Today didn’t feel like it would be the last time I was in the house I’ve been visiting almost every summer for about a quarter century.  The place has so many memories for me, never mind what it holds for Baba, my dad and his siblings.

We  hadn’t gone out on the porch much this visit, so I went to sit out there while Dad and Bernie talked to Baba.  There was a soccer game going on at the football field behind their house.  You used to have a perfect view of the Tate’s Creek High School football field from that porch, but a field house or concession building, one of those was built several years ago and the view became pretty useless.  I remember there used to be a place, a little dip in the ground, where you could crawl under the giant chain link fence.  I wonder how many kids skipped school by doing just that or sneaking through the creek and into my grandparents’ yard over the years.

When the time comes to tear down that house, it will have only housed two separate families in all its years.  Baba and Pap bought it for less than what most people pay for a car nowadays.  Amanda and I really like that house, and if there was any way we could have bought it and shipped it here I think we’d have both been happy.  Not that it would be at all feasible.  I mean, nobody in Wilmington has basements.

I often like to think about what I’d do with different rooms if I lived in any given house.  I think we’d keep the master bedroom as the one where Baba and Pap slept.  The room next to it could be my office, or else I could use the smaller bedroom upstairs.  Pap had a desk in the basement, but I think that would be the main living room.

Eh, whatever.  It doesn’t matter.

I decided to leave a little sooner than we had originally planned.  In light of Hurricane Irene and the mess we could have been driving into, I wanted to make sure I left early enough to be able to get back to Wilmington and my girls.  I talked to Amanda and she said that our house was fine aside from being without cable and internet, but a tree had fallen on one of the houses down the road and done a little bit of damage.

Karen and Phil had a bunch of trees down in their yard.  One tree’s root ball came up, and unfortunately it was one they’d built a porch around, so that was all messed up.  Peggy and Earl just had a little yard debris and the Frazelles, right on the beach, had nothing, though they, along with the Mercers and the Lemonses, did lose power.

Strangely enough, a tree fell in the front of my parents’ house a few hours inland.  It hit the porch and possibly messed up a section of gutter.

Since no packing had been done yet, Dad and I decided to pack up Baba’s China cabinet, which she wanted to take with her to Sayre.  A lot of it was given to Baba and Pap for their wedding and some was from the 1920’s.  We started off using a bunch of wrapping paper we found under the steps in the garage.  Maybe it’ll be like Christmas for Baba.  We switched to newspapers though, many of which Mary Joe brought over.  She said she had a bunch of them from when John died.

Steve showed up before we left.  He wanted to make sure to come by and see us off.  Shelby appeared right before Dad and I left, so we got a few pictures.

On the way out, I noticed some stone birds sitting on the windowsill of the window next to the front door.  It seemed like I’d never noticed them before, but after seeing them they seemed a little bit familiar.  God only knows how long they’ve been sitting there.

Baba was a bit flustered this whole time.  I think she was overwhelmed and feeling like she needed to do something, even though her sons told her all she needed to do was to decide what she wanted to take with her when she left the house.  Poor thing.  She seemed in good spirits though, flusterment (yes, I just made that word up) aside.

We made good time getting from Lexington to the Rouge.  It took us right at eight hours. We had some hard rain near Winston-Salem, but it didn’t last very long.  We stopped in Lexington to fill up the Prius and buy some Ale 81.  Amanda had the idea to pick some up for Nick because he mentioned before that he always got some when he was in Kentucky.  Also got a case for Dad and another for his friend, Larry Boots.  Right after that we got some Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and didn’t stop until we were in either West Virginia near Virginia or Virginia near West Virginia to get gas again.  I ran in to the store to grab us some snacks.  Dad wanted a Baby Ruth, but they didn’t have any so I went out to ask him what he wanted instead.  I went back in to pick up a Skor, but an entire troop of Boy Scouts appeared, all of them lined up at the register to buy something.  Dad came in after a little bit and said to forget about it.  It would have been nice if they saw that I was grabbing a single candy bar and let me go to the front of the line instead of waiting on a dozen people.  Anyway, that was really our only snag in the trip.

When we got to Rougemont I stopped briefly to say hi to Mom and Erin.  The dogs still smelled a little of skunk and I got to see the tree that landed on the house.  Mom and Erin showed us a clip they’d DVR’ed from the Weather Channel, telling us it was epic and historic and that it was going to be all over YouTube.  It was a reporter talking about Irene on a street somewhere.  A bunch of guys ran past him being goofy and one mooned the camera.  The camera had been pulling back the whole time though, and the guy was jumping and dancing around and got his wiener caught on tape.

So we left Lexington at 10:50 and got to Rougemont at 6:50.  I got to Wilmington at 9:20, hitting one very short burst of heavy rain outside of Raleigh.  That trip was uneventful other than me having to call Anna and Barry to ask them how to open the gas cover on the X3.  I was looking for some sort of release button, but you just have to push the cover in and it pops open.

Milly was asleep when I got home, of course, but Bruce and Harvey were happy to see me.  Cyra was over and she and Amanda had just finished watching a movie.  Amanda and I talked for a while and she obviously must have missed me because I actually got a back rub, and that never happens!

Zach Dotsey