Nothing is Forever

by EJ Sankey
written with the image shown, as inspiration

Jacob got out of the car and looked at the house in front of him.

"Come on, son, we have to go and start cleaning. We have a full day ahead of us," his father said as he walked up the stairs.

Jacob slowly ascended the stairs and stopped at the threshold of the doorway. Memories of family dinners and gatherings filled his head.

"It's just so empty. I can't believe Grandpa is gone, and Grandma is coming to live with us."

His father was standing by the couch, holding a trinket in his hand.

"I can honestly say that I never thought this day would come. I thought my father would outlive me."

Jacob just looked at his father.

"Well, where shall we start: upstairs or here?"

"Grandma was telling me that there were a whole bunch of treasures up in the attic. So I think we should start there."

"Okay, let's see what we can find."

They pulled the stairs down. They creaked and moaned as a draft of cold air blew across them.
Jacob's father went first, shining a flashlight around.

"Look at all this stuff. I had no idea it was all up here."

Jacob came up after his father and looked around. It was like a time capsule. He picked up an old toy.
"Who's was this?"

His father found the light and turned it on, revealing all that was up there. There were paintings, boxes, old clothes, toys, a baby crib and much, much more. He walked over to Jacob to see what he was holding. "I don't know. I have never seen this before."

Jacob put it down and started rummaging through all the wondrous things around him. "Hey, Dad, look at this."

His father came over and took a look.

"Well, what do you know? It's my prom picture. I remember this. I took Susie Straton. Wow, what a blast from the past! Here, let's take this box and start filling it up."

"Okay," Jacob said picking something up and putting it in the box.

"I wonder what else we are going to find up here?"

"By the looks of it, anything is possible," his father said, looking around.

They started loading up the box when something caught Jacob's eye. It was half poking out of the corner and looked intriguing. He walked over to it and took a dust rag out to clear off some of the cobwebs. He held it up to the light. It was an old painting of a man in a room, warming himself by a painting of a roaring fireplace.

"Hey, Dad, what is this?" He felt like he was being redundant, constantly calling his dad over. "Sorry, I don't mean to keep doing this, but there's just so much really cool stuff to look at."

His father put what he had in hand into the box and walked over to Jacob. "It's okay. What do you have there, son?"

"I don't know. The man in the picture looks familiar though."

His father held the painting closer to the light to get a better look at it. "Oh wow, you know what this is?"

Jacob shook his head. "No, sorry."

His father gingerly propped it up on a table. "I haven't seen this painting since I was a kid. I always wondered what happened to it. This, Jacob, is your great great great grandfather Ezekiel."

Jacob smiled and looked at the painting. "Why is he warming himself by a fire place that looks like . . . well, like a painting?" 

His father returned to packing the box as he continued with the story. "The year was 1871, the year of the Great Chicago Fire. Our family was very well off, but the fire took everything from him. It took his home, his money, even the business that he built from the ground up." 

Jacob's father found a folding chair and sat down. "Now, you would think that would dampen a man's spirits, to have everything taken away from him like that. But it didn't. Your great great great grandfather took his family, not too far from the city, and found himself an apartment that he could afford with what little money he had left. Your great great great grandmother got a job as a seamstress, and Ezekiel went to work painting pictures and selling them on the street. Well, one day, your grandmother came home to a note on the table. It said, 'Come meet me at this address, I have a surprise for you.' So she got on a bus and headed over to the address that was written on the note. Do you know where she ended up?"

Jacob shook his head. "No. Where?"

"Right here in this very house. You see, your great great great grandfather sold enough paintings to buy a nice-sized house, and this was it. Your grandmother was so moved at the sight she beheld, that she took a picture of it. Later your grandfather painted a painting of it. This right here is that very painting of the picture that your grandmother took. See, son?" his father said turning the painting around and pulling out an envelope. He opened the envelope and pulled out a picture and a note. "Here is the picture, and here is the note,” he said, handing it to Jacob.

Jacob looked over the note. It was fragile and yellowing. Then he looked at the picture. It was old, but still clear enough to make out that it was the same thing in the painting. He turned the picture over. It had some writing on it. It said, “Nothing is forever, everything can be rebuilt. My love for you has never been stronger. Love always, E.”

"Hey, Dad, did you ever see this?" He showed his father. 

His father smiled. "I can honestly say 'no' I have never seen this. This is amazing." His father handed the picture back to him. "Come on, we have to get back to work. We can talk more about it when we get back home. We can show it to your mom and grandmother," his father said, handing it back to Jacob. "Let's see what other treasures we can find tonight."

Jacob gingerly put the picture back in the envelope along with the note. "I think we found all the treasure we need, right here in this painting."