“Listen,” I said to my father, “you hear that?”
He didn’t know what I meant.
It was December 1972, and my 9-year-old self had never heard such quiet in a neighborhood. This week marks 50 years since my parents and I moved into this home in suburban Dallas. The area was newly-developed; former farm and ranch territory that comprised the hinterlands of a growing metropolis. Family and friends wondered how my parents had managed to find the place.
We had been living in a two-bedroom apartment above a garage in the back of a house owned by my father’s oldest sister and her husband. Located just north of downtown Dallas, it sat very near Harry Hines Boulevard – a lengthy industrial stretch of road that would later become more infamous as a haven for prostitutes and adult book stores.
My mother was in that apartment with a 17-day-old me on November 22, 1963, when she heard a cacophony of sirens and rushed to a window. She saw the tail of President Kennedy’s motorcade rushing down Harry Hines, unaware of what had just happened moments earlier.
On the day we began moving into our new home, my aunt made herself scarce. She had grown so accustomed to having us there that she couldn’t bear the sight of us packing up to leave.
It’s hard to imagine now, but not until we moved here did we get our first color television set. A month later we finally got our phone. I still have that number connected. In 1972, Richard Nixon won a second term in the White House; Watergate reared its contemptuous head; violence marred the Summer Olympics in Munich; HBO launched; Polaroid introduced the SX-70 one-step instant camera; and three of my favorite films – “Cabaret”, “The Godfather”, and “The Poseidon Adventure” – came out.
My parents were excited because they were now living the American dream of home ownership. My father was particularly enthusiastic to follow his mother’s tradition of gardening and quickly found paradise in the front and back yards. I was thrilled with the prospect of getting a dog. It was a promise my parents had made to me upon moving into the house. They fulfilled it the following summer when they bought a German shepherd puppy I named Josh. My mother had to swallow her phobia of large canines; having witnessed a man ravaged by a Doberman in the late 1930s.
My parents made friends with many of the neighbors, and I maintain a few of those friendships today. They each had that type of personality, especially my father – they seemed to make friends with most anyone. I, on the other hand, seemed naturally reticent to meet new people. Regardless, our home became a refuge for most everyone we knew. We often held parties and other gatherings; if for no other reason except to have a party or a gathering. Family, friends and neighbors relished visiting. This was a place where all good souls were welcome; where people could feel happy and safe. We had food (real food – not just chips and dips!), music, beverages, laughter and plenty of love. No one left here sad or dejected. Drunk and tired, maybe – but never glum.
When my father lay in a hospital bed in May of 2016, he reiterated that he wanted to die here – in this house. It was a wish I was able to grant him. My mother also passed away here in 2020.
A few years ago I told an old friend, Paul, that I suspected I will die here, too, albeit alone.
“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.
“Nothing!” I replied. It was more a statement than an omen.
So I’m alone now. This house is quiet. At a half century it’s showing its age. But it’s mine; it’s where I grew up and where my parents drew their last breath. It’s where so many people came to enjoy life.
It’s a house at 50, but it’s always been a home.