Many years ago when my family and I returned from my fifth and last tour overseas in Europe, my kids asked me to take them to the 100-acre farm at the head of Cane Branch Hollow in Jenkins. They wanted to see the old house I grew up in.
The road was so bad I did not know if we could make it there. We got to the old unpainted frame house with the old well I helped dig when I was a very small boy. The weeds had covered the old outhouse and you could hardly see it.
We slowly walked along the weedy path and up the wooden steps and we could see a cow inside the open door, standing in the kitchen.
We ran the cow outside and saw the house was bare standing there near the steep hillside, and at the sight my heart broke and tears quickly filled my eyes.
I tried to hide my tears from my kids as I stood in silence, and I wept and longed for days and years gone by.
We slowly walked from room to room as I had so often done before, and I longed so much to see my parents and brothers who had lived there once before.
Being there brought them back even though the rooms were bare, for I felt their presence in the house and I felt they knew I was there.
I could smell freshbaked cornbread and my mom’s apple pie she always made. I could see a warm fireplace where we used to pop popcorn while listening to an old battery radio, and to one side an old wooden rocker of Mom’s, and I could see an old gentleman picking his banjo. In my mind I quickly relived so many childhood memories that came alive.
The kids and I said our last good-bye to the damp and silent rooms. The old house seemed to share my sadness and feel the lonely gloom.
And if the old house could talk, I was certain of what it would say. That it longed so much to start anew and relive all of its yesterdays, and if a thing could possibly be, it knew I was once there as a child and would never be back.
And then we left. I wonder if it knew the deep sorrow I tried to hide from my kids. So we walked away from the old house that we came that day to see.
As I walked away I could hear my family say, “Come back anytime you please.” I’m the only one left of those good times gone by so long ago.