When ‘home’ is gone.

I’ve known for a long time that my grandmother wanted to sell the house. The house that my grandfather built with his own two hands (and largely out of scraps from other jobs [he was a carpenter]). The house that my father grew up in. The house that I grew up in. The house that three of my four children were conceived in. The house that I had almost every birthday party in. The house I had my wedding reception in.

I knew this. I knew it was coming. It wasn’t a surprise. And honestly, I understand her reasons for it. It’s a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house and she’s the only one living in it anymore. And it’s not like she’s always got kids coming over. We were the last of the family to even live near her. Now all of her children (and I’m considered one of them, because she raised me) are scattered to the four winds. My father and my Aunt B are at two different ends of California (my father lives North, Aunt B South). Aunt D lives in Colorado. Uncle T lives in Florida, and Uncle D lives in Wisconsin. I, of course, live in England. It simply doesn’t make sense for her to be living in such a big house when it’s just her and her thoughts.

And then there’s the practical aspect of it all. A house that size, in that area, is expensive! The property taxes alone are nearly half of what the house was originally appraised at when it was first built. And that’s every six months! Then there’s the usual upkeep of a house. And when it’s a big house, the upkeep budget automatically has to be bigger. While she’s still working, she doesn’t exactly make big bucks. She never has. When I was growing up, she regularly worked 2 jobs just to keep the bank from foreclosing on us (as well as the little things… you know… like food).

And the woman is stubborn. At 71 years old, if something needs to be fixed and she knows how to do it… there’s no way in hell she’s going to pay somebody else to do it for her. And at 71 years old, there are certain things that she shouldn’t be doing, regardless of whether or not she’s still able to.

And she’s already bought her new house. It’s a pre-fab in a retirement community only 20 minutes (or so) away from Uncle T in Florida. She’s been paying the mortgage on it for nearly a year now. So she really needs to sell the house. She needs the money.

So rationally and intellectually, I understand why she’s doing this. It makes perfect sense. And I don’t blame her.

And yet…

I thought I was ready for this. I mean, I’ve had nearly two years (maybe more?) to get used to the idea. She’s talked for months about how she needs to get the house cleaned out to get it ready for sale.

But then today, Aunt D sends me this.

I wasn’t ready for the rush of emotion that looking at it brought. I thought I was. I thought I was mostly okay with the idea. But apparently… I’m not.

People are always asking me if I ever think about going ‘home.’ I tell them that I would love to go home for a visit, but that I’m happy living here. But the fact is, sometime in the not-too-distant future, there isn’t going to be a home to go home to.

And there’s the emotional attachment to the house. My grandfather built that house with his own two hands. Nobody outside of our family has ever lived in that house. I know every inch of it by heart. The dark, dusty corners of the basement, where we would hide when there was a tornado warning. The attic, unbearably hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, where we all had childhood mementos stashed. The last time I was up there, my Raggedy Ann Halloween costume from when I was 8 was still poking out of the top of a box. I have boxes of books that Great-Aunt C gave me up there. Great-Grandma’s old sewing machine is up there. The thought of all of those things being gone and strangers’ belongings in their place fills me with a sadness I just can’t even begin to put into words.

What do you do when ‘home’ is gone? Have any of you ever been through something like this? Was it as hard as it seems to me? How did you get through it?

I ask because there’s a part of me that wants to call my grandmother and literally beg her not to sell the house. But I won’t do that. That would be selfish and inconsiderate of me. And she raised me better than that.

I can’t deny that the urge is there, though. It’s like a panic that’s building in my chest. And after feeling so happy the last few weeks, it’s doubly hard.


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