The little boy loved to play in the dirt and the tiny stones and gravel of the ball diamonds that filled his family’s summers.
While his parents sat up above him, on the bleachers watching their son or daughter’s baseball games, their youngest child would amuse himself as best he could.
He and his older sister did not play, both unable to really see well enough for such team sports, but she did not enjoy her little brother’s activities either. She did not enjoy playing in the dirt and getting it caught all underneath her fingernails.
She sat up next to her parents, just waiting for someone to suggest a trip to the snack bar, or booth as it was lovingly known as in her family.
It wasn’t all fun and games.
The same rocks that were sharp and hard under the children’s feet, before their other set of grandparents paved the top part of their driveway, those are just the type of rocks he was told to collect. It was always a torturous trip from one side of the stony driveway to the other.
Such as life. This is life sometimes: rocky.
Their grandparents before them knew this well.
The man had worked hard in his life, way before his grandchildren came along.
He had to dig ditches during the war, or so I believe I heard was the story. His life is something I often think about, unable to imagine what that would have looked like for him, as such a young Polish man: Polish, French, Polish, a war in Germany and across Europe, and to Canada he eventually came.
His days of hard work did not end there.
Working in the mines in Quebec. I shutter at this thought, being highly claustrophobic myself. What did he have to do? How did he toil just to make some money to support himself and his new wife, in a new country so unfamiliar to the both of them?
He was a brick layer and he moved to Ontario to make a better life for the children they would have. My father was one of those children.
HE would build the little house, for his growing family, on Dover Street, close to the park.
This little house and the one I thought of today, on the anniversary of his death.
We have his houses to remember him by, whether it’s the big one, we still drive by sometimes or the miniature he built, from skill and with love.
For months my little brother brought him bags and bags of stones for the project they were working on together. They were buddies and my opa had a special thing in mind for his grandson.
He took those skills, now scaled down in size, due to all those years of drudgery and a bad back as a result. He would build a little house from the stones the little boy collected and he would build it, special, just for that boy.
Stones, a wooden frame, cardboard shingles for the roof. The little stone house was simple and beautiful. The accompanying garage, along with a chimney, and long-ago-lost plastic Santa on top.
The little house and garage are still with us, down in my parent’s basement. They serve as a memory of love, the simple and sweet love my father’s father had for my brother, and me too.
It is a kind and gentle love that will never be tarnished by age, time, or circumstance. We were young when we lost him, when he was taken from us. This freezes that love, a representation of innocence in childhood. I feel it every time I run my hands over the stones that he sculpted into a work of art.
He made my brother something he could touch with his hands, unable to see, and keep even after he was soon gone.
It will forever be, to me, the house that love built.
Last year, only weeks into my blogging journey, I wrote a post,
for the twentieth year since my first experience with death and loss of a loved one.
I will continue to write about him, every year in March.
Even as memories of him fade, bit by bit, slowly from my mind, I will never let him disappear from my heart.
Writing about him, whether here on my blog or elsewhere, he will never be gone completely.