Story by Bob Perks
“It’s just dirt!” he said. I knew he didn’t understand. I really didn’t expect him to, for it’s the way I see things in life.
There are so many ways to measure success in life. While one sees the bottom line in their check book, the car they drive, the house and community they live in, another would measure their success by the number of friends they have and the amount of love they feel.
But how does one measure a life?
Your first reply might be in years, months, and days. The calendar seems to be the standard for many. At 16 you can drive, 18 is legal, 21 says you can drink, “Thirty Something” scares us, 40 plus is “over the Hill,” 50 is a half century and so forth.
But I have discovered a new measurement. “By the yard.”
We’ve been in this tiny house now for nearly a dozen years. We bought it because it was the right fit. It fit into our budget and our family fit into it. The kids had their own room for when they stayed with us on weekends. We had space to keep my office, and in every little corner there was a place to put a dog.
Yes, we were cramped but we never really noticed. You see, although we could have used another bedroom, certainly another bath and ultimately a room just for my office, we never felt crowded. Any feeling of closeness was accepted as a measurement of love we had for each other.
But time, fate and circumstance gathered together, held a meeting and little by little began to dismantle our home.
At first it was my oldest son Keith. He just grew up and headed out into his own life. The expectations of family now fell onto the shoulders of my youngest son, Evan. He was fine for a while, but I could begin to see him withdraw from the silly everyday antics of the games we always played, the places we went on weekends and the time we spent together. One day he simply announced, he didn’t want to come out. I was crushed. It took me some time before I realized that he had grown up, too. His weekend time became work time, friends time and oh yes, a few long hours of conversations with girlfriends.
We became the victims of growing up.
This new reality came rushing in on me one Saturday morning a few winter’s back. I woke up to the sounds of children and adults laughing. I looked out my window and saw the new neighbors from on top of the hill sledding with their young children. They were playing on my hill, in my snow, the sacred spot where just a few years before, my wife and I did the same thing with our boys. But the times were different. Now there was just the three of us and my dog hated to ride on a sled.
The next spring our sledding equipment was sold in a yard sale.
As months followed, our back yard became more of a chore to maintain then a place to play. As our dog Daisy grew older she began to find her favorite places to “sniff” closer to the back door. Our small garden near the top of our property became less and less important to Marianne as she began to struggle with physical limitations in her life and this past summer I tried to maintain it but failed to produce anything worth eating.
“It’s a heart ache for me now,” I said to my friend.
“How can a yard be a heart ache? It’s just dirt!” he said. I knew he didn’t understand.
Suddenly this old house seems much too small and the yard way too big. We want to move. We need more house and less yard. But there is just the two of us now. Our dog Daisy’s passing closed the final chapter on this castle filled with love. Today I need to go out and rake up all the leaves from the yard. I really hate to do it. You see it’s the only thing left in it.
So I stood on my small deck this morning and looking out I saw a million moments, a thousand laughs, baseball, fireworks, picnics, parties, the spot where I fell on my knees thanking God for my first book and saving my son’s life, super bubbles nearly running the length of the yard, squirt gun fights, a thousand flowers, sledding and a four legged best friend jumping and barking as we slid down the hill in fresh fallen snow.
Yes, I found a new way to measure my life… “By the yard!”