new chapter is for the better.
For so long he hung his hat in Houston, getting that good job and supporting me. I take comfort in the fact that while I am saying goodbye to the house and The Place that made me a Houstonian, the engineer, my dad, finally gets to go back home.