My folks never had much. I don’t think my dad ever broke $30K a year. I was the kid you hear about who can’t pay their lunch card for the week; the kid that a particularly sadistic teacher would humiliate loudly and often. My dad took early retirement from SW Bell, though times would be tight. He and my mom bought a mobile home park here in Arkansas. Sweated over it. Groomed it like a garden. And hated it, babysitting a bunch of people who didn’t want to care for themselves.

I have a photo of the first time they saw this house. My dad was standing on a gravel bank, looking downriver at the limestone bluffs like a man viewing the Promised Land. In many ways, he was.

The first time I got to see the house, we had driven across country from a visit to my sister in Baltimore. My dad wanted me to see the place in daylight; pouted when mom and I, weary, didn’t want to drive a third day. As we rounded the corner onto Push Mountain Road near sunset, the view stopped the breath: hills wreathed in mist against an pink and orange sky. One of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. A portent. A welcome.

This house was Native American land, once. It carries a peace that grows out of the ground. My father died here, in his hospital bed in the living room, in view of the river he so loved but lacked, in his last days, the energy to turn his head to see.

My mom sold the house to me. She acknowledged something we’d never spoken about, something I didn’t think she ever knew: what a hard time I’s always had dealing with life. How wide open I’d always been; how challenged. Of everyone, she told a friend who confided her words to me, I was the one of her three children who needed this place, who truly appreciated it, who would care for it.

I’ve always tried to honor this sacred trust. I came here every weekend for eight years when I was within driving distance. I visited as often as I could when I was in Denver. Now, in retirement, I’m doing all the things the house deserves, things that I never had time to do—renovating, improving, clearing; removing the flotsam of years of stuffed closets and musty drawers, cleaning the cobwebs of “stuff”, purifying the place down to where the spirits live.

I hope mom and dad approve of the changes I’m making. I’d like to think they do. Perhaps that’s the gift behind the gift…a way of honoring that I can do without discussion or debate. Changes made with respect and love, and a daily thanks for the scared trust.