The House That George Built

That was his name…my father’s name…George.  He went by “Sarge” because he was a sergeant in the Air Force.  And he was proud of his bad-ass, tough, hard-nosed reputation.  But his given name was George Fredrick Sharrow.  Ironically, he changed his last name to Harsen after his mother remarried, taking her new name because he hated his father, an alcoholic bootlegger, so much he didn’t want to be associated with him, even in name.  Ironic, as you know if you’ve read my earlier posts, because I kept my married name, even though I didn’t want to, because I didn’t want to be associated with my father, even in name.
 
That’s the kind of house George built.
 
When I was a kid, we lived in a trailer, a tiny thing that was 8 ft. wide and 24 ft. long.  It sat on the back part of my grandparent’s property.  We were poor. We barely scraped by.  Our cramped quarters attested to this fact.  My father, the above-mentioned George, began earning a little more as a teacher and eventually bought a 1/2 acre lot located across the alley from my grandparents.  It was there, over the years, he built a house for us.
 
He took a great deal of care in the way he built that house.  The foundation was deep and strong.  The sub-flooring consisted not only of the normal wood typically used in construction, but an additional layer of tongue and groove flooring that was carefully fitted diagonally over the top of large thick plywood boards.  He placed the wall studs closer together.  He used more nails.  Each corner was carefully mitered so it fit together perfectly and tightly.  The roof was solidly nailed into place and the best quality of lumber was used.  Superior shingles covered the boards.  The toughest siding was utilized.  Anderson windows were purchased, costing a small fortune, but they were the best money could buy at the time and that’s what my father wanted.  The house was built to last centuries.  Solid.  Not fancy, but strong and substantial.  Quality.  It took several years to complete, but we moved in when I was 9 years old.  I lived there until I graduated from high school, then left immediately thereafter.
 
In spite of the excellence of his workmanship, I hated the house.
 
A couple of weekends ago, I was able to take a tour of the old place.  My best friend during my growing up years purchased it from me and my brother after my mother died.  She and her husband have done a ton of work and have made some beautiful improvements.  I was actually relieved it had changed.  But I was also disturbed that it hadn’t. 
 
My parent’s bedroom was no longer red, the furniture and curtains were different, the pictures were altered, but the room was the same room where I was frequently, horrifically, sexually abused and tortured.  Different shower curtain and window curtains, but same bathroom off their bedroom.  Same sink.  Same tub.  My old bedroom was now my friend’s son’s room and it was crammed with the latest technology and different furniture.  But it was still the bedroom where my father came for me under the cover of darkness at night.  The kitchen had been redone, but the cabinets were the same.  The big brick fireplace in the living area remains.  The storage units to each side.  The white tongue-and-groove ceiling in the living room, dining room and kitchen is still there.  The windows are the same (yep, those Anderson windows lived up to their reputation).  The half-wall divider between the living room and entry room is unchanged.  The chiming doorbell remains.  The full length porches with their many support posts…the same.  The interior doors (without locks) are the same doors that didn’t shelter me.  Same light fixtures in most of the rooms.  The bones of the house are the same bones I knew.  They are the bones of my darkest days.  They held me prisoner back when Sarge was in his prime and on the prowl.  This is the house of my nightmares.
 
My friend’s new flooring in the living room, entry and kitchen was like makeup on a pig to me.  Their new appliances didn’t mask the disease hidden beneath.  New front and back doors didn’t make the house more welcoming.  New paint didn’t hide the memories.
 
This is the house that George built.
 
But he didn’t just build a physical house.  That part, he did rather well.  The mental and emotional house, however, didn’t turn out so great.  Not for me. Instead of building with care, he built haphazardly.  I am a prime example of his poor building skills in this area.  My foundation is crumbling, thin, broken, smashed, faulty, uneven.  He didn’t try to make sure I would survive and thrive and be able to live well for my lifetime.  Instead, he hacked away at any meager shelter I frantically constructed.  He broke down my walls.  He tore holes in my roof until it fell.  He shattered my windows.  He didn’t bother to finish rooms or complete the details.  In fact, there were no details.  He deconstructed more than he constructed.  The interior of my heart and soul is torn and demolished and shredded.  Corners don’t meet.  Boards don’t fit.  Wood is twisted and splintered and strewn across the ground.  Wall aren’t upright, ceilings don’t provide any protection and, in fact crash down on me regularly.  There is little left standing.  Barely a shell.  And it offers no protection from the storm…none whatsoever.
 
I am in sad shape.  In need of so much deep and drastic repair, I frequently wonder if there is any hope.  This is the house that George built.  With his own hands.   I did the best I could to take the scraps and broken pieces and make a life from the mess, but it hasn’t worked out so well.  What George built seems to have endured.  The strong house where my friend now lives.  The broken person with a destroyed life.  In both cases, his work, unfortunately, prevails.

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