The Home We Left Behind

Today, I realize that I have not posted an entry in my “Word Carver” blog in over a year. The last one was a glimpse of a difficult time: the closing of the door on 35 years–half of my life–spent in my home on 78th Avenue. I was awash in melancholy.

The days of purging before that last post were fresh and aching. The yard sale, when our belongings were carried away like the spoils of war; each trip to Goodwill–these were like tearing out pieces of my life. I experienced something like guilt. The moving felt like betrayal–ruthless rejection. The house had sheltered us; provided comfort and safety. It had embraced us. Now, I was ripping away scraps of it like necrotic tissue. It stung.

The reasons for the move are still valid. Having decided not to share our home with other “tenants”–some 85 people over the years— the house was too big for two of us. Five bedrooms and three bathrooms were more than we needed. Moreover, we were less inclined to maintain the space, a requirement for homeowners. Inside or outside, an older two-story house is a lot of work–we had other things we would rather do.

Furthermore, Portland, as I am fond of saying these days, “ain’t the city she used to be.” In the waning months of 2020, the city was rocked by riots and hooliganism. Symbols of heritage and authority were being toppled. Statues of Washington, Jefferson, even an elk, were defaced or demolished. The police department of which our son-in-law was a part, had become the enemy. A homeless village was forming a block away. The question loomed: how long will property values hold, particularly after the coming election? The fabric of civil order was already coming unraveled. What would happen if the disastrous administration were to win another four years?

As turned out, we needn’t have worried. Property values held steady or even increased after we moved. Still, there had been reason for concern. As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20.

There was a more important reason to move, though. Did it make sense to wait another ten years to make this move? We would be in our 80s. Moving then would certainly be a bigger challenge. And as the time of our relocation drew nearer, we would likely have become more reliant on our children and others for help with maintenance, not to mention the move. Moreover, it made more sense to do this while we could steer our own destiny–earn a hernia in the process– rather than be swept along by circumstance. It did, and does make more sense to be “the master of our fate and the captain of our soul.”

And then, there were the ghosts of the future: One of us left alone in that big house, left with only memories and quiet. The somber removal to hospital deathbed or funeral home. The estate sale with its parade of strangers picking through the remnants of our lives, bartering our existence.

No. Moving was the right decision.

But there was grief. The last day, I walked through the deserted rooms and halls; inspected our 5000 square foot homestead. I sat on the steps in the side yard, which had been mostly for storage and constantly needing tidying. I thought of the empty house; the newly mowed yard; the last items in the back of the car waiting to be taken away. I remembered the hundreds of people who had been here. I remembered…

Evenings glad with music.
A hearth-fire that’s ablaze.
The gifts that come to mortals
in a thousand different ways.

… laugher and contentment,
And the struggle for a goal.
… everything that’s needful
For the shaping of a soul.” *

I wept.

Occasionally, in the transitional months that followed the move, while we remained cloistered in a 26′ trailer waiting for our new house to be built, I would sense a familiar tightness in the back of my throat, a choking feeling. I first noticed it after my sister passed away. It was grief. Sometimes, foolishly, I would succumb to temptation. I would search my computer for the photos of the old house that our realtor took when she listed the property. I would wander through the rooms and remember the unseen details of every closet and corner — spending my grief. Emptying it. Hoping it would eventually subside–knowing it would.

It’s been over a year. We are now in a wonderful new place near family. We live in the country amid trees, birds and even chickens. There are new sounds and the scent of earth and trees. From our living room window, we see a new world stretch out before us. I am finally able to call it “home” without feeling guilty for abandoning the house on 78th–the house that loved us. There are days I still feel like a guest for a moment or two. But as winter turns to spring, I can feel the changing of the seasons. The prospect of summer, autumn and another winter reassures me. I feel the promise that, as the pandemic wanes, we will, again, throw open the doors and welcome friends and family to share our place on earth.

The thought brings me home.


  • Living, by Edgar A. Guest

A Tough Day

Saying Goodbye to My Home

Sometimes it’s a good idea to just let yourself grieve over the passing of time and places. So, here is one of those times.

Wisdom of Thankfullness

I have heard it said that the worst part about being old is remembering being young; the helplessness of knowing you cannot go back. Yet, I wonder when we reach the distant shore beyond the world as we have known it, if we will find ourselves returned and in the flower of life, men and women of, perhaps 30 years. How would it be to again be full of life but to have also the knowledge of the aged? To know the wisdom of thankfulness when yearning for what was is transformed into the joy for what is. Few in their youth know such wisdom.








There comes  a certain age.
Life has eroded away,
like a trodden path.
And there, revealed in the way, is a stone.

It is hope.

You did not know it was there,
Yet there it is.
You had hoped for something and did not know it.

And then, as life erodes away,
you realize the hope is broken.
It is unfulfilled.

And all this —

the erosion,

the hope,

the disappointment.

This all happens at the same time.


PleasantviewSo many have also lived.
I ponder here at my Father’s burial place.
It is a strange thing but I think he would be proud of me. If he could see me, I think he would be proud.That was always important to me. 

I wonder sometimes if I see him more than he was.
I don’t think so.
I saw him when he stood among the giants.
I also saw him as a mere man.
I only prefer to dwell on his pride, not his failures.

He sometimes had vision without drive.
He was sometimes paralyzed by a sense of inadequacy and hopelessness.
But he was a good man—good to me; good for me.
By grace I can step over the faults that are part of his legacy.
Step over and build on what remains.


Dan -leaves
Remembering is when thoughts drift together into,
And most important of all…How?
How did it happen?

I’ve searched the net to find out where this little poem came from. I know it’s not original with me. It came, if I recall, from a long-play recording of poetry by Carl Sandburg, although I don’t believe it is his. I think, rather, it was attributed to his mother — still, I wouldn’t bet on it. I wouldn’t bet on the accuracy of my recollection of it, either. So, call it a paraphrase of a poem that I once heard and committed to imperfect memory.

I think of it now because my sister’s life is evaporating before our eyes like a puddle in the sun.

We  keep a sober vigil, waiting for Maxeen’s inevitable transport from this world to the next. And in the waiting, I sit with my sister and remember the ‘who,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of her life and mine. We remember the all important ‘how’ it happened.

Passing the time with photographs of people and places that we both remember, I realize that it is not just one person that is dying, it is a community. Those people and places known to no one but she and I will soon be known only by me. They will be treasured in only one heart, and eventually, the remembering will cease. Who? What? When? Where? How? Will swirl away like fallen leaves.

In Kewanee, our home town, on the street  where I spent my first seven years and Maxeen her first 17, autumn was a mystical time. I remember it as a kind of festival. The men would rake leaves that drifted from the brooding maples that lined McKinley Avenue.  The children would push them into long ridges — imaginary walls of make-believe houses in which unfolded pretend lives — until a grown-up, with his rake, would pull the leaves over the curb into the street and set them afire. The smoke would rise silently and touch the branches where the leaves had grown and lived, and then, like a fragrant memory, drift skyward and be gone.


[Photo taken from]

We Are Different

We are different, she and I.We Are Different She finds delight in things that look nice or fine.

I shrug…but not where she can see me.

When she can see me, I smile and offer opinions, which are worthless.

She knows not to pay attention to my opinions.

They are sincere enough, but they are based on well-practiced confusion about how things look.

When we go shopping I am drawn to things that move or tick or hum,

Things that work, whether or not they are useful.

They are good if they have parts that fit together,

Forming a functional completeness.

I am fascinated or at least appreciative.

Things that hang or blend together seem accidental like a pile of leaves. 


mall-paintToday, I am a visitor in unfamiliar places. What is it that makes a “place?” 

I sit in a coffee shop, a clothing store, and now on a bench in the mall. I am in a place not my own—a visitor. If I came here often it would be, in a way, my place. I would be a living thread woven into the garment called, “here.” I could put it on if I worked or walked here. It could be my place and I a part of it. But I am a stranger here, a vagrant, a loose end, not woven, not tied, so I watch and wait to move on, away from this place. 

Autumn Bicycle

Elbow deep in Autumn
The classroom clock sags toward 3:02
Beyond the bookshelves through window glass
August bicycles catch the glint of September sun.

One leans heavy on its kickstand
Handlebar shoulders slouch toward the street
James Dean captured in spokes and steel

A bell sounds
Let freedom ring!
Children burst against double doors
“Visitors report to office.”
Writ backward on wired windows
Settling closed on Friday.

The August girl rides home
Flying toward Saturday
Summer at her back
Wind in her hair
Two wheels singing

Rare November sun

Rays, like memory
Burst through dusty windows
Warm in the musty garage
Finding the old bike
Rusty in the dark.



Life would have been so different

I was coming home from the gym this morning and I had an odd thought. It was triggered when I passed a couple of delivery trucks going down Sandy Blvd. apparently traveling together to pick up and transport something or other.

My dad was the owner of Mayhew Transfer & Storage in Kewanee, Ill. He had inherited the business from his father, Jake,  and run the business until…oh, probably 1956 when he had to sell out due to the economic downturn in our little town. To add insult to injury, the Teamsters moved in and started  agitating to unionize his shop. The numbers didn’t work out. No way he could stay in business and meet union demands. He had to sell.

Shortly after, he moved us all to Portland, to start over. The rest, as they say, is history.

But, what would have happened if he’d been able to ride out the storm back in our little town? — “back home” he and mom would always call it.

It’s conceivable that I would be a business owner today, having inherited Mayhew Transfer & Storage from my father, as he had inherited it from his. I may have married a small town girl and raised a family of small town kids. Would I have joined the Elks Club like my father and grandfather?

Questions without answers. One thing is certain, though. My life would have been so different.