52: The Blueprints

52: The Blueprints

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

The Blueprints

And in today already walks tomorrow.

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“I don’t know if I can do this!” I sobbed and dropped to my knees.

“Yes you can. Together we can do it,” my cousin said and knelt down beside me. She placed her hand on my shoulder and added, “C’mon, the sooner we get started, the sooner it will be over.”

“That’s the point. It will be final. The last of what’s left of him will be gone.” I covered my face with my hands and struggled to stop the river of emotion spilling over me. My father’s death, it seemed, was only the beginning of the heartache and unbearable abandonment that I was feeling.

My cousin stood and faced the open closet containing the articles of my father’s life: old shoes, six long-sleeved shirts, some jeans, some slacks, a couple of worn sweaters and a faded suede jacket. The scent of old suede, the sight of the right side pocket worn where he used to hook his thumb, a faint hint of the cologne he used to wear, assaulted my spirit. I stared at his belongings and wanted to wail.

My cousin wasn’t going to allow that to happen though. She encouraged me to continue, to accept the grief and then go further and find closure.

Coat hangers slid across the metal rod. That’s when I saw them—three sets of old blueprints rolled tightly and leaning against the back corner of the closet. My father had saved them for some reason, maybe as a reminder of the important man he had once been. I knew they must be at least ten years old. The yellowed paper, frayed edges and smudged fingerprints told me so.

In his short life my father had accomplished great feats in his construction business, only to throw everything away when drinking became more important. His business failed and he made drinking his first priority. I always found him slumped in a chair, chin on his chest and shoulders sagging in despair. A bottle of cheap wine sat on the floor beside him.

I didn’t understand his illness and his abandonment of my sisters and me. Later on, I would come to realize this was not my fault. There was nothing I could have done to change him. God knows we tried, with AA meetings, several stays at recovery centers and a two-week stint at a county facility.

Now I couldn’t resist the strange pull the blueprints were having on me. There were two large sets and one smaller. The smaller, I assumed, was for a single-family residence.

I reached inside the closet and wrapped my fingers around the small set of plans. His hands had gone over the paper and the details written inside many times. Carefully, I unrolled the thin paper. A beautiful two-story English Tudor emerged. A high-pitched roof, brick siding, and defined arches and gables were all there. I searched for a name on the prints and couldn’t find one. Not an architect or a homeowner for that matter, and the specs were missing. This, simply put, was a rough draft of someone’s vision. But whose?

“Look at this.”

“Wow... it’s beautiful!” exclaimed my cousin. “I wonder who the plans belonged to?”

“I haven’t a clue. Look at the floor plan, it’s so spacious and open.”

She sat beside me and I spread the plans open across our laps. She shook her head like a revelation had just come to her.

“Looks like he left you something after all.”

My eyes filled with unshed tears. “You might be right.” I glanced back down at the floor plan. Carefully, I rolled the plans and placed the rubber band back on. We let a few heartfelt moments pass by in memory of who my father had been before the drinking consumed his life.

After a few minutes, we returned to packing his personal belongings. We filled two large garbage bags with his old clothes, his wallet and handkerchiefs and his shoes, except for one dressy pair. I held the left shoe in my hand. He’d walked in this shoe, traveled to meetings and then to bars. He’d worn it home and to my sister’s wedding. I pressed the worn leather against my chest and then placed it in the box and whispered, “Goodbye.”

Several months later, a friend needed to sell a parcel of land. It just so happened the acre was in one of my favorite areas—Wildwood Canyon, untouched and newly developed, with sprawling oaks and meadows growing wild with saffron grass. I jumped at the chance.

The top shelf in my closet had been home for the blueprints since finding them. Each day when I went to get my clothes out, I looked at them and smiled. They contained a dream and my duty became clear on a cloudy morning on the anniversary of his death. Instead of my clothes, I pulled the blueprints down and placed a call to a local architect. Within a month, those simple blueprints were developed into a full set of plans with specs, and six months later, the pad was graded and the foundation poured.

The first time I went to inspect the framing on the second story the sun was setting, the sky pastel and the wind gentle as it blew through the open walls. The plywood subfloor was covered with wood shavings and powdery dust, the scent intoxicating and familiar. I thought of my father and his dreams. In his lifetime, he had built apartment complexes and houses, and he had developed a mud and paint factory. He had accomplished much and then let it all slip through his fingers. Sadness filled me, but only for a moment. His life’s path had taken a dark turn and he wasn’t able to find his way back. In one fleeting moment, I realized he had left me a legacy.

I wanted to weep, but something held me back. Tears welled in my eyes and yet they didn’t spill over. I felt my father’s presence, near and yet so far away.

I have long since moved away from the Tudor that was once my father’s vision. Proudly I sold the place two years after completion. Now when I think of the house, I think of him, and vice-versa. The original blueprints have a home in my attic now, and every once in a while, I pull them out and remember he was just a man, and he was also my father, one I still love to this day with all my heart.

~Cindy Golchuk

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners