Feb 8, 2013

The Heart Work of Eviction

My in-laws finally realized their dream. They moved out of the old farmhouse into a smaller home built at the edge of Big Creek.

Mom still had plenty of room in the new garage to set up her “museum” of old calendars, photos, farm implements, and antiques.

Dad stacked stones in the creek so it would gurgle just right. And Mom tied herself to a tree so she didn’t tumble into the water while she planted flowers on the bank. Then she potted some blooms in an old kettle once used to water a few horses. They erected a frame to hold the bell that hung in the one-room school Dad once attended, as did his father and grandfather and son—my husband.

They embedded their last name in the concrete.

Mom enjoyed this setting for only two years. She died suddenly at the age of 76. Then Dad had a stroke and moved into a nursing home. My husband and his sister sold possessions, divided family heirlooms, and became reluctant landlords. They filled the now empty home with renters.

Dad hated the nursing home. “Get those people out of my house,” he’d demand on almost every visit. It pained my husband, but he’d just nod and change the subject. I imagined my mother-in-law would have hated strangers living there, too, but financially we had to keep and lease it.

Now that Dad has also passed on, the rental income helps pay farm taxes.

But these last tenants, two women, have gotten further and further behind with rent, though my husband has tried to work with them. They’ve even moved a brother in.

My husband is forced to evict for the first time. They’re hoarders. The officer of the court suggests a dumpster.

I’m horrified. Would Jesus turn people out and dump their belongings in the trash? Should we help them find another place to live, somewhere to store their things?

“I need you to meet the locksmith at the house,” my husband says. “And call the officer of the court to come, too. The girls are still moving.”

Please. No. It’s too hard.

I don’t want to face them. And frankly, I’m afraid. I don’t know what to expect. What if someone has a gun—and wants to use it?

My heart lurches as soon as I pull in the drive. The girls have backed a van up to the garage, which overflows with piles of clutter. Stacks of stuff line the walkway. They didn’t have children, yet a three-legged high chair sprawls near a fire pit. Trash tumbles along the bank.

The girls ignore me.

I follow the locksmith inside.

I note shell casings on the floor in front of the sliding glass door. A bookcase sags under the weight of magazines and several coffee cans filled with cigarette butts, a white supremacist sticker affixed to its side. There’s a hole in the guest room wall and a broken window. The carpet’s stained and reeks of urine, the new refrigerator’s filthy, and the kitchen cabinets smell like mice.

“It’s just a house,” my husband’s told me many times.

But it was their house. Their home. Their heart.

And my heart heaves.

I step out on the deck and watch the water flow. I breathe deep. “We got those people out of your house, Dad,” I whisper.

I linger and listen to the creek gurgle until I hear the van doors slam, the motor grinds to a start, and tires crunch gravel. Then I walk slowly down the steps and along the bank behind the house, step around the corner of the garage and look down. It’s still there embedded in the concrete. I bend over and stroke my fingers across the name—King.

Image and post by Sandra Heska King.

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