It’s strange how you can come to a point when you know it’s time to let go of something you love. For 88 years, my family has owned a house on Cape Cod. My grandfather bought the little house in 1924. So, at age 7, my dad started spending his summers on the Cape. By the Depression, my father left college to try to hang onto what little the family had left – the Cape house. After the war, he bought the lot next door, centering the house between two open fields. When he bought the house outright, I don’t know.
My brothers and sister and I had the privilege of spending every summer in that little Cape house. Our days were filled up with volleyball in the field, the beach, chess games, summer jobs, long lazy days, sailing with friends, and books. The 70’s added loud music – live and recorded – too many parties and too many mouths to feed as friends arrived in droves.
By the late 80’s, my parents decided to retire there and doubled the size of the house. They wanted room for all of us to come – and we did. Now it was time for another generation to grow to love the house that my grandfather bought and my father fought so hard to keep. My children grew up in that house. They had a hill for sledding, the beach to go to, a screen porch for reading a good book, doting grandparents who spoiled them rotten, and the promise that someday, this house would be theirs. The lineage would go on; my father’s sacrifices would not have been in vain. He was a stubborn man with a very long view.
The time came when the visits to the Cape came more frequently because my parents were aging and needing more and more care. My father kept insisting the house must stay in the family. When he and my mother died, the brother who hadn’t lived in state for 25 years bought it. But then work took him and his family away again. They rented the house out, but in the end, it was too much of a burden. The house, I learned last night, is going on the market.
I shed many tears and couldn’t sleep, but oddly, a new day has brought acceptance. In the end, we all have to do what makes sense for our own lives. We can’t be ruled by our history or our family’s history or our parent’s desires. We can’t be seduced by the notion that childhood can be reclaimed. There is a freedom in letting go of the last expectation my father had for us. We may have failed in his eyes, but what we gained was a sense of our own individual destinies. We are siblings, but no one’s children any longer. Though we desperately wanted to fulfill his last wish, it was his wish, his dream. I know that I will never have a house like that again and that hurts; I know that I will never be able to give my children the summers I had. I will hold my memories close, and they will sneak up on me and bring a tear now and then. I will long for a home base near the ocean, my contemplative home. But I will also live my life free of expectations that are not my own.