Kodak Brownie Starmatic
Kodak Portra 160

This might be the remains of the place where my father was born, and lived until he was 4. I don’t know for sure, and neither did Dad when we stood here that summer day in 2012.

When we visited his hometown of Handley, West Virginia, together in 1990, the building still stood. I remember it being painted yellow. But Dad couldn’t find the building on this visit to town, and he just had to guess that this was probably it.

When I was a child my dad sat on the edge of his chair one night as a news report showed a house on fire — the one where he had lived as a teen with his dad. I remember Dad’s face, grave, grief-stricken.

Dad seemed dispassionate as we stood before this ruin. Perhaps he had cultivated a level of stoicism to cope with so much loss.

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8 responses to “single frame: Collapsed”

  1. Nancy Stewart Avatar
    Nancy Stewart

    My Dad was a hard working, quiet man who would help anyone he could and had a gentle nature. But he and mom were definitely not the touchy-feely type. Growing up I don’t remember them hugging me or each other … ever. Until I was around 20 years old and moving to California for a while. As I was about to get into the car to leave, I walked over and gave them each a big hug. I think they were certainly surprised, but from then on we would always give out the hugs when leaving. They were definitely not ones to show a lot of emotions. Stoic is a good word I guess. Incidentally …. before they came across from England my Livesay family had a mine. Not sure what kind. Then when they got over here to settle in Virginia in the 1700 hundreds they became part owners of a copper mine. Some years later a whole lot of them moved to Tennessee and then later settled in southern Illinois. ( I used to tease dad that the whole family must have been run out of town on a rail ). Although by that time most of them were farmers, you could say that we came from miners too.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My dad wasn’t terribly physically demonstrative either. In my 30s I decided I was just going to hug him when I saw him from then on, and started doing it. It took 10 years, but he slowly warmed up to it and started to offer it himself when he saw me.

  2. Heide Avatar

    How sad it is to imagine your dad’s anguish upon seeing the news that his old home had burned, Jim. Even after we’ve long since left a place there is some comfort in thinking we can return if we want to and reconnect with old memories — however distant. But I’m glad you were able to return to this spot and share the moment with your dad. I expect he appreciated it a lot more than he let on.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was challenging when my parents sold the home I grew up in. That happened only four years ago. It feels odd that I can’t drive over there and just walk in anymore. I think if it burned down I’d have a gaping hole in my heart for a long time.

      1. Heide Avatar

        I still remember how I cried when I drove away for the last time from the house where I grew up, Jim. It’s one of those moments whose unexpected weight practically crushes you. But I hope the home YOU grew up in will stand for many, many more years — and that driving by it every now and then will evoke many, many happy memories.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I’ve been back to my hometown just twice since Mom and Dad sold the house and moved here. It feels weird not to go back home five or six times a year like I always used to!

  3. Nancy Stewart Avatar
    Nancy Stewart

    When my dad passed away and we sold the farm I grew up on …. the last day there, I said goodbye to the house and then when we got to the end of the long lane I got out of the car and Jerry took a picture of me hugging the big old tree that had sheltered me in all kinds of weather while waiting for the school bus for 12 years. Then we drove away …. and I couldn’t look back.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a difficult day that must have been.

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