Thursday, March 17, 2011

Just a tree, but not just a tree

During the two years I was helping to care for my dad during his illness, I allowed a lot of other things to fall by the wayside. Now that Dad is gone, Kevin and I need to deal with a few household matters -- new roof, new furnace/air conditioner, and, apparently, tree removal.

The giant oak tree in our back yard was something that attracted us to our house when we bought it six years ago. It's one of the largest trees I've seen; if Kevin and I were to try to encircle its trunk with our arms at the same time, our hands probably wouldn't meet. People who know about such things estimate it's more than 150 years old.

When you marry later in life, you don't have much of a history together. Ours goes back only about a decade; we started dating in 2001, when I had been divorced four years and Kevin was reeling from a recent separation. In retrospect, we shouldn't have lasted. I was his rebound person; he was a nice guy in a bad situation. Sure, he was cute, but I also felt sorry for him and wanted to help -- not a recipe for a long-term relationship, but somehow, we, and our kids, made it work.

So our lack of history -- and our wish that we had more of it together -- has started me thinking about the history of our home, and of this giant tree. The house was built in 1987, so there's not much history there, but the land it sits on once belonged to one of Des Moines' founding families. It once was part of a farm that belonged to E.T. Meredith, the founder of Successful Farming and Better Homes and Gardens magazines, among others. The tree was young when the Meredith family farmed the land; it's seen 30 Presidents.

The tree is dead; raccoons live in its hollow trunk. One large threatens our house and another threatens our neighbors'. A company that trims many of the trees in our neighborhood says it will remove the tree for us -- for a mere $5,500.

Why it would cost so much, I have no idea. I just keep wondering if there's a way to save it. It's not really our history, but it's a part of the life we've made together, however late a start we've gotten on it.

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