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buber.net > Basque > Features > GuestColumns > His Father's House
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His Father's House

by Blas Pedro Uberuaga

He looked across the horizon, his gaze wandering over the mountains and valleys that his father had once called home. The jagged peaks hid the sun from his view as a light rain fell around him. He turned and studied the house where his dad and his dad's dad had been born. It was a large house, made of solid, sturdy stone, much like the people who lived in this land. The walls were painted white and the roof was covered with red tile. The curtains on the windows hid the rooms behind.

He entered the massive wooden doorway into a bright, light blue room. It was framed by a large fireplace on the right, the kitchen and stairwell to the left, and the entrance to the barn ahead. The barn was closed, as cows were no longer kept on the small farm, but at one time the animals had been the sole source of heat in the cold winter nights. There was a light in this room, though the wires running across the ceiling showed that they were an after thought, not something that had been even conceived of when the house was originally built. The fireplace had not been used in many years, as propane heat had became more economical and convenient.

The kitchen contained a large stove, a sink, a small table with chairs, and an old sofa that had seen many children and grandchildren tear at its skin. There was a large cupboard filled to the brim with all kinds of foods: canned fruits, vegetables and meats of many kinds. The stove was now fired by propane gas, a small pipe connecting it to the fuel source outside. It was obvious that the family never ate here. They must have eaten in the larger foyer, though that table was not out now.

At the top of the stairs, a small bathroom had recently been installed. Everything in the house was either very old or very new. There were three bedrooms to the left of the landing, one still used by amuma. Her bed was high off the floor, to give more space for the things she stored underneath. Her walls were covered with religious icons and there were photographs of her decesed husband on the dresser. She had a large chest that contained hundreds of photographs, stored for a rainy day or a grandson from America. The other rooms were spartan, each with a bed and a dresser and a crucifix, a necessary addition to all rooms. On the wall of one room hung photographs -- of amuma's wedding day, her brother-in-law lost in the Civil War, and her husband's parents. To the right of the landing was a larger open area. The floor boards were old and wearing a bit thin, as one could see between the cracks to the foyer below. They were little more than old, grayed planks lain across the rafters of the ground floor. There was a freezer that contained more food, mostly frozen meats and vegetables. Next to this open area was another bedroom, much like the other, waiting for another soul to spend a night in its cold, yet comforting environs. There was also the hay loft, still filled with hay, hay which was beginning to decay from lack of use.

This house once held eight children, their parents, and their grandmother. Now, it holds only the mother, who, alone, prepares soup for dinner while listening to Holy Mass on the radio. Today she has a visitor, her grandson from America, the land where her eldest son made his life, leaving home at the young age of eighteen. He has been reluctant to come up here and spend the night, as he felt he had so many things to do in the town, so many people to see, so much to learn. But, though he doesn't realize it now, this is where he will learn the most. This is where his father grew up, where his father learned about life, learned who he was. It is also where his grandfather was raised, and where ancestors for many generations had called home. He will regret not having spent more time here, not trying to learn the secrets of this old house and its sole inhabitant. He will regret not studying the walls, the layout of the stones, the arrangement of the beds. He will wish that he had spent more time there, that he had learned what this old house had to teach him. He wishes that he had spent more time with his father when he had the chance. Though his father is still alive, his health is not good, and he had the chance to get to know his father better back in Seattle. But, he didn't take the time. He didn't learn what he could have. He didn't learn more about his father and the house he came from, the house that did much to shape the man his father is today. The house that protected the family from the storm, that sheltered them from the heat, that, at the same time, shaped them into who they later became.

That is why he must go back, go back with his father, and visit the house, together. Why he must see the house with his father, see it through his eyes, see his father playing in the yard, speaking with his own father, working with his mother. It is why he must go back with his father. To try to learn all that the house can teach him, to learn who his father is and what his father also has to teach him. They must go together so that he can understand the man who is his father.

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