As the old saying goes… you can take a man out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of a man. That’s very true where my Dad is concerned.
He grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Located in south-central PA, Lancaster County is a bucolic area of rolling hills studded with farms and old homesteads. Like everywhere else in the Northeastern US, it’s grown by leaps and bounds. But many of the farms remain. There are pockets of “civilization” (urban areas and suburban sprawl), but many, many farms remain. So it’s kept its country feel.
Mom’s family was from Pennsylvania, too, but her parents moved to Baltimore in the early1940s for work. When they married, Mom and Dad lived in Lancaster County for a while, but there were more employment opportunities in Baltimore. And Mom wanted to be closer to family. So, when I was 18 months old, they moved to Baltimore. I was about 5 when they moved into the house on Federal Street, a small row-house on the outskirts of the city.
We were all happy there. It was a great place to grow up. There’s open space across the street from our old house, full of trees, which we always referred to as “the woods.” Unlike many city homes, surrounded by other houses, busy streets, traffic, etc., it was a great environment for kids. There was never a shortage of things to do, places to explore, other kids to play with. It was fun. I have many fond memories of growing up there. So does my brother. It was an era when we played outside pretty much from dawn until dusk. Our curfew was ruled by the timing of the streetlights. When they came on, we knew it was time to go inside for the day.
By the time I moved out in the late-80s, things in the city had really started to deteriorate. Crime. Pollution. Overcrowding. Urban decay.
Of course, my parents always maintained their home very nicely, so the house remained well-kept. And it’s situated in this odd little neighborhood where time sort of stands still.
There’d been talk over the years of us moving to Pennsylvania. We visited Dad’s family in Lancaster often. But Dad was a blue collar worker and my parents never had a whole lot of extra money to spare. Then, in 1993, the year I got married, my Mom was diagnosed with scleroderma, a rare auto-immune disease. Simply explained, it means hardening of the skin, but it’s a systemic disease with far-reaching and varied complications.
As luck would have it, their house was a stone’s throw from Johns Hopkins. One of the world’s leading experts in scleroderma is based there. As much as I would have liked to see them move out of the city, Mom needed to be close to her doctors. She was lucky to live as long as she did after being diagnosed.
Dad never complained. He rarely voiced an opinion about hating the city and wanting to move. But I knew how he felt. The country is in his soul.
After Mom passed, I knew we needed to move him. We had options, of course. He could have gone to live near my brother in the Tidewater Virginia area. Or he could have come to live near us in Warrenton. But he doesn’t know these areas like he knows PA. And as lovely as it is in both places, he would never have felt at home.
Dad comes from a family of nine children. There were three boys and six girls. His two brothers have passed and, although his five sisters remain, he’s only really close to two of them, Bertha and Pearl.
Bertha has lived in this cute little trailer park for close to 20 years. Pearl moved into the same park late last year after her husband died. They also have a cousin, Amos, who lives there with his wife, Mellie.
It’s a very well-kept, smallish, 55+, community surrounded by farmland that just happens to be within about a 15-mile radius of where he grew up. I knew it would be the perfect spot for Dad. So I told Aunt Bertha to keep her eyes open for units hitting the market.
It was fate, plain and simple, the way it all worked out.
Back in late-February, Aunt Bertha took a driving vacation to visit some friends in South Carolina and her son in North Carolina. She stopped here for a visit on her way back to PA. Before she left, I didn’t know much about the friends she was visiting. As it turned out, Hal and Dixie, were neighbors who had a house in the same park as Bertha AND a summer home in South Carolina. Hal and Dixie are in their late-70s/early 80s. They’d recently learned that their daughter, who also lived in PA, was moving to New Mexico. And they were going to go with her sometime in May or June.
I asked Bertha about their house. It wasn’t on the market yet, but the way she described it, it sounded like it would be a good spot for Dad.
The following weekend just happened to be my annual girlfriend getaway weekend in Pennsylvania. Since I’d be in the neighborhood, I asked Bertha to see if she could get the keys so I could check the place out. I wanted to make sure it was a nice place and affordable before even mentioning it to Dad. It was. I took a bunch of pictures, printed them and placed them in a small album, then stopped to see Dad on my way home after the weekend.
Remember, he’d not talked about moving for quite some time. Mainly because he never thought he would be able to afford it.
Sometimes it pays to have a scheming set of kids.
When I got to his house, I told him I had to stop by and give him a surprise. As I turned over the various goodies I’d bought for him during my PA weekend, I eased into the subject of moving. We’d just told him a week or two prior that my son, Eric, would be moving to Hawaii soon. So I knew there wouldn’t be much to keep him in Baltimore. But even I was surprised when my “it’s time to convince you to move” was met with his “it wouldn’t take much convincing.”
He was more surprised than me, though, when I said, “Good, because I found you a house.”
“You found me a house?” he said, incredulous.
I showed him the photo album I’d prepared, but didn’t tell him where it was. Once we got to the end of the album, he was quite intrigued. When I told him it was five doors down from Bertha, he was really excited.
There was lots to do to get ready — sell his house, pack, arrange for the purchase of the new house, etc. — but I swear I think he started packing that night.
On June 15, we moved him.
My brother is on a work assignment in Georgia and Eric had just started a new job, which meant only Hubby and I were available to help on the Maryland end.
But he didn’t have much big stuff, so we thought it would be doable. We packed the bed and cab of his truck and our truck (both pick-ups) as well as a rented U-Haul.
Here are some shots of his house before we moved the stuff out.
… and after.
It only took about two hours to get the trucks packed.
Then it was off to the storage locker where Dad had stashed some extra belongings before putting the house on the market.
I got to drive the U-Haul. Dad and Hubby drove ahead rather than moving at my slower speed.
I really smiled and even got a little teary-eyed when I crossed the state line.
It was a bit surreal knowing I had most of Dad’s worldly possessions packed in the cargo area and I was delivering them to his new/old home.
The guys were already busy unloading when I arrived. Lucky for us, my cousin Ruth and her boyfriend, Lenny, were there to help unpack. Having two extra helpers sure made things easier.
I didn’t have time to stop for pics of the unpacking process, but it went pretty smoothly.
Soon enough, Dad’s new home was full.
I’ll tell you about my most-recent visit in my next post.
In the cow picture, you can just see Dad’s community in the background. The park really is surrounded by farmland.
I took that last shot from the entrance of the mobile home park. It’s pretty country.
As for Dad, he’s beyond thrilled to be back in PA. I hope he has many, many happy years there.
In my next post, I’ll tell you about my visit this past weekend. He’s settling in nicely. And happy. That’s the important part. The country boy is finally home.