The man approached the house. He recognized the machine shed, pond and the location of some of the trees, but much was missing: the old house, barn, chicken house, small shed, grain bins. Obviously, his family didn’t live here anymore. When was now, anyway? What year? He had no idea how much time had passed; trees don’t grow mature overnight.
This house was new and located behind where the house he knew had been. He could tell it had been here for some time. This new house was closer to the pond, almost where the barn used to be. The cow lot and garden were now just mowed grass. The only garden he could see was a small plot beside a garage which had a familiar shape. He was going to move a garage in, but he’d not been able to finish. There was so much he’d had to leave undone.
Along the driveway was a row of peony bushes. His wife had planted them. And a huge lilac bush still grew at the end of that row. He had put in that driveway, closer to the house than the old one, so he knew he was at the right place, but so much had changed. The machine shed was the same, but older, with rust appearing on some panels.
“I’m looking for the family of Lawrence Herrmann,” he said to the older woman who answered the door. He didn’t know what else to say. Would these people know anything about his family?
Where had they gone? What had happened?
“Sam,” she called. “There’s someone at the door you need to talk to.
‘Sam? My little boy was Sammy,’ the man wondered.
“Yes?” Asked the man, older than himself, who came to the door.
“I’m looking for the family of Lawrence Herrmann.”
“Who are you?” The older man asked.
“I knew them a long time ago,” the younger man answered. “I’m curious where they are now. I don’t want to intrude. I was in the area and was curious.”
The older man looked for a vehicle but saw none. He wondered what was going on.
“Why now?” The older man asked.
“I’ve been gone a long time,” the younger man answered.
“What do you know about the Herrmann family?” The older man asked.
“They moved here in the fall of 1953: Lawrence, his wife, Juanita, and their little boy, Duane. He was two. She was pregnant with their daughter, Elesia. Later they had Tom and Sam. Lawrence, grew up in the rock house across the road north.” He pointed to the house he knew well.
“This pond wasn’t here then, but the old house, barn, little shed, and chicken house were,” the younger man continued. “A lot has changed.”
“What do you know about Lawrence?” The older man asked.
“He was born in 1925,” the younger man continued. “In that house.” Again, he pointed to the rock house. “To Carl and Lena Herrmann. He had two sisters Dena and Emma. He and his sisters attended Lyons School, just as their mother had earlier.” This time he pointed in the direction of the old school. “Then, attended Berryton High school. He joined the navy in 1948 and served in the Pacific. He was witness to the second and third atomic bomb tests at Bikini.”
All this time the older man was listening intently and nodded his head occasionally.
“You’ve got all that right,” the older man said. “But you could have read that from something my brother wrote.”
“Did he write about the birthmark Lawrence had on his right hip?” The younger man asked. “It’s dark brown and about the size of a goose egg.”
“And, did he write about the accident in 1948 when a truck pulled out in front of him on the highway on the way to Manhattan to see Juanita, and cut up his face?”
“Your chin and eyebrow….” The older man said slowly.
“I know it will be hard to believe…” the younger man began.
“How did you do that?” The older man said suspiciously.
“Tom!” The older man called behind him into the house. “You need to come here!”
Hearing that name, the younger man wondered…..
Another older man came to the door.
“Just a minute,” the first said and went inside. He returned with a picture in his hand and held it beside the younger man’s face.
“It’s not possible!”
“Who ARE you?” The second older man asked, almost demanded.
“That’s a lot of plastic surgery!”
“You can’t be real! You’re dead!! In the coffin!! I watched them bury you!!! Fifty years ago!”
“Daddy?” Both asked in unison and shock.
The younger man nodded.