Generally speaking, this project is overwhelmingly exciting; with each day that passes, we can see how another room or another view will look once we’re finished, and it’s an incredible feeling. We truly are creating a new house.
At the same time, there’s a tinge of sadness as we’re wiping away almost all of the quirks and personality of the old one—and by extension, the memories of the previous owner who left those marks himself.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we never met “The Colonel,” but felt like we knew him. He died a little over a year before we purchased the home through his estate, but all of his belongings still sat right as he left them when we first walked through the house. It felt like we were visiting an older relative, not looking for a new home.
The persona that we created of him in our mind was that of a man “They Don’t Make Anymore”—someone who grew up during the Depression, served his country in World War II, and led a fulfilling life. Between his nephew, neighbors, and everything that was in the house, we’ve learned that he was in the cavalry, loved to paint, had an active social life with his wife and the friends he served with, and fed himself with books and music—there wasn’t a TV in the house. On the walls were dozens of his paintings and framed medals from his military service, including a Purple Heart.
Over the years, we’ve gotten to know him even more through his McGyver-like ways of optimizing his living environment: the L-brackets that were screwed to the bottom of a cabinet to hold cutting boards; the braided lamp wire that helped to hold the back door open in the wind; the dozens of different nails, screws, and hooks affixed to walls—none of which matched, but were on-hand at the time and would get the job done. His resourcefulness, in general, and use of fasteners, in particular, always reminded me of my maternal Grandfather; they were cut from the same cloth.
When we closed on the house 9 years ago, the Colonel’s family was kind enough to leave us some of his paintings and all of his painting supplies—jars of brushes, boxes of paint, and wooden field easels that our kids still use—all lovely reminders of a time, and a man, that have since passed.
We’ve always felt a connection to The Colonel, like we would have been kindred spirits if we met in person. His presence was felt the minute we walked into the front door for the first time; it was part of what drew us to this house in the first place. While that presence will no doubt be less visible day-to-day, I have no doubt that his spirit and the memories of him will remain.