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Coming Home Again

Discovering What Really Matters

By Linda RivenbarkPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 18 min read
Coming Home Again
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

There was something about a rainy day in the little mountain town that Dustin Henry called home.

It was raining the day he left the farm. It seemed only fitting that it would be raining when he returned; a gentle, cleansing rain that gave the air that awesome scent he loved…the smell of the earth right after the rain.

When he left eight years ago to study at the University, his Grandpa had seemed as robust as ever. Dustin could tell by his letters that the old man’s strength was waning and his spirit was weary.

Dustin remembered the look on his Grandpa’s face as he loaded the old Chevrolet to make the 500-mile drive to begin his adventures in ‘higher education’.

Now he was home again, and Grandpa wasn’t there…would never be there again.

He would never forget the day he and Grandpa, along with other family members and friends, stood by two open graves after his parents had been killed in an auto accident.

His paternal grandfather never thought twice about taking Dustin in, feeding, clothing, educating him, and loving him unconditionally.


There was someone else who lived in the old neighborhood who loved Dustin…unconditionally. His lifelong best friend, frequent rival, occasional tormentor, Jenny Carson.

He and Jenny had gone all the way through school together - elementary school, middle school, and high school.

By Chris Hardy on Unsplash

Throughout their elementary school years, they forged a quick rivalry because they were always the two smartest kids in class.

Keeping a few points ahead of Jenny on any test was Dustin’s greatest motivation for studying hard and making education his number one objective.

Jenny was the one who called him the day his Grandpa, Wilbur Henry, had the massive heart attack that ended his life.

Dustin could not believe what he was hearing when Jenny told him his grandfather was gone. He still could not believe it.

By Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Driving home in the rain, Dustin wondered what would become of the house and land his Grandpa had owned. Years ago, Grandpa had told him that when he died, it would all belong to Dustin. He hadn’t thought of that conversation in years.

The first four years at the University had been consumed with earning a Bachelor’s Degree. After the first year, his guidance counselor had helped him apply for a scholarship. He had been granted a full scholarship based on the merits of his academic record. His quest for a Master’s Degree began.

Dustin was happy that his education did not have to continue costing Grandpa, and he would not be buried in student loan debt once he had earned his degree.

By Caleb Woods on Unsplash


Every letter Grandpa had written to Dustin, he had talked about Mrs. Avery. He had only praise for Edith Avery, his neighbor of fifty years.

After Dustin left home, Grandpa needed help keeping up with the work. He hired Mrs. Avery to clean house for him once a week, come by on Wednesday afternoons to do his laundry, and stock his refrigerator with cooked food for him to eat.

By CDC on Unsplash

Mrs. Avery had married in her early twenties, but her husband died when they had been married for two years. She had never remarried and lived alone. The friendship they shared filled an important place in both their lives.


The house had been well maintained, as Dustin knew it would be. Grandpa had always taken care of everything he owned. Dustin parked in the driveway and dug in his pocket for the front door key.

By Phil Hearing on Unsplash

The key turned easily in the lock and Dustin entered the parlor. An indescribable feeling engulfed him as he saw the pictures of himself on the walls, just as they had been when he left home. Everything looked exactly as he remembered it.

A tour of the house, walking from room to room, left Dustin feeling emotionally exhausted with the surprising force of old memories.

The last room he entered was the kitchen and Dustin reflexively opened the refrigerator door as he had every day for many years. There was a fresh gallon of milk there and bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans and corn.

It was too much. Dustin sat down, put his head on his arms on the table and cried like a baby.

Emotionally spent, he stepped outside the back door and walked around the yard, then beyond the yard to the chicken pen (minus any chickens), the cow pasture, and the wonderful old barn that had been his favorite place on earth as a little boy.

Dustin saw Grandpa’s old tractor parked over by the barn where he always kept it. He climbed up on the seat and sat there, looking around, trying to take in the fact that Grandpa was really gone.

By Roger Starnes Sr on Unsplash

Dustin’s revelry was broken by the sound of a twig breaking. He looked up. About twenty feet away from the tractor, Jenny was standing there looking at him.

Dustin jumped to the ground and came to her side, enveloping her in a big bear hug. He didn’t mean to, but he started crying again, and Jenny cried with him.

Wordlessly, when Dustin grew quiet, she took his hand and they started walking toward the house.

Back in the kitchen, Jenny perked some tea, poured it in the big pitcher, sweetened it, and led Dustin out to the front porch to sit on the swing together.

Jenny told Dustin how sorry she was that his Grandfather had died. Then she told him how good it was to see him again. “It’s strange”, said Jenny, “you can go for eight years without seeing someone, and when you are together again, it seems like all that time apart never existed”.

Jenny hesitantly asked Dustin if he had heard of the land developer who had been trying to get his grandpa to sell the farm to him.

Dustin’s eyes opened wider, his mouth opened and closed again, and he simply shook his head , “no”.

“Grandpa said it would all be mine when he was gone. Whoever this developer is, he can take it packing. I am not about to sell Grandpa’s farm to him or anyone else”.

“Jenny, will you go with me after the funeral to see Grandpa’s lawyer?".

By Sigurdur Fjalar Jonsson on Unsplash

Dustin had not realized how much he missed the people he grew up around. The funeral was hard for him, but after the service, he stayed around and talked for a while, renewing old acquaintances.

As he was talking to some former neighbors, Dustin saw two strangers leave the church, get into an old Ford and drive away.


The sun was about half way down in the west when Dustin and Jenny reached the lawyer's office across town from the church where they attended his Grandfather's funeral.

Mr. Lucius Gray opened the door to his office and offered them a seat and a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea. They both said, 'tea', simultaneously, and laughed as their eyes met.

Saying the same thing at the same time had been a habit of their growing up years...or finishing each other's sentences because each knew exactly how the other thought.

Their moment was broken by Mr. Gray's question.

"What can I do for you, Dustin?".

"I need your help", Dustin replied. "Grandfather told you everything about his business. I'm sure you would have contacted me in the next few days about Grandpa's will. At least, I hope he had a will."

"I'm sorry about your Grandpa's passing, Dustin. I couldn't make it to the funeral because I was in court. Yes, he had a will. I need to go over it and check a few technicalities. Wilbur left the farm, house, land, and everything to you."

"Did Grandpa tell you about some land dealer using forceful tactics to get him to sell the farm?", asked Dustin.

"There has been some talk of a new mall, and Wilbur said he had been contacted about the land, but I do not know the names or contact information for the men he talked to.

I will do some research to see if I can locate them. If they come by the farm, be sure to get their business cards or phone number and get the information to me as soon as possible".

"I will", answered Dustin. "I will be expecting a call from you to get together about the will when you are ready".

A few minutes later, Dustin and Jenny were back on the interstate driving toward the farm.

By Kendrick Fernandez on Unsplash

As they drove down the old gravel road leading up to the farmhouse, they both gasped at the same time because the same car they saw at the church that morning was pulling away from the house and heading out the long driveway. At the end of the driveway, they turned the other way on the old gravel road and sped away.

Dustin wasted no time getting back up the driveway to the spot under the oak tree where Grandpa always parked and getting out of the car, with Jenny matching his movements heading to the front door.

"Wait", Dustin interrupted. "Let's walk around the house, all around the yard and see if they dropped anything that would give us a clue who they are".

Dustin started to the left of the house and asked Jenny to go around the right side and they would meet in the back yard to make the rest of the search together.

He hated the thought of strangers snooping around his house and property when he wasn't there.

Both of them walked slowly, checking flower beds and overgrown grassy areas to see if they had dropped anything.

"Nothing" they said in chorus.

Dustin reached for Jenny's hand and they walked toward the old barn. Unbarring the door, Dustin led Jenny inside. They sat down on some big bales of hay. Memories washed over him and Jenny felt him shiver. She leaned over on his shoulder and squeezed his hand.

"I'm so glad you are with me, Jenny. I don't know what I would do without you". Looking down into her big brown eyes, he saw tears glistening there. Dustin drew her close and kissed her lips, not wanting to let go. She held him close so he kissed her again.

They sat stone still for an indefinite amount of time...maybe 5 minutes, maybe an hour. Time seemed to stand still. Dustin wanted it to. He had received a wake-up call about how fast life can change. He had left home, left Jenny, so long ago. He never wanted to leave her again.

They sat together until Jenny could feel Dustin's body relax and she knew he was a different kind of exhausted than he had ever been.

"Come on, let's go back to the house and you take a nap. I will fix dinner and when you wake up and have a good meal, you'll feel better".

Dustin walked back to the house with Jenny.

They walked back around to the front door. Dustin pulled his key out of his pocket. When he reached the key toward the latch, they both gasped. The door was slightly ajar...it had been opened. Had the strangers entered the house?! ".

"This is getting to be too much", Dustin almost moaned. He pushed the door open and breathed a sigh of relief. There was no mess, no sign of a search. "Maybe they didn't actually go in. They left in a big hurry! "

"Let's do a tour of the house, especially your Grandpa's office and bedroom. If we don't see anything disturbed, go ahead and take your nap", Jenny implored. "You can go talk to Sheriff Murphy in the morning".

Dustin shook his head, "yes", and walked down the hall to his old bedroom. Stepping inside, he could see through the dimming light that it had not changed. Nothing had changed. Everything had changed.

He lay down on the bed and was asleep by the time Jenny came to check on him about 5 minutes later.

By Andrea Davis on Unsplash

The kitchen was down the hall from Dustin's room, so Jenny could make a bit of noise as she prepared a quick meal. Before she started preparing the chicken to fry and cutting potatoes, she would make a cake.

It only took a few minutes to find the flour, salt, baking powder, milk, eggs, butter, and cocoa. She needed no recipe and in minutes, she had preheated the oven, mixed up the batter and had the cake baking.

She fried some chicken tenders in the iron frying pan and sliced up potatoes to stew for salad.

With dinner underway, she lifted the cake layers out of the oven and quickly whipped up her homemade chocolate icing. Some mini chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, and piped chocolate icing stars would dress it up and make it look special for Dustin.

When Dustin walked into the kitchen two hours later Jenny had dinner on the table. In the middle of the table stood a triple layer chocolate cake.

The look in Dustin's eyes was the best thank you she could receive.

Jenny pointed to his chair and watched him sit down. She sat in the chair to his right and watched him fill his plate. Then she took two dessert plates and cut each of them a slice of the cake.

This was what Jenny had been waiting for. It was the reason she had not dated much when he was away. She had not known this was the reason. No one could compare with Dustin. Never had. Never could. As they began to eat. Jenny felt a contentment that she had never known before.

By Shaswot Bhandari on Unsplash

Somewhere in her heart, Jenny knew that she and Dustin would always be together; although she hardly dared to believe it could be true.

She knew she would stand by him no matter what happened to the farm, no matter what happened to them.

Dustin had been in her life almost as far back as she could remember, and she wanted him to be in it always.

There was no way she could know that Dustin was thinking exactly the same thing!


Two days had passed since his Grandfather's funeral, and Dustin Henry lay awake in the pre-dawn first light of day. He thought about Jenny and a feeling of peace and contentment flooded his mind and heart.

Jenny was coming in a couple of hours. They were planning to go see Attorney Gray and discuss the situation Dustin was facing with the farm and the two strangers who seemed intent on taking it away from him.

A shower and breakfast would jump start his strength to face the day. Dustin decided to make French toast and eggs sunny-side-up for breakfast. That had been Grandpa's favorite breakfast. Making it made Dustin feel closer to Grandpa, and the thought brought the familiar ache to his chest.

Since Jenny called him with the news of Grandpa's passing, the ache had been there through all the frenzied action of getting home, going to the funeral home to plan the funeral, and getting through it.

With the eggs and toast on the table Dustin looked out the front window to see if Jenny was coming yet. He saw her car in the distance, heading his way on the old gravel road.

Jenny pulled into the yard and parked her car. They would take Dustin's car to Mr. Gray's office. First they sat down at the kitchen table and made a list of the things they needed to discuss. Number 1 on the list was Wilbur Henry's will. Everything else revolved around what it contained.

An hour later, Dustin and Jenny were on their way to Attorney Gray's office. The secretary welcomed them and told them to go on in...Mr. Gray was waiting for them".

"Dustin", he began, "from my research, it seems that the state government is interested in your farm and that of several others close by. Some of my partners are hired to represent some of your neighbors in the case".

"Here's the problem. When government is involved, they have a long-standing precedent on their side. It's called eminent domain. This means that if land is needed for the greater common good of large parts of the population, they can legally claim rights to the land as long as they pay fair price".

"Fair price!...how do they decide what is a fair price for the place someone has called home for most or all their lives? Grandpa must have been beside himself with the thought of losing his farm. It might have contributed to his heart attack and shortened his life. How do they decide on a 'fair price' for that!?".

"I understand your distress, Dustin", said Mr. Gray. "The fact is they can go by land values and assessment amounts. There is overwhelming evidence that the best and wisest, though not the easiest, thing the landowner can do is try to find every possible angle to maximize the price they get and not be shortchanged".

"By the way, Dustin, I have Wilbur's will right here in this folder. You can take time to read it here or take it home. Since it is not a long document, I recommend going over it now. I have time if you and Jenny do.

The bottom line is, the property is now in your name. Any negotiations will be between you and the government agents.

I will call Anna in...she is the best secretary I've ever had! She can notarize our signatures and all your Grandfather's property and belongings will be legally yours”.

Two hours later, papers signed and notarized, Dustin and Jenny were almost ready to leave Mr. Gray's office.

Lucius Gray reached out his hand to shake hands with Dustin and Jenny, then suddenly stopped

"Wait", he said, "I have something in my wall safe that Wilbur asked me to give you if anything happened to him. It is a small brown paper box with the words, 'Fragile - Handle With Care' on one end. He made me promise not to let anyone but you have it. Of course, I gave him my word".

Mr. Gray stepped across the room and turned the dial on the lock. He reached in and extracted the small box, closed and locked the wall safe, and came back to the desk, handing the box to Dustin.

"You might want to open this in private, so why not take it home to open it. If there is anything I need to know about, just call my cell phone number. It's on my card. I'll be on standby".

"Thank you so much, Mr. Gray. I see why Grandpa spoke so highly of you and never thought of looking for another lawyer".

Having said goodbye to Mr. Gray, Dustin and Jenny got in the car and Dustin started it up. He asked Jenny to hold the box and said they would open it when they got back to the farm.

Neither of them talked much on the drive back. They were still processing all that Mr. Gray had told them and wondering what would happen next. Was there NO way Dustin could keep from losing the farm?

Almost home, Dustin asked Jenny if she would like to stop at the little diner...the only one in the community...for an already-cooked meal before returning to the farm.

There was no disagreement. Jenny loved to cook, but she was tired now and felt washed-out, as did Dustin.

They chose a table and were ready with their choices when the waitress came. They ate slowly, going over and over in their minds what they had heard. Jenny felt as though she had a part in everything that was happening, in anything that touched Dustin's life for better or worse.

The thought of the last three words jolted Jenny. It sounded like the marriage vows. She must not get ahead of herself.

Sure, she was coming to think of Dustin as more than a friend, but he might not feel the same about her. She tried to calm her frazzled feelings before he started to wonder what was wrong.

Back home at last, Dustin reached for the box and carried it as they walked back to the porch and sat on the swing. He had always loved to sit in this spot because the scenery was astounding.

Dustin pulled his pocket knife from his pocket and cut the string. He began tearing off the paper.

He paused, wondering what Grandpa had put in such a small package that could be so valuable.

When he lifted the box lid, a little piece of paper fell out. He read it silently; "Dustin, I wish I could be there with you, but since I cannot, I want you to have your Grandmother's wedding and engagement rings.

My Mary was the most beautiful bride ever. When you find the one for you, please use these rings if you wish. They can be re-sized if necessary. I love you, Dustin!"

Tears streaming down his face, Dustin lifted the rings and looked at Jenny.

He took her left hand and said with a tremble, "Jenny, I love you so much! You are the one for me. I would be honored if you would agree to be my wife."

Jenny replied, 'I love you, too, Dustin. Nothing would make me happier than to be your wife and share my life with you".

One long kiss later, they sat quietly with Dustin's arm around Jenny, looking at the diamond on her finger and watching it sparkle in the afternoon sunlight.

By Karina Thomson on Unsplash

Had it not been for the echo of the words, 'eminent domain', they would have been almost perfectly happy.

Dustin and Jenny felt, at that moment, like they were the only two people on the planet. They could not know that two strangers were parked out of sight down the old gravel road watching everything and plotting....



About the Creator

Linda Rivenbark

I believe in the magic of words, love, and tenacity. There is a world out there that needs to be explored, researched, and written out to try to make some sense of it, and to make a better place for the children of tomorrow.

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