The obsession started with the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, December 7.
I wanted to know the exact years my dad had been involved in WWII.
I found that he was there from 1942-end of war, as reflected on his enlistment document, which I was able to find on a Veteran’s Administration website.
At the same time, I looked up a few records that led me to the farmhouse.
My grandfather’s dream property.
We had driven by it when I was a child on many Sunday afternoon drives.
I only remember it vaguely. It was very remote.
To access the dirt driveway, you had to turn off of the main paved road.
It sat on a hill, the huge barn blocking the entry a bit. Very wooded lot, with hilly farmlands surrounding.
We never went up to the door, my father wouldn’t hear of it. A proud man, he would not speak of the family tragedy.
As the years went by, I internalized more of the story. But I never wanted to see the house.
My 2 brothers know of it, and its current value.
It has been turned into an equestrian property, something my mother would have loved.
When my grandparents purchased it in the 1920’s, it was a working dairy farm.
It had to have been a dream realized. Two immigrants who came with very little now owned a piece of Pennsylvania.
I was able to find the 1930 census, which listed the property at a value of $12,000. It is valued quite a bit higher these days.
When the Great Depression hit in the early 1930’s, my grandfather was a few hundred dollars away from full ownership.
He could not come up with the cash. The bank foreclosed.
He lost the farm. He lost his mind.
They were forced to move into the city, into steelworker’s housing, where he had lived with his mom when they arrived in the U.S. in 1911.
Now he had to return. It broke him.
He was institutionalized a few years later at a mental health facility for the indigent.
So here I was, on a sunny December day in 2015, almost a century later, wandering around the area.
The home was easy to find. And it is beautiful.
It has been elegantly restored, inside and out, from what I can see now on real estate listings that are so public.
The entry road is now paved. Some of the woods have been cleared.
A huge circular driveway leads an visible path to the front door.
Garages and horse barns have been added.
I wanted to knock. I’d been warned by family of the “No Trespassing” signs which feature prominently on the now-gated acreage.
I pulled over. Gazed for a few minutes. There were several cars visible in the driveway. It seemed like a holiday gathering. So I kept going.
Only one name on the mailbox. Francis.
It was my grandfather’s and father’s name.
I cried a little.