More Than a House

It had been years since I had been to the house.  The tires of my truck crunched while compacting the snow on the almost invisible dirt driveway.  Seeing this place filled my mind with memories.  I had spent the summers working for Mr. and Mrs. Smith while I was in high school.  The work was hard but the Smiths also were such sweet people.  They treated me like I was their son.  A smile covered my face when I remembered the time I scared my little brother the first time he had to use the outhouse (See SNAKES).  Yes, this old place held a lot of memories.  It was here that I learned strong work ethics, the importance of Sunday worship, that reading spurred the imagination so much better than television, and that a cup of coffee and good conversation was the best way to end dinner.

So, I was surprised when I received the message from a lawyer.  His voice sounded urgent so I called him back immediately.  He explained that Mr. Smith had passed away about five years earlier and Mrs. Smith had to be moved into a state-operated nursing home.  Before Mr. Smith had died, they had put all their meager assets in a trust.  Now that Mrs. Smith had passed away, the remaining assets in the trust were to come to me.  All that was left was about five acres of land and the old house.  Everything else had been sold off to provide for Mrs. Smith’s care.

I was shocked.  I knew that the Smiths had no children but I would have never expected that they would leave their house to me.  I made an appointment to sit down with the lawyer and sign the necessary paperwork.  So today, for the first time in so many years, I was once again driving down their driveway.  I almost expected to see them come running out to welcome me as I smelled the scent of fresh-baked apple pie escaping from the open kitchen window.

I shut the engine off and just looked at the old homestead.  All of the windows had been broken and the door was standing open as if to welcome the snow.  A stray cat suddenly emerged and ran up the rise to hide behind the outhouse.  I could just imagine all the work that needed to be done but hard work was always expected at this place.  I grabbed my toolbox from the passenger seat and exited the truck.  I walked to the open door and took a quick look around.  “First things first,” I could hear Mr. Smith saying as I set the toolbox on the floor.

I just need to unload the plywood so I can button this place up and prevent any more damage to the inside.  Then, I can see what I have to do to put this house back into a livable condition.

I was speaking to myself but hearing my voice fill the room reminded me of sitting at the end of the day and planning the next day’s schedule with Mr. Smith.  And that was when it hit me.  Not only would I fix this place up, but this was where I needed to settle…because this was more than a house, this was a home.


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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    • Mike – Thanks. This is a story based on one important fact – I did spend time working on a farm with few creature comforts during summer months. The story “Snakes” referenced really happened – you will like that one.

  1. As always you meet my expectations and amaze me with the how you bring the reader into the story. I love this as I do all of your work. You have such a comfortable way in tying emotion to the heart and bringing the conclusion into a place of peace and safety. Very nice……. Now write more

    • Johnny – I am so touched by your kind words – especially since you are an amazing writer in your own right. Thank you for your encouragement.

  2. This is such a great story, Len. Themes of love, commitment, honoring the past and work ethic all whisper softly from the corners. And, you’ve left this reader in suspense waiting to learn about the lessons of rebuilding and how the love from that house was perpetuated by future inhabitants. Write on, my friend!