This Too Shall Pass
Submitted by admin on Sun, 10/07/2012 – 07:34
Three weeks ago we got the keys to a Queen Anne Victorian built the same year my Grandpa Anderson was born, 1890. I could say it is ours because we are paying the mortgage and will plow time, sweat and money into it as long as we hold the deed. But somehow I can’t quite say we own it. This is not just because until we make the last payment the bank really owns it or that an undertaking on this scale sometimes owns you. It is not just because we still can hardly believe we get to live in this home of our childhood dreams, to watch TV in a grand old room or cheekily drop lines like, “Dear, I will be writing in the library.”
Rather, I don’t like saying “we own it” because in living here I feel a sense of what my parents meant by “This too shall pass.” With so many generations come and gone under this roof, I realize that this solid house will be around long after we are.
Early in my parents’ marriage they read something by Og Mandino that shaped their view: “For all worldly things shall indeed pass. When I am heavy with heartache I shall console myself that this too shall pass; when I am puffed with success I shall warn myself that this too shall pass. When I am strangled in poverty I shall tell myself that this too shall pass; when I am burdened with wealth I shall tell myself that this too shall pass.”
They kept perspective through struggles because they knew it was temporary. When times were good, they savored the moment because yes, even this shall pass. The years added up, the kids left home and ultimately he went to his final home. Now she retraces their memories, makes a few new ones and waits, knowing that this difficult phase will also pass. It seems like an eternity while she waits to join him, but the clock keeps ticking and she eventually will.
Then what will be left of their time here? I wonder if I will be so lucky to create a legacy a tiny fraction of theirs. Some people build homes. My parents built a business. Even more than that, they built people and while the strongest structures will someday crumble, I believe people are infinite.
Case in point, I can’t count the number of people who, upon learning which house we bought have said, “So-and-so used to live there and did a lot of work to the place.” It gives me pause that if all these people did so much work, why does it still need so much freaking work? The yard is a blight, the railings have rotted beyond salvage and so many little tasks need attention. It highlights how entropy and elements keep undoing our efforts on this earth. Weeding, painting and repairing are never done. And don’t even get me started on shifting tastes. What seemed timeless in one decade is hopelessly dated and gets ripped out in the next.
Structures will crumble, even excellent craftsmanship will need repair and styles certainly change.
But people. Souls are ageless and I can’t help but think our relationships matter in ways we cannot begin to imagine or measure.
As we pour our hearts into this home, hopefully preserving it for others to enjoy later, I remind myself that we will be gone someday too. I hope new occupants will see details we left and be inspired to care for this special place in their own way and time. I also hope I can stay grounded in knowing that good times like these come and go. So do tough ones. And most of all, I hope I remember to not get so busy with sanding and paint that I neglect relationships that are perhaps the one thing that will survive all this.