Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FOLD (10/08/15)
- TITLE: The Family's Business
By Cindy Duncan
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I still say it was the worst day of my life. People have argued, “What about the day your father died?” or “How about that time you wrecked your truck?” I’m not saying those were good days, of course, but they do not compare to the day that I shut the door behind me for the last time at Heritage Homes.
I know that sounds horrible about my father, but I had no control over his death, and I know he’s in a better place. The death of Heritage Homes, however, was my fault, and the guilt was consuming me.
My grandfather started the business when he was just twenty-four years old. He built it from nothing, using hard work and sweat equity. His first project was a remodel, but then he moved on to building custom homes. Heritage Homes was just a local building company, but it had always had a reputation of being a reliable, dependable company. Dependable, that is, until I came along.
When Dad died three years ago, I was given control of Heritage Homes. It was a responsibility I would not have asked for, but I was twenty-four at the time, and I figured that if Grandpa could start a company at that age, surely I could keep one going.
When I took over, we were only building four or five homes a year. It was a decent living, but not enough for me. If I was going to have control of this thing, I was going to make it big. I built and sold ten homes that first year, with plans to double that every year after. I hired more people, got more loans, and convinced myself that I was taking the business to a whole new level. I was the best thing that ever happened to Heritage Homes, at least in my own mind.
Then people stopped buying homes. It wasn’t a gradual thing, like driving down a gentle, rolling hill. It was more like being pushed off a cliff. I had eight houses in varying degrees of completion when it happened. I spent every bit of savings I had to make the interest payments on the construction loans, hoping the houses would sell before I ran out of money. They didn’t.
The bank foreclosed on those houses, and they were threatening to sue me for the deficiency. I was now in danger of losing my own home. As scared as I was of that, I was even more afraid of what I’d been putting off since the business first began to falter. Telling Grandpa.
He was sitting quietly in his recliner when I walked into the custom made family room. It had all the details of a builder’s home, and I had always admired it, but looking around now, it just reminded me of what I had lost.
Grandpa had aged at least ten years in the three years since Dad had died. He had lost weight, and his eyes were dim. How was I going to tell him that I had lost another love in his life, his business? There was no easy way. “Grandpa, I’m really sorry,” I began. “It’s my fault; I got greedy. I had too much risk out there.”
My grandfather motioned for me to sit down, and with his eyes focused on mine, he said, “Son, you’re forgiven. Heritage Homes might have been the family business, but it wasn’t the family’s business. Does that make sense?”
“Umm, no, not really, Grandpa.”
“The family’s business is to love and forgive one another. We all make mistakes.”
“Grandpa, are you okay?” I asked, because every breath seemed to be a struggle for him.
“I went to the doctor yesterday, and it’s cancer. He says I only have a few weeks. I have some money, and I want you to take it and pay off any debts from Heritage Homes. I don’t want that responsibility on you.”
I left Grandpa’s house wondering why I hadn’t come to him sooner. I had been afraid to face him and admit my shortcomings and mistakes. When I finally did, I was met with grace and love, and my burden was lifted completely. I had two short months with Grandpa after that day, but this one thing I know. I will see him again.
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