There are people in our lives who leave a lasting impression even when we’ve never met them. This is the case of my great grandfather. His name was Henry. He was a strong carpenter. He was born in the 1800’s and died in 1938. Obviously, I never knew him but his work still lives on. My home has many sheds for farming that he built. Those buildings have withstood ferocious storms . Little did I have any inclination how skilled he truly was. It was only when the renovations began that I began to see the bones of Henry’s home.
My family consists of a lot of farmers. These men and women worked hard for everything they had. My great grandfather Henry had 5 children. One of those children was my great aunt Mollie. Mollie left a strong impression on me. She died at the age of 90. I was ten years old. Mollie’s life would mirror mine in a lot of ways. She married the wrong man against the wishes of her family, she felt like she was a failure and was envious of other’s who had what she wanted. She didn’t have the same skillset as my grandmother – her sister. My grandmother was a strong woman. She didn’t marry until the age of 38. She had my mother at the age of 40 and was a single mother due to my grandfather’s demise. He never knew that my mom was a girl. He knew that my grandmother was expecting a child but there was a forty year age difference between them. He was 80 years old and died of a massive heart attack. The women in my family have all been strong and independent. My grandmother often said that she learned much from her father.
When I was married, my mom opted to renovate the family home. This decision changed my perception of my great-grandfather. As the renovation began, boards were found that contained my great grandfather’s signature. Secrets were found in the walls. The house was built with strong wood. The quality of the construction was palpable. The house was prone to spiders. It contained lots of rocks as the base was leveled off. Floors were laid with oak. Every nail was handmade. It was evident that love and hard work built the house. The mantles were hand-carved, and the layout of the house was built with a large family in mind.
Henry loved his family and God, though not necessarily in that order. His wife Mary Jane was married previously and her first husband succumbed to Tuberculosis. She was a stern woman. Hard-working and determined to provide for their family, she ensured her children could be self-supporting. My grandmother loved her mom but couldn’t relate as easily to her. Each member of my family played an integral part in keeping the farm going. George was the only boy and was a prankster. His son, GE, would leave a mark in my mother’s heart and mine. We adored our cousin. Like the other children in our family, GE was full of life and adventure. He was protective of the family and served his country through the army.
As the renovations continued, more evidence of Henry’s life became clear. He built three fireplaces built into the original home, along with a wood stove in the kitchen. We took those out except for one fireplace in the living room. Behind the bases of those fireplaces was a lot of quartz that was prevalent on the property. Some of the quartz was in large blocks. We saved a few of those.
Today, you can still see his work in the land and buildings. People may come and go in life, but they leave their imprint on what they leave behind. For Henry, he built a little magic into his home. It’s interwoven with love, and the two ingredients provided a haven for his family. When I walk through the house, I feel his presence. I’ve never seen him there, and yet, see the love he had for his home. There are many Henry’s who reside in our memories. They have different names and are from all walks of life. Our ancestors built with pride, love, conviction, and honor. It is a lesson that has been swept under the rug due to financial reasons. If you have ancestors that have left a mark in your life and heart, don’t let their memories fade. You are a part of their legacy. It’s through those legacies that we all get a piece of Henry’s home. Because as long as love resides in your heart, you’re home.