Sunday, August 7, 2016

James's property

It's about 2 in the morning. I woke up from the couch downstairs and, a rarity indeed, can not go back to sleep.  I picked up a book I am reading which is very good.  Sad, but good.  About a family in northern Ontario.  In the story, there is quite a bit of talk about working land that families, for generations, had owned and worked.

Maybe that's why I started to think about James's property.  Maybe other reasons, but think about the property I did.

In the mid 80s I was introduced by a mutual friend to a guy who lived on the Cape. I met him in March of 85 I think it was, maybe 86. He was and is an unreconstructed hippie.  In the 70s he had bought a small house with a high school friend of his in East Harwich back when there were not too many residents in the area. The house had a bunk house on the same property. The two high school friends decided that one would live in the house and the other in the bunk house. A few years later, the guy in the main house decided to sell out to Don, the unreconstructed hippie.

So by the time I met him, Don owned both dwellings.  I liked Don and still do. Good guy, extraordinarily responsible to others. We hit it off that day in 85 and a few years down the road he rented the main house to me for the summer. It was the summer of 90.  And then for several more summers I would rent the house for parts of June through August.

As you looked at Don's spot from the main road, there was an empty property to your left. Further to the left there was a house on the corner that had been there forever.

One day I saw a car on the empty property.  I commented on it to Don and he told me that James owned the property.  James's property was impeccably groomed, but there was no house on it.  I found out that James came up periodically throughout the year, slept in his car or in a tent, and then sat in a chair looking out over his land for a day or two before returning to work in Rhode Island.

Over the years, James and I became friendly. When he would be there I would go over and say hello and he often would come by himself to ask for water or use the facilities.  We became chummy enough that annually in the 90s and early 2000s the three of us, Don, James, and myself would rendezvous in Providence in the winter to watch a Providence college Big East basketball game.

One year at one of these visits, James announced that he was ready to build.  This was cause for a celebration. That had been the plan all along to build on the property. He had not had the resources to do so until this moment and he described to us how he had planned the funding and what the place would look like.

James then had exactly the same job I have now--his place of work at a college in Rhode Island.  He too had been a professor and became an associate dean.  You don't get to be Rockefeller as an educator, but he had saved enough to first buy the land and now build.

Sometime in the 2000s--I'll guess 2005--James moved into his house on the Cape. For a while he commuted the 90 miles to Rhode Island to work, staying some nights during the week at a spot he had arranged to temporarily lodge at when necessary.

Then a year or two later he announced he was going to retire and live full time on the Cape. He had just gotten remarried and the two of them were looking forward to happy ever after on the Cape.

Either December 2014 or the year before in December I got a call from Don telling me that James had died. Probably had not been in the house full time for more than three years.

James's property. Always talking about the property. Always talking about the house he was going to build on it. All those times I saw him sitting in his chair, looking out at the land without a house on it waiting to build.

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