I went to visit my dad yesterday, which turned out to be a good idea, as today we are being soaked by freezing rain. Northeast Ohio in the wintertime - gotta love it. We had a nice visit, including lunch at a little family restaurant that was a skeezy bar thirty years ago. Now it is a bright and cozy space with mismatched Fiestaware dishes and the work of local artists displayed on the walls. They serve the best meatloaf I have ever eaten. (Yeah, we both had the meatloaf. Hey, it was my big meal of the day, so climb off.)
After lunch, we decided to drive by our old house, which has the misfortune to be located between two local behemoths that are swallowing up all the old homes surrounding them - the high school and the old folks home. (You can supply your own p.c. term for that - I grow weary of trying to keep them straight.) It is the high school that is taking our house, along with the rest of the houses on that side of the street. An eight-foot tall chain link fence surrounds them all now, and it looks like the workmen are finishing up the process of removing all the valuable fixtures from the interiors of the houses, and beginning the demolition.
The old street looks pretty bad now, although even when I was a kid, I knew it wasn't a "good" neighborhood. It was a solidly blue-collar neighborhood, with many of the fathers on the street walking to their jobs at local foundries, and then straight to the nearby bars when their shifts had ended. I suspect my dad was the only person on the street with a college degree, but things like that never mattered to him.
This is an ugly time of year in Northeast Ohio, and even though the sun was out yesterday, it could not improve the appearance of the empty, windowless houses with piles of rubble outside each of them. It was unutterably sad to know that I was seeing my old house for the last time, but at the same time, I was oddly comforted to be there with my dad. He is not a sentimental man, and I drew strength from his matter-of-fact attitude.
As we drove away from our house for the last time, I took with me the memory of a young father walking up the street with his daughter's small hand held in his own. It is twilight on a warm summer evening, and the two of them are walking to the local carry-out to pick up a six-pack and maybe a bag of pretzels, if she can talk him into it. He says hello to everyone they pass as they walk along, whether he knows them or not. He explains to his young daughter that it is courteous to do so. He walks on the street side of her at all times, explaining that a gentleman always does this to protect his lady.
Darkness has fallen as they walk home, and the three glowing yellow rectangles of the bay window welcome them as they turn the corner towards their house. The young father allows his daughter to run ahead once they have safely crossed the last street. Whatever else it is - or isn't - the old house is home to her, and she is happy to return there.