Watching my old house being torn down is not an easy thing to do. From the moment the jaws of the backhoe took the first bite out of the corner of the roof, to the time it literally pulled the last remaining wall down over the accumulated trash, I watched our old house be disintegrated in front of me. All those pieces of siding, flooring, roofing, windows, bricks, and glass came down and disappeared into the rubble that had accumulated ahead of them.
The noise is different from any other noise I have ever heard. The sound reminded me of chains clanging together along with heavy weights falling.
Layer by layer of roofing was stacked in a pile, and all I could think about is how great that type of standing-seam roofing had been, because it lasted the entire 61 years we lived there. I had to stand way back from the backhoe because the operator can swing that entire “grabber” around in a circle to put the pieces of the house right where he wants them to land. Then I began to cough. And once the air was heavy with dust, I should have left, but I couldn’t pull myself away from the house that had been an important part of my life. Sooner than you can imagine, I saw an opening which ran from the front of the house to the trees in the back yard.
During the entire day that I watched my past residence become trash, I thought about how good it always felt to have this house to come home to, whether it was after being away on a vacation, or just coming home from my walk. I thought of the importance of the furnace when, on the bitter cold days, we would get home and the first greeting from the house was the warmth I felt as soon as my foot touched the kitchen floor. Many times, I know that I said, out loud, “Thank goodness the furnace is still running!” Or, on those hot summer days when we kept the house all closed up and had a couple of fans running to keep it cool, is when I appreciated the trees outside that gave so much shade that kept the temperature at a comfortable level. Especially the tree that we planted out front when my mom died, because as it grew bigger and bigger, it shaded the entire front of the house.
Lots of pictures were taken. One of the great ones show the pile of rubble with a center opening where you can see the red, white and blue of the American flag waving from across the street. Or the one showing a lot of boards having been thrown in every direction which amazingly formed a frame for our old piano, sitting in the middle. Yes, our old upright piano, that had seen it’s better day, ended it’s life in the jaws of the backhoe. Before these tons of trash get hauled away, I hope to go over and see if I can find a couple of those 88 keys that might be left on the ground.
And while I was thinking of those piano keys, I missed it when the hot water heater was tossed out near the hedge. We had only three different hot water heaters during the entire time we lived there. Each time we got a new one, the person who put them in was very surprised that the old one had lasted so long. And now that I think of it, I am surprised that our house, itself, lasted so long. We knew it was in its last years as far as most of it went. Most of the floors, upstairs and down, as well as the stairsteps, were squeaking from strain of not just our 61 years there, but of the previous 50 years before we bought the house. This also applies to the various windows that refused to open. And a note about the hot water heater: it was tossed inside the bathtub so it could be hauled away. Several other smaller trucks have come and gone, taking some various pieces such as the roof, or the foundation. Everyone knows that saying about “One man’s trash being another man’s treasure.”
As the time passes and the sounds of the chains clanging and the motor roaring begin to run down, I am aware that soon it will be completely gone.
Nothing will be left that even resembles the home I lived in since 1959. No red front door, no brick porch with the trellis, and no double-car garage, rec room or patio that George had built all by himself. In the following days, I hope to have a chance to dig through the safe places looking for the three things that were lost over our years of living there. They were George’s billfold, his cell phone, and one of our remotes for the TV.
I am pleased when I remember that we will always have the home movies that were taken. I have been asked if I had any tears over this destruction, and all I can say is, “Not yet.”
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.