Monday, September 29, 2008

Green Acres is the place for me.

"What we do in life echoes in eternity."
-Maximus (Russell Crowe) from the movie Gladiator

After this past weekend, that quote has new meaning to me. It has always been one of my favorite quotes- a reminder to myself that actions have consequences and each action taken has a ripple effect of sorts on my life, and the lives of those around me. It's been over 20 years since I last visited the farm owned by my family in Wisconsin. It is a farm rich in history. My great grandfather farmed the land and was a blacksmith when he came to the U.S. from Finland in the late 1800's. He built the house on that land with his own two hands. My maternal grandmother grew up in that house. Over the years, the people living there were my relatives; a homestead passed down from generation to generation. And as is the way in many families, even relatives who didn't reside on the property would lend a helping hand when needed- fixing roofs, tilling the land, cleaning-those kinds of things. Now it is my turn. Along with my brother, we now have the responsibility of maintaining the farm. It wasn't until I stepped foot on the land and entered the house that it dawned on me what a responsibility this was. But it is one that I welcome. The house has a history that is undeniable. Past actions and events that took place here are echoing through eternity into my lifetime, into my children's lifetime.

There are clothes hanging in the closets from generations past.

There are photos galore.

There are papers from years past. The most disturbing of which (for me anyway) was a Western Union telegram from the 1930's sent to my aunt. All it said was, "Jean. Billy died in an accident. Get home." Even after all these years, that single piece of paper endures to remind me that life is fragile; that life can turn on a dime.

But there were two other things that I would say fall into the disturbing category:

1) The flies. Oh.My.Lord. The FLIES!!! They were EVERYWHERE. I was in the house for about 10 minutes when I looked at my brother and said, "Are we sure there isn't a dead body somewhere in here???" And then we laughed because, well, in those circumstances you just have to laugh. Even if the flies are dive bombing your head as you're laughing. And then we went and bought every fly trap the local grocery store had on their shelf. It wasn't until we found out that it was actually "fly season" in northern Wisconsin that I stopped wanting to scrape my skin off my face. Huh- who knew??? Fly season? I think I must need to get out more because I've never heard of fly season- deer season and bear season, yes! Fly season? Not so much.

2) The Bedroom. The last relative who actually lived on the property full time was my uncle. He passed away two years ago and left a um (cough, cough-shift uncomfortably in my chair) legacy of sorts. Let me put it this way... at best, he was extremely eccentric- at worst, I think he had a severe hoarding issue. I knew we probably had an issue on our hands when the guy in town who works AT THE GARBAGE DUMP told us we must have our hands full with that place upon hearing that my brother and I were taking over the farm. I mean, when the garbage guy is telling you there's a problem- trust me- there's a problem! In the last two years, generous family members and friends have slowly but surely removed, cleaned and restored most of the farmhouse to a liveable status. Most of it, that is, except for "The Bedroom". It was the most daunting of tasks to undertake- cleaning out that room. Much of it hadn't been touched in the two years since his passing. But since the rest of our relatives did such a fantastic job restoring the rest of the house, "The Bedroom" was the last room that needed attention. So, my brother and I donned our face masks, put on our plastic gloves and decided to tackle "The Bedroom".

My brother looks somewhat optimistic in this picture...

I on the other hand, well, I was scared shitless. You can see it in my eyes.

We gave it our best shot. We cleaned out the drawers and our long standing opinions about my uncle's eccentricity were more than confirmed. He had always been one to want to live "off the grid". One neighbor asked us if we found any parts to his wind generator that he was building. He was always into Sci-Fi and based on what I found in the drawers, I think he had a true fear that nuclear war was an imminent possibility. There were groups of pills to take in the case of radiation exposure and more than one exposure meter to measure your radiation exposure. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. In the interest of some level of decorum, that is all I will say about the details of "The Bedroom" cleaning. With the exception of this- we were not successful. It was too much. What started with optimism ended with me and my brother dry heaving on the front lawn.

So now we are looking into Plan B. Candidates for Plan B include but are not limited to the following options:
1) Take another crack at it ourselves when we go back there in a couple weeks. But this would require me to get very, VERY drunk first.
2) Hire a fire/flood restoration company to come in and wipe the slate clean. But since there technically wasn't a fire, or a flood, I'm not sure we could qualify for their services.
3) My brother suggested that we just order new carpet and keep our fingers crossed that when they show up to install the new carpet, that they would rip up the old and haul it away without asking any questions. Good idea in theory but in practice I'm guessing not so much.


Twenty-Something said...

I can totally see the fear in your eyes!

Your uncle is awesome, I mean seriously the closest thing my family has to a "plan" for that kind of thing is to head to our property up North... he's got pills!

Lori said...

And I am the weirdo aunt that would LOVE to do it. I LOVE weird stuff and you know I wouldn't judge, and I KNOW you so know I would know what you WOULD want... AND I have gear. That face on you is like...familiar, what you looked like right before you birthed your first child. While you were on bed rest. And were not resting.

Mike said...

That telegram is chilling. I know it was expensive back then to send telegrams, I think you paid by the letter so people were pithy. But still...

What a great family legacy the farm is though!

For Myself said...

It's like your very own anthropological dig! Up close and very very personal...
Some day you'll laugh?

Carolyn...Online said...

Where have I been that I missed this? Stupid life.

I love that you have an old farm to tend to. And that telegram... So cool. And sad. And haunting.

Corrine said...

as i was blog hopping i landed here, what an awesome story. family farm, family treasures...sorry the uncles room is so bad. can you just rent a dumpster and get gloves and dump the stuff? hire merry maids?

Ms Picket To You said...

completely skeery, but also, so so so SO cool.

Becca said...

OK, I am catching up on blogs from when I was away and all I can say to this: "It was too much. What started with optimism ended with me and my brother dry heaving on the front lawn" is NONONONONooo, you MUST tell us more!!!!