Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Decade of Dust

One of the first events Doug and I attended as husband and wife was his Paw Paw's funeral. I stood awkwardly at the graveside, watching my husband mourn a man my heart did not mourn but felt it should.

Paw Paw had only a fifth grade education, but worked in a time when that and hard work was enough to earn him a job as the mail man and, ultimately, the title of Postmaster. He had a love for creating layouts for model trains and making thin-wooden rectangular boxes with his hands.

Although I know many stories about him, he and I were probably only in a room together half a dozen times before he died. And even then, I can't remember him saying anything. I just remember a quiet man with bottle-thick glasses, freckles, and a slow gait.

This past week, I've been getting to know, just a little, the man I never got to know.When we moved to our new house, my in-laws agreed to let us move the red barn with us. While the term "barn" lends itself to grand visions of an immovable structure, this small one-room, simple structure of the depression would hardly impress most people. First used as a corn crib, then as Paw Paw's puttering shed, it's spent the past decade since his death as a storage container for those items no one knew what to do with and just couldn't bring themselves to throw out.

Saturday, I began the process of disturbing ten years worth of dust and cobwebs.In one corner, I uncover a pile of Paw Paw's wooden remnants, some the same thin boards he used to make two boxes my husband considers prized possessions. There are no clues as to what project was next on his list.

Then comes the bag of leftover pieces from the chain link fence project, the same fence I was thankful for so I could lock my children away from the highway.

Red Folgers and green Maxwell House coffee cans line the shelves, some full of ten penny nails, bolts, plumbing supplies. Those lidless containers are a mixture of hardware, each piece individually coated in cobwebs and dead insects, most too rusted to be useful. Along the wall lay more empty coffee cans in case he needed more storage. He was a coffee man for sure.My broom tears through an old bird's nest hanging from a rope, its thick, brittle loops hanging from a rusty nail. Finally making it to the very back, I unearth a messy mouse's nest in the cabinet where a mama cat birthed her kittens a couple years ago. A large metal clamp, rusted closed, and two wooden triangles sit atop the table. But that's all I find here of him.

No papers with plans. No sketchings. If he made any, all that has long ago rotted away.

My cleaning done for the day, I close the door even though it seems silly to do so. A missing board and nails displaced from the rotting cedar on the front won't really keep anything out.With new boards on the front of the barn, a coat of new paint, and a few pieces of tin replaced on top--soon this barn will take on a new life as my garden house and (so I learned this week), Wyatt's "magic tree house."

It just makes me wonder if someone will come after me, searching through future cobwebs for clues about me and what I found important in life. And when they do, what will they find?

Will it be merely seeds, shovels, and potting soil?

I hope it is so much more.


  1. This is a beautiful sentiment. I hope you will post pics once you've finished so we can see how everything turns out.

    Meanwhile, have a very blessed Christmas and New Year! :)

  2. I love the weathered barn wood. All those stories locked away...

  3. Ah, I just love old barns. Sometimes I imagine how I'd love to live in one!

    I hope you and your family have the most blessed CHRISTmas ever!