I was maybe twelve. Dad and I had a long drive to the house we used to live in. Dad didn't say much on the way there. He had a kind of poker face that either concealed a lot of unexpressed thoughts or he was thinking nothing at all.
But I knew what we were going towards. At the time I thought he brought me along as an educational trip. Now I know I was his emotional support.
I had spotty memories of the old house. There weren't a lot of them but of what I can remember they were quite vivid. It was surrounded mostly by woods. It didn't come with many modern amenities, but it was sturdy enough that we were well shielded from extreme weather.
One time I was alone at home, something was making a sound on the porch. I checked at the window, and it turned out it was a big wolf. It smelled my presence and came after me growling. I was horrified but had enough sense to lock every potential openings in the house and hid inside for hours until Dad came home.
The house saved me from getting eaten by a wolf. I don't think any of my friends were ever in danger of getting eaten by wolves.
After driving through what looked like wilderness to me, we reached the house.
"Whoa." the only reaction I could give, looking at the house's condition.
It wasn't as big as I remembered after all. But the state of disarray it's in was something else. The shape it had taken looked like something out of the mind of Pablo Picasso. It was abstract in a way that defied laws of physics.
There were men in boots around the house making inspections. They were contractors Dad hired to make repairs. Some of them picked off pieces of objects, looking real skeptical. Some of them pointed at specific parts of the house appearing confident.
One of them approached Dad. I took it that he was the point man among the contractors.
"We took a look around like you said." said the contractor to Dad. "Pipes and electricity are completely out, they have to be re-hauled, wholesale. New wires, new pipes."
Dad was not surprised. "What's your assessment of the overall condition?"
The contractor took a hard look at the house. "There may be problems with mold, fungus or even lead in general. That's usually the case in my experience, we just need to find the right chemical solution. On the whole though the structure is a bit shaky. We can find ways to solidify the foundation again. It's a bit tricky, but we can study it, don't worry."
That wasn't an answer to Dad's question, but was exactly what Dad wanted to hear.
There was a moment of silence. It felt like we were expected to give the go-ahead. It only sounded like Dad was green-lighting exactly what was proposed, but neither me nor Dad knew if they were good ideas.
The only sure thing everyone there implicitly knew was that Dad was willing put the house back into shape at any cost.
Except the house itself had no chance of recovery at all, no matter the amount of human intervention.
It had become a scrawny shadow of its former self. Hardware failure aside, what energy it used to have was gone, replaced with a sense of unresolved grudge from the past. I can almost hear the house crying in agony.
I hesitated but said it anyway. "Dad, what if we tear the house down? Wouldn't it be easier if we build a new one?"
Dad took that with disbelief. "How can you say that? No, a new house is not the same. We've been through so much in this house. If there's even a slim chance we could save it, we have to."
The head contractor chimed in. "There are still techniques we can try, we don't have to give up just yet. Our priority should be to do no harm."
"But what if the house doesn't want to try anymore?" I said.
Dad considered it. "We have no way of knowing that."
"Applying so many fixes on it this way is just delaying the inevitable, Dad."
Such a decision should have been made a long time ago when the house was in a good shape. It's a mistake that we now have to make the decision on its behalf under stress. But people don't discuss morbid things in good times.
"Dad, at what point should a house not fit being a house anymore?"
He didn't answer.
"Perhaps we should think of everything as having a lifetime. Especially something like a house."
The sun was coming down. It didn't feel like Dad was capable of handling heavy thoughts anymore. We bid ceremonial goodbyes to the contractors, Dad promised he will come to a decision soon; the contractors were trying hard to stay polite and hopeful that Dad will spend more money.
We got into our car. Dad took one last look at the house, a look that lasted long. When he was done, he turned around to me wanting to say something, but he didn't know what to say.
He got the car started and the sound of a loud boom happened.
The house had completely crumbled to the ground.
We stepped out of the car and took a slow walk towards what's left of the house. I had expected this, but the shock did not dampen.
Dad picked up pieces of the house's skeleton. I can feel his sadness and a heavy burden dissolved. There's now no more misguided obligation to fight nature, to salvage the un-salvageable.