The Colonel’s Plan – Askr’s Fall

Two years ago this evening, my father died. He was 94. I began this blog immediately, to mark the changes and passing of days without him. The biggest topic of discussion in my letters to him is the progress I’ve made finishing the house he planned, but left mostly unfinished for fifty years. People ask me now, “Have you finished remodeling your dad’s house yet?” Remodeling. Heh. I’m building from the world’s biggest model kit, with half the pieces missing. No, I won’t be finished for some time. For those concerned about the content herein, written some months ago, no, my mom did not move out. And no, I didn’t find the hinges. And no, I didn’t get back to the pink bathroom. All things in time.  


Dear Daddy –

I didn’t write last week. That is, I didn’t write to you. I did write, trying to work out a problem, as I sometimes do, words not meant for other human beings to read, not even dead ones.

It’s been a bad couple of weeks. Lots of lost sleep. I won’t go into the details, because, again, other people will be reading these words eventually. And my perceptions of what’s been happening in my life are mine alone. Other people have other opinions of who is doing right and who is doing wrong, and I don’t want to touch off a shouting match six months after the fact.

As always, when things are emotionally draining for me, my creativity suffers. It’s hard to put words down–at least words that would mean something to someone else–when in a state of emotional turmoil.

Things are not resolved, but they’re stable. I guess sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.

The chicken run is pretty well complete. The roof is installed, although it needs some shoring up with zip ties, to hold the courses of wire together better. And I still want to run chicken wire around the inside, to keep the girls from sticking their heads out and inviting hawks to run away with them. Run away with their heads, that is. It’s been raining constantly. Hurricane Florence has been ravaging the Carolinas this week and has sent us a lot of rain. It’s rained most of the summer, though. We get a dry day or so every other week. Every time I cut the grass, at your house or mine, I’m cutting off six or eight inches, it’s growing so fast. The rain is also making the doors swell on the chicken coop, so I’ll be having to make some adjustments to them.

Two days after I wrote last time, the County inspector came and gave us the final OK on the plumbing for the kitchen and bathrooms. That’s a major piece of effort complete. I have a lovely, neon orange tag sitting on the desk next to me, saying our plumbing is done. It also says we need seven more inspections before we can occupy the house, but I assume that’s not relevant to a tag that clearly says, “Remodel” at the top. The one for the Air Conditioning looks the same.

The green bathroom door

I just hung the outer door on the green bathroom tonight. It has four doorways—one into the hallway, one between the toilet and the tub, one into the dressing room, and one from the dressing room into the bedroom. I only plan to hang doors in the hallway and bedroom openings. I’ll just frame the rest out. You didn’t buy enough doors to do more. I had to buy hinges for this door. I was overjoyed to find a dozen sets of hinges in a drawer in the East general purpose room last Summer. That was going to save me some money, and I didn’t like to have to buy new hardware, when you had carefully stocked up so long ago. I was not overjoyed when I realized that someone had misplaced them in the intervening months. I’m sure we’ll find them, but I needed to get another bathroom usable downstairs. Now at least someone can close up the master bedroom and the hall and have privacy in the bathroom.

The pink bathroom is also usable, and also kept private by being inside a bedroom. I need to finish tiling it. So much has been going on this past month, I have gotten back to it in weeks.

Before I do anything else, though, other than putting a doorknob on the door I just hung, I think I’m going to clean up the garage. I suspect the hinges are in the mess that’s out there, along with a lot of tools I need. It’s been a mess for about a year now. It’s time to clean it up. Indeed, the storage room in there still has pine shavings all over the floor, from the week the hens lived in it. That needs to be taken care of.

Renee and I have our third meeting with the financial planner tomorrow night. I hope that goes well. Mother is anxious to get things settled, and, I think, to move into assisted living. I’m sorry she wants to leave the house, but, right now, the plan is still to leave her with the right to come back, no matter who owns it.

Askr, sadly bereft of leaves

Speaking of finances, an unexpected expense came up this Summer. One night back in June, I was adjusting the outside lights that point at our house, and at the old ash tree that’s stood beside it for at least a century. I call the tree Askr, after the man Norse Mythology says was the first man created by the gods, out of an ash tree. His wife was Embla, made from an Elm. I couldn’t tell in the darkness, but I was pretty sure Askr had no leaves. In June, that was not a good sign. Sure enough, the next morning I was able to confirm that Askr was bare of leaves, except for one tiny patch near the base of one limb—not enough to keep a tree that size alive.

It took about three weeks to get my arborist out to look at Askr. He confirmed that the Emerald Ash Bore had struck, and the grand old tree was dead. Yesterday, after weeks of waiting for an appointment, and after an abortive and dangerous attempt on Saturday convinced the crew they needed a crane, Askr came down. With the hurricane threatening, it was not a moment too soon. The hurricane has now changed course, but I’m still glad to have the job done before storm season hits.

Askr’s legacy

You always wanted that tree cut down, from the day we moved in in 1996. You had offered to pay for it. But I relied on arborists to tell me if it was safe to stay, and they always said yes… until this Summer. We saved the base of Askr’s trunk, and an eight and a half foot section of one of the uprights, to be milled. We’ll make a bench and maybe some other things out of Askr’s wood. That means a lot to Renee. Askr was the backdrop for every first day of school picture ever taken of our boys.

It’s not as great or meaningful a loss as you leaving us, but it speaks to the passage of time. A life has ended that was longer than even yours. It bears remembrance.



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