It's been almost a year since my dad passed away. In that time our family has grieved the loss of a man so dear to us that it was hard to imagine that life could go on without him. As we move on with our lives, it is time to say good-bye to the home that he built. The home, a 17-acre farm in Virginia, is just one testament to a man whose accomplishments are almost too big to describe on paper.
I grew up in southwest Florida where the winters are beautiful and the summers are oppressively hot. My dad, a sixth-generation Floridian, and my mom, originally from Norway, had a successful career selling real estate, but once my sister and I were out of the nest, they decided it was time for a change.
My parents would visit me and my sister in college in the northeast, and as they drove home to Florida, they would pass through the lush green foliage of Virginia. They fell in love with the rolling hills, and my dad, who had always dreamed of having a substantial piece of land and being just a car ride away from his daughters, turned to mom and said, "Are you ready for a change?"
After an exhausting two-year search, they found the farm. Settled on 17 acres and including three houses and a barn, Dad knew this property was the one. It was close enough to Washington D.C. that they could drive in easily and enjoy the city, but rural enough to have peace and quiet. But most importantly, he knew that he'd be able to host my growing family, as well as my sister and her husband, and all of our extended family.
But first he had to make it livable for my mom. Mom, a longtime equestrienne, was going to have her dream: horses right outside the front door that she could ride at her own leisure. The horses were just the beginning: Shortly thereafter, my parents acquired a miniature donkey and six chickens. The barn came with two calico cats that loved to tease our dogs.
That wasn't enough for my father. Always curious and full of energy, he had decided that he wanted to be entirely self-sufficient. He set to work to build a vegetable garden and fruit patch that would supply tomatoes, beans, lettuces, berries, onions, herbs and more. His chickens laid eggs, and before long, he had beehives full of bees whose honey he'd harvest each summer.
Dad always dreamed big, and his next project was proof that this was a man with aspirations. He wanted to be off the grid, so he built a solar system that generates enough power that the electric company actually writes us checks.
The inside of the house is a testament to my dad's love for his family. Each room has a working fireplace, surrounded my huge couches for my mother to curl up in with a book. There are berths where my children had their first sleepovers with cousins. But the most special part of the house is the bar that he built for his English son-in-law. Dad found a woodmason and designed and built a mahogany bar, complete with beer taps, that serves as the center of our evenings around the fireplace.
The farm has been a place for my family to gather over the past few years. The house welcomed me, my husband and our children as we moved back from the west coast. My son took his first steps in that house, and my daughter learned to swim in the pool.
The farm took care of us after my father's sudden death. In the days that followed his passing my mother, sister and I would walk the acreage, not saying much, but feeling his spirit in every plant, butterfly and bee that surrounded us. We grieved together and spent days planting, weeding and keeping busy around the property.
The farm is now for sale. As we prepare to say good-bye to the home that dad built, we take comfort in knowing that his greatest lessons -- dreaming big and holding family close -- will live with us wherever we decide to settle.