I’m not sure why I remembered the old white farm house today. Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking about getting older (Friday’s the day). I was sure I remembered my Dad’s death, or at least his age. I thought he was my age now or the age I will be soon. So I dug up a family history with his date of birth and date of death typed black on a white mimeographed page. So stark. So final.
I always thought my father was ancient. I guess most people think that about their fathers. But mine was bald with a curly wreath of hair around his white head. When he died, I was ten years old. I guessed him to be near forty when he died. But the black typed words on the white paper told me differently. 34.
Only 34. Hardly enough time to understand life or experience it either. His death seared an injury in my heart then that never seemed to be salved until I met Jesus five years later.
My dad was young when he died.
Growing up, I knew, I knew, I would die young. I expected it. I feared it. Something happens to a child when a parent dies, and I was no noble exception. If my dad could die when I barely knew my times tables, then I could die too, and I probably would.
So today as I think of his shortened life, in a way, I feel strangely alive. I’ve lived four more years beyond what I thought. And what a gift this life has been.
I met bits and pieces of my father in the old white farm house in the Ohio countryside. He summered there, playing with his brother Jack, skinning his knees and building tree houses. I could almost smell him as I walked the outbuildings and regarded a stand of popcorn stalks. His boyhood lived at the farm. Thrived there.
Maybe that’s why I’ve longed for my own white farm house all these years–as a way to connect with the man who died so young. To be near the earth he trampled. To feel close to crops and sustenance and safe play. I wanted to soak up the house when I went there, when Sophie was just two years old. I lingered in every room, asking one hundred questions about the house’s history. I loved that it had been in the family so long. I wanted to make it my home.
I think I still do.