I grew up in a house that my very own grandfather built when my parents got married. It was a split foyer on a nice lot; the backyard was as flat as a pancake and bore witness to a multitude
Building a Legacy
Dated: June 16 2019
I grew up in a house that my very own grandfather built when my parents got married. It was a split foyer on a nice lot; the backyard was as flat as a pancake and bore witness to a multitude of volleyball games, kickball games, and somersaulting. I had the corner bedroom at the end of the upstairs hallway, adjacent to my parents' and next to my little sister's. We ladies all shared the larger bathroom in the hallway while my dad used the smaller one off the master. I can still remember the now-iconic avocado green bathtubs and sinks we had before my parents decided to remodel the bathroom in the early 90's. The den, which had wood-paneling for years, was cozy and inviting, and it was where we watched movies together and played when guests came over.
-My dad, reading to me in the den, 1986
Our house was only one of the many houses in the Bristol area that Roby J. Shelley built. In fact, he built the house that he and my Nana lived in when they first brought my mom home as a baby, and then he built a bigger house on the same street and the family of 3 moved in right after my mom graduated high school. My 96-year-old Nana, widowed now, still lives in that sweet brick ranch; I'm certain she wishes that Papaw could see my son and daughter, their great-grandchildren, racing Hot Wheels in front of the brick fireplace and playing chase up and down the green, carpeted hallway. My Papaw was a great patriarch of our small, intimate family, and I believe he somehow hoped that even in his inevitable absence, we would continue to gather as we do at least once a week in the very dining room he constructed and share a meal together.
-My childhood home, photo taken in 2012
-My family celebrating Nana's 95th birthday on the front porch of her home, July 2018
When my husband and I got married in 2009, my Papaw, ever so critical of homes constructed by someone other than himself, closely inspected the houses we were the most serious about before we placed an offer on one. He carefully studied the layout, the materials, the integrity of the home before giving us his blessing (or not). We finally purchased a Papaw-approved home, new construction, and lived there for 5 years after we got married. Then, Papaw was gone, and he missed the opportunity to watch my husband (a high school teacher by day, rookie general contractor by night) build our brand new house in 2016. Months of tedious planning and hard labor resulted in a beautiful, craftsman style home, with plenty of open space for our kids to grow and play. My husband, father of one at the time of the build, did not make one decision without his family in mind. Any time I brought Jack to the site to visit, his dad showed him all the progress and tried explaining basic construction aspects to him.
-My husband and our son, Jack, during the construction of our home in 2016
My parents sold the Roby J. Shelley split foyer, my childhood home, in the fall of 2018 when they moved into the house my dad built-literally right down the street from us. My excavator-loving son was thrilled to watch the whole process unfold over time; we made daily trips down the hill to my parents' build site to see the progress. Basement dug out; subfloors put in; walls framed up; drywall installed...and so on. A new room just for Jack and his new little sister. A special swing on the back porch for Mimi and Pops to push him on. He'd watch as Pops worked tirelessly on his tractor to move dirt around during the grading process, working hard to make the yard kid-friendly. Jack got see his Pops in action, as I had seen pretty much my whole life since he builds porches and decks for a living.
-Jack with his daddy, standing on my sister's proprety, watching the construction of my parents' house
-Jack riding his jeep up Mimi and Pops' driveway, not long before they moved in
This past March, a terrible fire burned that brand new house to the ground. It was the most horrific feeling to watch the flames destroy everything.
Jack, only 4-years-old, still hasn't quite recovered from the trauma of witnessing Mimi and Pops' house burn.
But, most importantly, he has been able to see the steadfast determination that has gone into the rebuilding of the home. He watched my dad lead crews through the cleanup process. When the foundation was deemed salvagable, he even helped his Pops start getting things ready to go again by loading up lumber onto his favorite dolly and transporting it to the appropriate place. He is learning the importance of hope, persistence, and a strong work ethic. He's learning that while a house can be a work of magnificent, beautiful art, a home is really made when you're with the ones who love you and take care of you.
-Jack, helping Pops rebuild his house while Pops takes a water break in the background
Good dads and granddads are builders. They might not all be skilled with a hammer and a drill, and they might not build the actual home their families live in. But good dads and granddads help build families. They demonstrate strength and patience during times of trouble. Some show their children and grandchildren how to work a puzzle, read a book, cast a fishing line, or drive a car. Some show them how to change a tire, balance a budget, clean the house, or prepare a meal. Dads and granddads teach us how to face adversity, consider a new perspective, and plan for the future. They help show their family how to take care of their house, but also remind them that it's the people who live there who make it a home. Dads and granddads show their families how to move on when the time comes. They work hard to provide for their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren.
Happy Father's Day to all those dads out there who have worked hard to build a legacy that lasts beyond the walls of their house.
My name is Shelley Martin, and the hills of Northeast Tennessee have been my home my whole life. After graduating from King University with a degree in English and Education, I then taught at Sullivan....