He had done it all – retiled the roof, hung the shutters, and repaired the windows. He had spent a lot of his time fixing all sorts of things. He pondered this as he looked at the house from the driveway.
He was still shocked as he unlocked the door, not believing it was his. He spotted something on the table as he stepped inside, and he couldn’t hold back the tears.
89-year-old Judith Almodovar had lived in rural Alaska all her life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She loved the wide-open spaces and deep quiet, far away from the city. Although life here was simple, it had been good to her.
She had married the love of her life 69 years ago, given him two children, and now she was content to sit with him on the porch as they grew old together. But then, tragedy struck.
Judith’s husband Willie suddenly fell ill. After a few days in the hospital, he lost his battle with pneumonia and passed away unexpectedly. Judith was devastated.
Despite their advanced age, she had never really thought about what she’d do if Willie passed away before her. She just couldn’t come to grips with the fact that he was gone. She didn’t know how to live without him.
Unfortunately, Judith’s children had never shared her love for rural Alaska. They had packed up and left for Washington State as soon as they were old enough to leave home.
Now that Judith was all alone, her daughters offered to take her in if she was willing to move, but she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her home. She had deep roots in Alaska – for reasons that nobody but Willie would understand.
Judith had moved to Alaska with her parents when she was just five years old. She met her future husband on the first day of school, and they eventually married.
Willie built a one-bedroom cottage on a family member’s ranch with his own two hands so they would have somewhere to live. But what was meant to be a temporary solution turned into an ongoing problem.
By the time Willie passed away, it felt like the little house he’d built had been repaired a thousand times. It was a sore point for Judith’s daughters, too.
They kept telling her that she should demolish it once and for all, pack up her things, and come to live in Washington. But Judith couldn’t bring herself to do it. But how would she keep up with all the repairs now that she was alone?
Luckily, Judith was friends with her neighbors who lived on the next ranch, so they offered to lend her a helping hand.
However, they were also getting on in years and weren’t able to do the constant manual labor required to keep the house in a livable condition. Besides, they had problems of their own.
The Turleys had a 25-year-old son named John. He had recently moved back in with his parents after struggling with homelessness for years. But John hadn’t found the small Alaskan town to be as welcoming as he had hoped.
Although John hated having to rely on his parents, he wasn’t able to find steady employment to make it on his own. Could John be the solution to Judith’s problem?
John was young and strong, so he volunteered to help Judith with the house. He repaired the leaky roof, added more insulation, fixed the shutters, and did dozens of other odd jobs to make Judith’s life more comfortable.
Although Judith tried to pay him for his work, he always refused. After all, he owed her a huge debt.
Living With A Stigma
When John had first arrived in town, word spread through the tight-knit community like wildfire. Everyone knew he’d been homeless. And everywhere he went, people stared and whispered. He’d been called a bum, a leech, and worse. Worst of all? Nobody would employ him.
But Judith and Willie had always been kind to him. They told him he was welcome for dinner in their home any time. John wanted to repay their kindness, so he vowed to take care of Judith any way he could. But he couldn’t have known what fate had in store.
A Special Bond
John kept his word and took care of Judith. He picked up her groceries, cleaned up her house, and kept up with all the repairs. Judith loved his company, and their bond grew stronger.
Although John wouldn’t take Judith’s money, she tried to repay him in other ways. She’d knit him scarves, repair his clothes, and cook him dinner every night. But not everyone was pleased with the arrangement.
John’s parents were not happy when they found out that he’d been working for Judith for free. They wanted him to find gainful employment so he could start contributing to the household bills – after all, they had been supporting him for years now.
They were furious when they found out that he couldn’t look for a job because he was spending so much time at Judith’s house. Something had to give.
John’s parents decided enough was enough. They gave him an ultimatum: find a job or get out.
While John understood their dilemma, he was shocked to learn that they did not approve of him helping Judith. Judith was well-loved in the community and always went out of her way to help anybody else. He was faced with an impossible decision.
John had made his decision. He packed his bags to go and live on the street again. Of course, his parents didn’t want to see their son homeless again, but they weren’t willing to support him either.
There were no opportunities in rural Alaska for a man like him, so he decided to go back to the city and leave everything behind. But what about Judith?
Trying To Get By
Without John, Judith struggled to get by. Her daughters kept insisting that she should leave it all behind and move to Washington, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it.
She had so many happy memories in this old house – it was all she had left. If she left, she would be leaving Willie and a part of herself, too. But, after just three weeks, something happened that made the decision for her.
Three weeks after John left, Judith tried to get by on her own. She cleaned the house as well as her old bones would allow and kept telling herself that things would work out.
But one day, while she was carefully climbing up a stepladder to retrieve a box of old photos on the top of her wardrobe, her bare foot slipped off the top rung.
It All Goes Black
Judith tried to steady herself as her foot slipped. The sickening feeling of falling into empty space only lasted a second.
With the words “Please God… please God” repeating in her head, she hit the floor hard. The box of photos fell with her and flew open, leaving dozens of old polaroids fluttering around her. Then everything went black.
Not How She Wanted To Go
When Judith came to, she instantly became aware of searing pain in her right hip. And she couldn’t move. Tears filled her eyes. This wasn’t how she wanted to go – lying on the bedroom floor, all alone and proving her daughters right.
She had to get help. It took every last ounce of strength, but she used her arms and eventually managed to drag herself to the phone. She dialed the number with shaking fingers and whispered “ambulance” into the receiver.
Broken And Concussed
After what seemed like hours, they arrived. The paramedics strapped Judith to a flat board and carefully lifted her into the ambulance. In the hospital, the doctor told her that she’d broken her hip and had a concussion – which was very serious for her age.
It was also his duty to report what had happened to her daughters. Judith knew that her mistake would cost her dearly. And she was right.
The Last Straw
Judith’s daughters arrived the next morning, and it was already settled: Judith was going to move into an assisted living facility in Washington so she could be taken care of properly.
She argued, then pleaded to be allowed to stay in her beloved home. But it was no use. She had to leave Alaska – and indeed, a part of herself – behind. But what would happen to her home?
What About The House?
Judith’s daughters didn’t even want to see the home they had grown up in – to them, and it was the source of their mother’s misery. In their minds, the sooner the house was condemned, the better it would be for everyone.
They only spent enough time in the house to pack up Judith’s favorite belongings, and they left all the worn-out furniture behind. But Judith still had one strange request.
After recovering from her hip surgery, Judith moved into a retirement home near her daughters at their expense. And she hated every moment of it.
She’d always been fiercely independent – now, she had to abide by the facility’s house rules like she was a child. But she didn’t have time to worry about that now. There was still one last thing she had to do.
A Symbol Of Love
It had been four months since the accident. Although her daughters wanted to see the home demolished, Judith had other plans for it.
To her, the house had always been a symbol of her late husband’s love. On so many nights, the Alaskan wind would blow through the walls and she could almost hear the comforting sound of Willie breathing beside her. And her thoughts often wandered to John.
After much pressing from her daughters, Judith finally made a decision about the house. She couldn’t bear the thought of it being demolished.
She could possibly try to sell it. But, as her daughter pointed out, who in their right mind would want to buy a condemned cabin in rural Alaska? Unfortunately, Judith wouldn’t have to worry about the fate of the house for much longer.
Life Got In The Way
The city had not been kind to John, either. He had been living hand-to-mouth, trying to make ends meet by working odd jobs. Nevertheless, he felt more at home in the city than he’d ever felt in the rural Alaskan town.
He had thought about Judith a lot lately and had even tried to call a few times in the last year, but she had never answered. That’s why he was surprised when he got an unexpected phone call.
John was surprised when he got the strange call out of the blue. When the man on the other end of the line told him he had been left a house in Alaska, his heart plummeted into the pit of his stomach.
The executor wanted to meet up with him to discuss one strange condition that came with owning the house, but John couldn’t even speak through the tears.
In The Arms Of Sleep
Three years to the day that Willie had passed on, Judith went to sleep for the last time. She reflected on her long, full life and was content with what she’d done with it.
She’d made her final arrangements, so she finally had no unfinished business to attend to. She was tired, so she resigned herself to the loving arms of sleep and went to be with her husband. But she’d left something for John.
One Strange Condition
John spent his last bit of savings on a ticket to Alaska, where the executor of Judith’s will waited for him. At first, he didn’t want the run-down house – what was he going to do with it?
But, according to Judith’s request, he had to visit the home one more time. And he fully intended to honor his friend’s last wishes.
John stood in the driveway, looking at the old house he knew so well. He’d hung the shutters, retiled the roof, repaired the windows, and fixed dozens of other things during his time there.
He couldn’t believe it was now his. He unlocked the door and walked inside. But when he saw what she had left on the table, he couldn’t contain his tears.
On the kitchen table was a suitcase with his name written on the tag. Inside were dozens of envelopes. One was labeled ‘for fixing the roof,’ and another ‘for buying groceries.’ John tearfully opened each envelope and was astounded to find dollar bills.
It was clear that Judith had saved every penny she had to eventually repay him for all the work he’d done on the house. He’d always refused, but he had no choice now.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.