Our family farmhouse will soon move on to new owners.
While I’ve known for several years that my father intended to sell the property, I was surprised to learn that he’d found a buyer. I’ve also been surprised in the weeks since by my own ambivalence about the sale. The farmhouse has been a part of my life for nearly four decades, and the parade of memories has been, at times, overwhelming.
Yet I’m also realistic: My father turns 76 in July, and he can no longer care for it or give it the attention he once did. My sisters and I all have young children, and the farmhouse is more than 500 miles away, in Creemore, Ontario. We no longer visit as we once did.
I made what is now my final visit in July 2015, when my son, Fitz, and I stayed for a few days. He loved riding his bike on the lane and down the small slopes in the yard, occasionally crashing in the corn field. I loved sharing the farmhouse with him and reflecting on my memories. I knew a sale was in the future, and I wanted to be prepared in case that visit proved to be my last.
And so it did.
I don’t mean to appear cavalier. I asked to return, but the trip I had in mind wasn’t possible. My father instead allowed that I could join him and my stepmother for an overnight stay as they packed up the place.
I choose not to go. If the parting experience I want — a weekend getaway with friends — isn’t an option, then I’ll be content with the one I had. Being at the farmhouse one last time comes at too high a cost if the visit is defined by the rush of getting there (only to close shop) and not the pleasure of being there (for some measure of time) — the conversations, laughs and meals, the idle trips into town and the moments to relax, unwind and take in the scenery.
Human beings observe many rituals for the people we love — baby showers and birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals — and for the places we call home. Consider the almost ritualized transfer of the keys from the title company when the paperwork is signed. And what is a housewarming party, if not a ceremony of sorts for this place of new beginnings, the space where the most intimate moments of our lives unfold?
Losing the farmhouse is tough, both in its own right and in light of this hard truth: The sale will not be paired with the purchase of another property. To borrow my father’s habit of equating phases in our lives with chapters in a book, we’ve reached the end of the story. There is, there will be, no more.
From my home near Chicago, I find myself left with a simple sacrament, this humble benediction:
May you find new families who will love you as much as we did — a tall order, I know — and take care of you; families who will find comfort, joy and shelter within your walls; families who will enjoy your wide open spaces and live out their days beneath the bright expanse of heaven.