Crossing Old Bridges


The car pulled up in the driveway of an old farm house, abandoned for several years and showing the wear of years gone by. A relative near by kept the grass cut in the yard but the old paths around the house were grown over, an what at one time were flower beds were now no more than weeds. Henry, now well advanced in years, got slowly out of the car with his grandson who wanted to travel with his grandfather as he came back to the place he grew up for the first time in thirty years. They walked up to the front door and reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a well worn old key an unlocked it. Relatives had kept the house clean and would come by every so often to air it out make sure that all was well and at some time over the years had repainted it. Pictures were still on the walls and the furniture he remembered as a young man was still there. His grandson was fascinated by the pictures, asking many question about the people in them and when he saw his grandfather in one at the age of ten in coveralls and bare feet he laughed and joked with him. They walked around the old house, memories to him were flooding back like waves in an angry sea. Outside another car pulled up with his son and his sons wife and their other three teenagers. Once inside, Henry's son could see the emotion on his fathers face and asked him why not sit for a time as they started to get things ready. There was to be a gathering the next day, family from across five states were on there way to the old home for a reunion, the first in many years. As the day wore on, others were driving up, aunts, uncles and cousins who were checked in at hotels were now arriving to help in the preparations. Hugs, laughs and tears were common as well as introductions that afternoon, for many had not been seen nor met in twenty years. The afternoon was approaching and Henry was looking out one of the windows at something in the distance. His son walked up behind him and putting a hand on his shoulder, asked how long had it been sense he crossed that old bridge. On the farm was a old country road with a hand built bridge that lead to the ancient family graveyard that was created right after the his first ancestors settled there 190 years ago. Henry's family had lived generation after generation on this land until he moved away, in fact part of the reason for the reunion is he and his wife after being gone thirty years was coming back. His son went back to helping get things ready, and Henry walked to the front door and , putting on his hat, walked out and started slowly walking that old road. His grandson saw him and caught up with him asking where he was going, and he said to see if he could still cross old bridges. As they walked together, Henry told his grandson about the old place, and about family and events through the history of the farm. During the Civil War there had been soldiers camped there and later a battle took place across an old creek that ran the length of the farm. By this time Henry's son had joined them, concerned about his fathers health and how he would react to seeing it all again. Approaching the old bridge, Henry stopped, his son asked if he was OK, and Henry said yes but just stood there. His son knew what was wrong but his grandson was confused. His father explained that across the bridge was the family graveyard where his grandfathers parents along with two sisters and one brother were buried and that the bridge itself held history. As they walked across the old bridge, Henry explained how as a child they would play on the old bridge and spend hours at the the old swim hole, and how Henry's father and he would sit on the railing in the afternoon and talk about life and events in the world. He also told them about courting his wife on that bridge, sharing their first kiss and even proposed to her there as well, and about the day the hearse crossed the bridge taking his each of his parents to the family graveyard. They walked on, stopping for a time at one of the old barns, then walked into the old grave yard. Henry showed his grandson where his great grandparents as well as relatives through time were. Henry could barely take the emotions running through him, he had left this land after their death, vowing never to return as he could not bear to live there with all the loving memories they shared as well as memories of his brother and sisters that were there. But somehow, Henry knew that the peace he looked for all those thirty years was only found here, and that this land is where he belonged, and was glad to be back. He started smiling, and his son was pleased because it was one of the few times he had seen his father smiling not from laughter nor humor, but from inner peace. They walk back to the old home where his wife waited for him at the door and told him that they are now home. They all rose early the next day as everyone was bringing food and music, cars were covering the road and the whole day was one of great joy for all there. Old stories being told, some meeting for the first time and children playing in the yard. It was as if you could see the old home itself smiling with pride. Later that afternoon Henry sat on the front porch after most had left and his son came out and sat beside him. After talking about the great times of the day, his son asked what was the one thing that convinced him that this is where he needed to be. Henry thought for a moment, looked at his son and said, "There are many roads in life that we travel and many bridges we cross never to see again, but sometimes in life there is a bridge that you need to come back to, to cross again to find something that you need, that makes life whole.". As the sun began to set that afternoon, ladies were in the house cleaning from the day and sharing gossip about everyone they knew at the reunion, and down at an old bridge, a father, son and grandson, sat on a railing, throwing pebbles into a creek, and sharing a laugh.

Smoke and Peace,

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