It has been an incredibly emotional couple of days for me here in Maryland. Writing is often how I get through emotional stuff, so here goes nothing.
Yesterday after lunch, we went to Longview Nursing Home to visit my 91 year old grandfather, Donald Darling. He in now the only living grandfather that I have left and in reality, his health is failing. He moved out of his house into assisted living in 2009 about a year and a half after my Nana passed away and then in 2012 he was moved to a nursing home. His home in Randallstown stood unoccupied for several years before finally being sold recently.
I have fond memories of spending nights with Nana and Pop. Nana would lay in the bedroom and watch her shows while Pop would lay on the couch in his den and listen to the Orioles on the radio. During the day, we would play Monopoly and Rummy 500 for hours on end. In fact my strategy of holding everything in my hand until I could play it all at once and go out was learned from years of getting beat by Pop doing the same thing. It’s hard knowing that I’ll never be able to walk into that house again and it’s harder still knowing that every time I am up here visiting it may be the last time that I will see him. Here’s a picture of three generations of Darling men.
This morning, I took my last trip to 5701 Greenville Road. This is the house that my Mamaw and Pappy lived in until Pappy was placed in a nursing home roughly two years ago. This was my first trip home since I had the honor of preaching Pappy’s funeral in January. He hadn’t lived in the house for a couple of years, so I knew that time and the elements had done their work, but I also know that the city plans on bulldozing the house as soon as the family finishes cleaning it out. I didn’t really want to go down there, but I knew that if I didn’t, I would probably regret it. Early this morning I got in the car by myself and took a trip down memory lane.
It was so surreal to still see the old plastic tire swing hanging from the tree in the back yard. Memories of nights spent there raced through my head. I thought of Mamaw’s 7am breakfasts, Pappy coming into the bedroom at the first crack of sunlight asking if you were going to sleep all day. I thought of taking bike rides on the trail in the woods and leisurely strolls down to the reservoir which typically consisted of more rock skipping than actual fishing. I thought of riding in Pappy’s lap on his John Deere tractor and the exhilaration of finally being old enough to drive the tractor myself. Not sure why I enjoyed this so much as what it really meant was that I was now old enough to ‘earn my keep’ and cut Pappy’s yard. Hard to believe there will never be another family Christmas Eve dinner in that house.
One last stop wrapped up my morning. I went to visit Mamaw and Pappy’s grave. For the first time for me it wasn’t just Mamaw’s grave. So many years they shared together here on earth and finally after 18 years apart, they are reunited in heaven. What a testimony!