Well – we sold the house. 418 days after Mom died, with hundreds of documents having to be signed, notarized, approved, renegotiated and resigned and re-approved from across the country, last evening at about 5:30pm, the word came through that somehow the powers that be had all they needed to lock the sale and call it good. After phone calls, emails and texts that probably used up tons and tons of date and phone time, the six remaining Cross siblings, and a niece and nephew from the one Cross who died, pretty well – with a few major hiccups – got the job done.
As it was all completed, and we were celebrating via texts and all sorts of silly memes sent back and forth, I accidentally (yes, I used that word) wrote that “we never have to drive to Winesanker Way again…” (Mom and Dad’s street for 42 years). Just after I wrote it, my heart went quiet. Never again. The place that had been the gathering of the Cross clan for nearly half a century no longer belonged to a Cross. Tons of memories flashed from deeper parts of my memory: the vision of wall-to-wall sleeping bags and mattresses strewn across every floor space as brothers and sisters and cousins and dogs spent the weekend invading Mom’s and Dad’s abode. I remember quiet mornings with a hot cup of coffee sitting out under the tree in the back yard on patio chairs, listening to the cicadas. I remember coming to visit in later years, and replacing toilet innards, and painting the front porch, and planting a tree in memory of Ray, our oldest brother, and trimming other trees that were hanging too close to the roof. We replaced the backyard wooden fence at least twice, and grilled tons of burgers and steaks, and fed everyone out of kitchen that practically was too small for the large family we were. Never once, in 42 years, was a car parked in the double car garage. Instead, it was the home of the Ruth Cross Museum of Kitchen Appliances, of the massive chest freezer, and of Dad’s Hoosier cupboard/work bench, where he kept, it seemed, hundreds of small pipe tobacco tins full of washers, and bolts and other essential bits that were used to hold the world together. I remembered the ferocious late-night Michigan Rummy games around the huge kitchen table, which often ended in hard-headed, face-to-face battles that were terrible to watch, but wonderful to remember.
How many words were spoken by the Crosses in that home over 42 years? They say that sounds continue to echo and reverb at ever lower and smaller levels long after the human ear can hear them – believe me, everyone knew how to talk! We would share tender moments, big arguments, lots of teasing, kidding and more teasing. Lots of coffee, made strong and drunk way too hot. One of the rooms went from being Grannie’s room, when she stayed with the folks, to an office, back to Grannie’s room, then back to an office, then to a craft room. It seemed there was always a newspaper waiting to be picked up from the front sidewalk, and a lawn in need of mowing, which was Dad’s expertise as long as he lived.
I’ve mentioned that it was never my home – I never lived there. It was, however, a home-coming site, where the house encased so much of what I have loved my entire life. Touchstones of my childhood, people I have cherished and grown up with, and grown apart from and together again. I can still hear the sounds of what seems to have been a dozen different dogs, skittering on their toenails as they ran across the tile entryway to the front door to greet guests and bark at delivery persons. There is the sound of the television on constantly, of the fans stirring the air, and the sliding glass patio door grinding open and closed, even after being repaired over and over again, and oiled and lubricated to make it slide instead of stick. It was never my home, but it became a way for my memory and mind to hold my parents and my birth family, so that when I would call “home,” I could imagine Mom sitting in her chair, with a pile of devotional books, and newspapers yet to be gone through, and a ¾ done crossword puzzle folded with a pen lying on top. And a cup of coffee, half-finished and fully cold, except for when Dad was alive, and we would hear, “Lady – did you take my coffee cup again?” Or Dad sitting in his chair after supper, with a bowl of ice cream, and two or three drooling dogs gathered around, waiting for the opportunity to finish the bowl.
We lived around the world, and across the country, making houses our homes for a time, settling in quickly, and packing up to move just as quickly. When Winesanker Way came into our lives – did I mention that Dad up and bought it without Mom ever seeing it? – that home never moved again. Pictures stayed hung, closets stayed full, assorted dishes and pots and pans – and appliances – stayed right where they needed to be. So did our family. So did my heart.
Now Winesanker is gone, probably to be renovated and re-created to look completely different than when “we” lived there. What is not gone, however, is what will never go away. We will never give up our lives once lived there, our memories, our past, even as we now live this first day, never going there again.
Breathe in the beauty that is your own life. Enjoy, and taste the wonder of memories worth keeping. Know that everything changes, except our ability to love deeply when we intend to, and our past, when we are able to cherish it. This is a good day, and a chance for a new chapter, but I will always know that a new chapter of life only has value when it is read as part of the book of our entire history, good and bad. Only then can it make sense, and have hope for what’s ahead.
Goodbye, Winesanker – and God bless.
Word for the Day: petrichor. It’s that wonderful smell that comes in the rain, after a long dry spell. It comes from Geosmin, which is an organic compound with a distinct earthy flavor and aroma produced by certain bacteria, released from the ground in the rain. The compound comes from plants and trees and settles on rocks or the ground. The rain then reactivates it and makes everything smell fresh. From the Greek petra, meaning rock or stone, and ichor, when is what flows in the veins of the gods of Greek mythology. Whatever it is, it’s one of nicest gifts we can receive on a rainy summer afternoon.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.