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It was the house my grandfather built, the house where my father was born, and which stood in the center of the village like a beacon of hope. It survived the Nazis who stole all the furnishings, and the food, and then the Russians who took everything else, the plumbing, the iron railings, and even the nails from the floorboards. It warmed my family during the cold Carpathian Mountain winters and nurtured them with a shaded garden in the summers. Later, the house became a source of contention among the many family owners through several generations, and was physically split down the middle by mortar and plaster--one half a residence, the other half--a bar. The two halves co-existed for years, housing my Aunt Olenka and her husband, Uncle Frank.

It was in this house where you read in Chiseled that the truth came to light when I confronted Uncle Frank on my father's legacy. It was this house that rang with the posthumous voice of my father as I played the tapes he recorded of his life. This house was the heart of my family character, strengthened by the sheer fortitude of its rafters and roofed with resistance to the forces of time. Except this time.

The resident side of the house had been rented, Aunt Olenka and Uncle Frank having passed away two years before. Deemed unsuitable for a new generation with a baby, the house was left in the care of a a tenant. Perhaps it succumbed to a broken heart when the last family member left for a shiny new home in a bigger city with more opportunities, but whatever the cause, a spark caught on a draft and the walls lit up and the roof rose in a last blazing breath, exhaling in a gasp of smoke and flames before crashing back to earth in a pile of dust and ashes.

Whatever phoenix may rise from that spot, the heart is only a memory now.


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