Last week I had a weird dream about my grandparent’s old house. It’s odd because I haven’t been in the house since 1987 when my grandfather died and my grandmother moved into an apartment. Wow. 27 years. Longer than I thought, (I actually had to look up Grandpa’s death date on my ancestry.com account.) In the dream the house was not really the same, but it was… if you’ve had a dream like this you know what I mean. But in my head – I recognized it. In the dream, my parents and I went to the current owners of the house and told them about my grandparents. They invited us inside to see what they had done with the place (in real life it’s been through some major renovating, which I can see from the outside.) In the dream I looked into my grandmother’s bedroom (they slept in separate rooms as they got older) and I recognized the flooring (old, worn hardwood) and a toy that used to sit there (maybe from her childhood?) When I awoke, I cried. I didn’t realize I had missed the house, and my grandparents, so much.
As the week went by, I thought about the dream a few times, but didn’t give it much thought.
Then yesterday, my cousin posted a home for sale listing on Facebook. It was for my grandparent’s house. I couldn’t believe it. The realtor had posted several pictures of the inside and out of the house. It was mostly different than I remember, the owners had done a lot of work – adding a garage to the basement and a new addition over top of it, but the bathroom looked almost identical and then I came across the basement photo.
There stood my grandfather’s steps. Not one had seemingly been touched in all these years – it looked like the same paint color I remember and everything. One of the few things not changed by the owners – after all, who would change basement step colors?
The basement was my grandfather’s sanctuary. They didn’t have a garage or even a shed outside that he could go to – he only had his basement. I remember going down those steps so many times to see what he was doing – only to be shooed back upstairs. It was his sanctuary after all – not for wives or children. But I remember there wasn’t a railing down the steps – only several vertical metal posts to hang onto. They are still there in the photo. In the side room, which doesn’t look to be there anymore, was his bench where he did metal working (much like my father does woodworking today). He had lots of metal down there – probably another reason I was shooed upstairs – and I was always intrigued by what he was making. He fashioned his own tools and put tables together with his metal.
Seeing the steps and those metal poles brought back a flood of memories that I couldn’t wrap my mind around.
The next photo was of the kitchen. My grandmother’s sanctuary. It was basically the same – as most kitchens are – with the cabinets in the same place along one wall. I noticed they put in a dishwasher and moved the stove and fridge. What stood out to me in this photo was the archway into the hallway and living room. It was small and rounded on the top – as it had always been. With so many changes, why wouldn’t the new owners have widened that space or made it square? But they didn’t and that simple doorway reminded me of so many things.
Long gone is the screened-in front porch where Grandma and I would rock for hours – another of her sanctuary places – looking out over the neighborhood.
I don’t remember what we talked about – only that we had long conversations as we watched the sun set. Or we chatted away the afternoon until she had to go make supper. Or she would often give me some money and I would go down the long hill to the sub shop to get our dinner and some pieces of candy for myself. She could see me the entire way (except in the shop) so she knew it was safe. And I always felt safe because I knew she had her eye on me the whole time, but I also felt grown up because she entrusted me with her sparse salary.
I’ve cried off and on over the last day about these memories. And I shared the pics with my Dad – who turned 70 yesterday. Over the past 27 years I have not missed my grandparents so much as I have looking at these photos. I don’t have a single photo of my own from the house I remember. These new ones are the only ones I have – except in my dreams.