This Old House

Published on 5 February 2024 at 20:34

Does anyone remember the show This Old House? I used to love watching that show and actually still love home improvement shows. We didn’t grow up with cable or dish, so there were limited options of what we could watch. This Old House was a family favorite. I bring up the show because this is a story of the house I grew up in. It was old….Well both of them actually. The first house we moved to in Claysville, Ohio was a family home. I guess someone in my daddy’s family owned it and was “kind” enough to allow us to rent it. I use quotations for “kind” because I highly doubt the intentions were to be kind as we eventually were kicked out of the house. Yes, the family we moved clear across the country to be near kicked us out. So much for “family.” It was a small house with two adults and four kids crammed in it. That number eventually went up to five kids while we lived there. If memory serves me, there was a small living room, two small bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. Mommy and daddy had a room and the rest of us piled into the other room. There were not enough mattresses for us all so I remember sleeping on a pile of blankets on the floor most nights. We used a kerosene heater in the winter to keep warm. I still remember the smell and watching the haze of the fumes. Although the house was small, it didn’t feel small except for nights mommy and daddy fought. I have some memories from that house but that is not the story for today.


The story for today is about the house where I grew up, “This Old House.” When we got kicked out of the first house in Claysville, we moved about a road down to another house. Prior to moving in, my daddy talked the house up. He made it sound like we were moving into a mansion. I remember daddy taking us to see it all filled with excitement. He had all sorts of ideas how he was going to improve the house. Despite the fact that it looked like a small breeze could demolish it, I saw it through the same rose colored glasses daddy did. It was two stories and had much more room than the other house. I had dreams of having my own room. Those dreams never came true. You see, that was my daddy. Full of great ideas. But those ideas very rarely came to fruition.


I remember looking around and thinking about how dirty and old the house was. It looked as if any moment it may crash down around us. Regardless, I was glad to have a home that would be ours. And I was excited about getting to help “fix” it up. Daddy had us kids help remove some of the walls so he could put up new drywall. Now I am not one hundred percent sure what the walls were made of, but we were able to pull up pieces at a time using just butter knives. Yes, my sisters and I demoed the walls with butter knives. Daddy told us the walls were made with horse hairs. I have looked that up and indeed horse hair was mixed in plaster to create walls. They stopped doing this around the 1950s when better building material was invented. This indicated just how old this house could be. Anyways, I am pretty positive he was correct. I remember all the dust that was created by pulling up pieces of wall. It probably was not the healthiest thing for us kids to be breathing in. Regardless, I cherished moments like this when daddy taught us things about building. 


He really was very skilled at what he did. He worked on houses for people. A self-employed carpenter. He put up walls, painted, built things, and anything else that needed done. Sometimes he would take us to see what he was working on. I always thought he was so talented. He also made shelves as a hobby. I have one of those shelves tucked away in a closet. Waiting for a home where I am able to hang it up.


Anyways, I cherished these moments spent learning from daddy because these were the moments I felt like I had a true dad. My daddy was actually my stepdad. But I never thought of him as a stepdad. You see my father was not part of my life after he and my mom divorced. He never visited, never called, never sent birthday cards. It was like we didn’t exist to him anymore. I would be surprised if he even remembers my name. So, stepdad quickly became daddy. He never treated us four older kids as if we were not his. The two youngest were his but you wouldn’t know there was any difference. For him, we were all his kids.


Another important thing to know about my daddy was that he was an alcoholic. Alcoholism is truly a very devastating disease. As an adult, I am now aware that my daddy suffered from schizophrenia and other mental health issues. He did not take medicine. You see, his beer was his medicine. It very likely numbed the pain from his childhood and dulled the voices in his head. I wish there had been someone to help him fight his demons.


I share this information because it helps explain why “This Old House” remained just that…old and dilapidated. Daddy would try to fix things with leftover materials from his jobs or salvaged materials. He would start a project but it was always “half-assed” meaning it was never fully finished. From mitch matched siding to uneven floors this would be the house I spent about 13 years in. Over the years our rooms changed around as daddy tried to achieve his vision for our home. In winter, the upstairs was too cold so us girls would “move” downstairs. My mommy would hang a thick blanket up to block the stairs off to keep the cold from entering the downstairs. 


I have a mixture of memories in this house, a house where my mommy still lives. I spent many years mad at daddy for never making the house into the dream he had for us. I also spent many years angry about how mean he was (the stage he hit after so many beers). But as I have gotten older, been through therapy, and understand now what he must have been battling I have found forgiveness and sadness for him. Forgiveness for the things he did to cause trauma for me and sadness that he did not live long enough to overcome his demons. As I approach my 45th birthday, I realize just how short his life was cut. I am now older than he was when he died. 

Add comment


4 months ago

It’ll be 20 yrs this April that Daddy’s been gone.