Thirty minutes later we pulled up at Camp House. Approaching the yard, the absence of any change was remarkable! It was just as though I’d turned back the pages of time. The ol’ home seemed entirely unchanged. The Azaleas were blooming, the yard was green and manicured, and wisps of smoke rose cordially from the chimney. It was as though the merciless onslaught of time had somehow spared the ol’ home place, and left it suspended and unscathed by the passage of years, but it was only an illusion. Despite all appearances, six decades have sped ruthlessly away since Lidge and I said our goodbyes and sailed for California. Uncle Gus is gone, along with my mom and dad and an entire generation of precious loved ones. During the sixty-plus years that have elapsed since I last tread these stairs, even Cousins Klouse and Irving have succumb to mortality and the inexorable passage of time. We wish the days and the weeks away and then wonder where the decades went.
Lidge and I parked the Fords and ascended the steps. Despite the tenacious grip of reality, I fixated on the doorway, watching for Mom and Dad. My head new better but my heart still hoped. Both my folks had been gone for some years now, but the flood of familiar scenes here at the old home place had imprinted their likenesses freshly on my mind. My consciousness was suddenly awash with visions of mother sewing contentedly in the comfort of her rocker, and Dad and I proudly displaying a stringer of fish. I swallowed hard and clung tightly to a Christian’s treasured hope of a glad reunion. Suddenly my mind focused and my heart raced as someone stepped to the door. Lidge’s solemn countenance brightened instantly, as the door flew open and his sister Laura offered her embrace. Despite his years, Lidge swept the old woman off her feet and they frolicked like a couple of kids, suddenly brimming with a youthful infusion of joy. After a moment of bliss, Lidge allowed Laura to find her feet and she offered her hand affectionately to me.
“This is an unexpected blessing beyond an ol’ woman’s fondest dreams.” She said tenderly, peering into my glistening eyes. “Would you like to see your brother?” I nodded in compliance and my sister-in-law turned and led us into the house. With the exception of the rearrangement of several pieces of furniture, the old home had changed very little. Uncle Gus’s collections still graced many of the nooks and crannies, and the faded drawings of children long grown, retained their places of honor on the walls. Laura led us down the hall and into the study.
At age eighty-three, Christoph was hard of hearing and a little nearsighted, but his mind was sharp and his memory remarkably keen. He was sitting at his roll top desk perusing his Bible. Becoming aware of our approach, he turned slowly, and his crevassed old countenance brightened with recognition. His pale eyes twinkled and he caught his breath, covering his mouth with a frail, purple-veined hand. “How are you doing you ol’ curmudgeon?” I interjected smiling, as I affectionately grasped his withered hands in mine. “Can ya take time out from your studies to visit your brother?” Christoph leaned into his walking stick and struggled to his feet. Wrapping his bony arms around my time ravaged frame, he hugged my neck and pressed his whiskered cheek against my face. We joined in embrace and despite my best efforts; I added my stifled sobs to those of my brother. Eventually regaining composure, Lidge and I related the circumstances of our unannounced visit, and then the four of us enjoyed tea, scotch shortbread, and a long overdue visit. Following a delicious super of clam chowder and fritters, and a priceless evening of fellowship, Christoph eventually nodded off in his rocker, and Laura showed Lidge and me to our rooms. I’d never slept inside Camp House before. The renovated carriage house had met my needs nicely during the golden years of my youth, and never once had I slept inside this house. Laura escorted me upstairs, and then down the hall to Mom and Dad’s old room, wished me a good night, and left me to settle in. Mothers’ hand mirror and brushes still adorned the dresser, and on the wall opposite the window hung a portrait of my parents on their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
I’d love to relate to you the emotion that this occasion holds for me; I’d dearly love to express it, but I haven’t got the words. To say that this was a bittersweet occasion is an understatement of biblical proportions. The visit with Christoph and Laura was in itself a priceless blessing, but I’d have gladly given several years of my life to go back and do it while my folks were still alive. It’s too late for me now, but maybe you can benefit by my misfortune. If you’re blessed with family, visit them often, tell them you love them, and cherish every moment that you share. Expressing love now can dispel a life of regrets. I’ll spare ya the details of the following morning’s farewells. Suffice it to say they were passionate, sincere, and thoroughly expressed! Following a traumatic parting, Lidge and I cranked up the Lizzies and pulled reluctantly from the yard. I watched wistfully as what would prove to be my last vision of Camp House shrank slowly and vanished into my rearview mirror, and then returning Christoph and Laura’s lingering waves, I reconciled myself to the close of yet another of life’s irrepressible cycles, and steered my jitney for Gettysburg. “Obie’s Quest”