Up the Ladder to the Roof

After all, the roof is closer to heaven.

There was a stairway to the roof of my father’s house when I was growing up. It was one of Dad’s somewhat eccentric architectural flourishes added when he cut off the peak of the house in his renovations. There was and is a sort of deck up there on the north side of the house, but it’s a bit too steeply inclined to comfortably recline on a deck chair, unless you nailed down the chair and roped yourself in.

DSCN5143At the beginning of the new millennium Dad started building an addition onto the northwest bedroom (which used to be Ray’s and mine), with a plan to make it into a display room for his gramophones. The addition cut off the staircase to the roof, which was no longer functional anyway.

DSCN5165Dad was diagnosed with asbestosis before he could complete the plan. What was it John Lennon said in that song about his beautiful son? “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Or, eventually, death is what happens to you.

DSCN5145When I started this…thing–I suppose it’s a blog, but I like to think of it as a story with pictures–I conceived it as a way of talking about impermanence and loss: about losing my father, and losing my youth, all of which is tied up in that house.  Dad grew up and died there and it still stands, somehow physically containing all of those memories: his memories and my memories and the memories of everyone who lived there.

DSCN5149While I was writing this thing, we lost my mother, and it became about that loss too. Last June, the day after she died, we all went home to the farm and I climbed up on the roof and took these photos. When I look at the tin roof over the kitchen I can’t help but think of lying in bed listening to the patter the rain made against that tin. And I can’t help but think that maybe this would be a good place to end.

DSCN5151After all, if it’s a story it needs an ending. Problem is, I’ve never been good with endings. Maybe too much of that Modernist sensibility in me that endings should be ambiguous in order to accurately reflect reality–the problem being that most readers end up thinking, “What was that all about?” and tell the next reader that it just wasn’t worth it in the end. Or simply shake their heads and say nothing at all.

DSCN5157So what was it all about? What is it all about? I guess if I had to say, I would say it is about how my father and my mother taught us the importance of making beautiful things. Or trying, at least. Human things, beautiful at times in their ugliness and in their mistakes. Just do your best to make those things as beautiful as you possibly can. There is not so much to regret in a life dedicated to the making of beautiful things.




8 thoughts on “Up the Ladder to the Roof

  1. Really have enjoyed reading your blog. I especially like your last picture which shows the insignificance of man but also our wonderful potential. If this is, indeed, the end I welcome your next writing venture.


  2. Very well done and I shed a few tears! Fabulous last photo! Thanks so much for including the information about mom and dad.


  3. I have absolutely loved reading every story you have shared …all so endearing and beautifully written, right to the end…. thank you for this !


    1. Thank you, Lisa. I’ve discovered that the Internet is every bit as lonely as the rest of the publishing world, so it means a lot to know that this strange little project is being read and enjoyed.


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