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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: Branching Out
By Emily Gibson


My father’s dream of constructing a tree house for his grandchildren began in mid-winter, not long after his lymphoma was declared in remission. We had plenty of old recycled lumber on our old farm to sort through, so he doodled out some sketches of what might work in the 100 year old walnut tree in our front yard. He contemplated the physics of a 73 year old grandpa scaling a tree vs. building on the ground and hoisting it up mostly completed. I got nervous the more I thought about it and hoped we could consider a project a little less risky, but he wouldn’t hear of it. It was my hope the weather wouldn't clear enough for construction to start any time soon.

However, the weather cleared as Grandpa’s health faded. His cancer came back with a vengeance and he was sidelined with a series of doctor's appointments, hospitalizations and treatment courses. He hung on to the hope of getting the tree house going by summer, drawing pictures for his grandchildren and telling them Swiss Family Robinson tree house tales. In the mean time he lost physical strength day by day.

I knew his dream needed encouragement as he fought his battle, so I borrowed library books on tree houses, and hired two young college age brothers to get things started under my dad’s supervision. I figured when he got well enough to build again, at least the risky stuff could be already done by the young guys. These brothers took their job very seriously. They took my dad's plans, worked through the details and started in. They shinnied up the tree, put up pulleys on the high branches and placed the support beams, hoisting them by pulling on ropes. Then they set to work on creating a grandfather’s best vision of a child’s playhouse sitting amid the branches.

Grandpa followed the progress through the stories his grandchildren now told him as he lay in bed. It was a diversion for him, but the far off look in his eye told me he wasn't going to be building anything in this world ever again. He was gone by mid-summer shortly before the tree house was finished. It was everything he had envisioned and more. It had a deck, a protective railing, a trap door, a staircase. We had an “open tree” celebration and I'm sure I felt Grandpa there as well, sipping lemonade with us enjoying the view.

Now, over a decade later, the tree house tilts on its foundation as a main weight bearing branch weakens. It is a daily reminder of my grown children’s favorite hang out, playing make believe, hosting tea parties and hiding in a leaf wrapped fort that touched the sky. Much like Grandpa’s once strong and robust body, the stately walnut tree is failing and frail, hanging on by the roots but its muscle tiring. It too will, at some time, come down in one of our frequent fierce windstorms, just as its nearby partner did a few years ago.

Grandpa had a list full of hopes for his grandchildren, some realized and some only imagined. His blessing was to be able to watch others create what he had envisioned and planned out. Though he teetered in the wind like the old walnut tree ready to fall to the ground, he reached out with his branches and handed off his fondest dreams to his grandchildren. The time had come to let go.

Author's note:
A version of this true story has already been published which I'm aware is not the intent of the challenge. I could not resist revising it for this theme as a way to honor my father's memory and share what it with other FaithWriters.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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This article has been read 605 times
Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw04/10/08
Perfectly fitting title and definitely a story worth sharing with your FW family. This is a precious, tender and moving memory that touched my heart.
Chrissi Dunn04/11/08
Wow - I'd love to see that tree-house! You described your father's efforts so well.
Chely Roach04/13/08
Wow...this was a great story. I absolutely loved the last two lines, " Though he teetered in the wind like the old walnut tree ready to fall to the ground, he reached out with his branches and handed off his fondest dreams to his grandchildren. The time had come to let go."
Karen Wilber04/13/08
Thank you for sharing this memorable story, beautifully executed in the telling. I love how the narrator has reservations in the beginning, then realizes just what happened after the realization of the grandfather's plans.
Debbie Wistrom04/13/08
What a legacy. So glad you decided to let us read it. Well done, descriptive and touching!
Holly Westefeld04/14/08
Nonetheless, I'm glad you shared this heart-warming tribute. Great title.
Jan Ackerson 04/14/08
The parallel of the construction of the tree house and grandpa's declining health is very effective here.

It's probably just because I'm doing a class on cliches this week, but I spotted some cliches, especially in the 2nd paragraph: came back with a vengeance...hung on to hope...day by day...

You're a very good writer, so I'd encourage you to look for new ways to express those concepts.
Joy Faire Stewart04/16/08
I'm so glad you decided to share this wonderful story and the beautiful memories.
Sara Harricharan 04/16/08
I always wanted a tree house-but somehow you made this 'wish' into a bit of reality, by adding pieces of life to make it real. I liked it and though there are sad notes under it, it is good. Nice job. ^_^