As I sit in this chair in our family room and I sip my cold beer, I can say for certain that we are done moving. We signed the papers today closing the sale and gathered the last remnants of our nine-year presence at the old house.
Most reasonable people I know would barely register this as much of an event, save for the fact that we no longer have two mortgages (monetarily focused is the realm a vast majority of our world operates, in my opinion). Even I was taken aback by the amount of sadness and fits of melancholy today’s events imposed upon me. As I stood in our mud room the cause and effect struck me square in the face. I’m fairly good at compartmentalizing. That goes for work, plans, dreams, joy, pain and emotions….basically whatever I encounter in my limited trek in this mortal world. Over the last year, frankly the last nine years, I’ve been able to rationalize and compartmentalize my emotions surrounding our home, (among other things). My impression is most other people probably don’t even think about their home in any terms beyond this so I didn’t really either. But deep down inside, i had a sneaky feeling of what was really transpiring. So over the last few days, as rooms emptied and boxes were stacked, even my resistance to reality began to fade.
I suspect it a low-grade version of what people with terminal illnesses go through. As I approached the end of our stay in our home I became acutely aware of the actions that were the “last time I ever do this” variety. Yesterday I was taking down a wall mounted television in the wife’s old studio bedroom. It was a million degrees in there and the weight of the TV was making it difficult to remove the mounting lag bolts. At the end of my rope I dragged myself to the top of the stairs and weakly yelled out “Christine, I need your help.” With no response I repeated my plea, a little louder. Eventually she came to my assistance and we got the mount removed. Before she came upstairs though it struck me. That was the last time I’d utter those words in that home. On the verge of a tear I reflected back on all the times I’ve pleaded for help in that home of ours. From the first time, as fairly younger people, when were moving in and needed help arranging the furniture. Then the time, when I was building the basement storage shelves and I ran a drill into my thumb requiring her to play nurse and patch me up. Or all the other times that I know are out there even if my scattered brain can recall at this moment.
We did a once over today just to make sure we got everything….found a toy car under the range….some baby bottles in a cupboard. I couldn’t bring myself to go room to room remembering. Too painful, even for a monster like me. A couple quick photographs, going through some papers to leave behind, that was about it. I quietly swept out the garage. A few brief minutes of solitude between me and another place that was a friend of mine. Sweeping the very floor where my friends and I put the lift on my Jeep. Cleaning the corners where my tools were stored, or shovels awaited snow days. The world passing by just an eighty feet away at the end of the drive, but for seven minutes it was all so inconsequential. I’m not sure what Christine was doing inside the house but I suspect going through her own personal goodbyes as she readied the fridge for its new owners’ sustenance.
So I know why our old home is more than “it’s just a house” to me, to us. Here’s the deal: it felt so much like home until the very end. If I’m lucky I’m only halfway through my tour of duty in this world. And in the last nine years we turned a bunch of wood, cement and glass into a home. That “house” was there when we brought our two little guys home from the hospital. It was there every time I stayed out too late with my friends. It was there on misty Sunday mornings as I loaded my clubs into the Rabbit for a round with my dad. When it seemed the entire world was against me, against us and we couldn’t buy a break we could handle it because we were home. I used to thing you got used to your stuff so it was good when you moved; all the stuff comes with you. I stood there as a thirty-eight year old man, who could put up with some seriously messed up pain and other people’s bullshit, and mentally waxed poetically to myself about the wire shelves in my pantry.
I think a lot of this is related to the fact that we can’t avoid taking much of our existence for granted. In away the whole point of a house is to be in the background most of the time. You take it for granted. You take a picture and most of it is house bits. You turn a key at midnight to come in from the cold; there the door’s shut and you’re off to your warm bed. You curse the lord cause you have a long list of house chores that you have to do, but after nine years that tree you planted is three times your height and your three-year old kid is running in circles around it. The reality is that house is a home over time and it’s never in the background, we only think it is. It burns a little when life reminds us of this truth (or at least it burns to me cause I lie awake thinking about this stuff). Staying in that house forever wouldn’t have solved anything. No matter what we did, time and our innate sense of place are just too good at it was gonna hurt at some point.
That house was our safe haven, from which anything was possible. Now we’re in an unfamiliar place and it has been a long time since I’ve felt this vulnerable. I suppose there are better people than myself who move all the time and would use my emotion as comical fodder, and they are welcome to their opinion. I can only worry about how I feel and how it affects me. For me it is scary in a way. Starting from scratch gets more and more difficult as time passes and the ultimate train stop approaches.
It will be years before our new place even starts to get to that level of attachment. We could leave in six months and I doubt there’d be too much separation pain. Who knows. But today was sad and there’s nothing I can do about it. It was just so unbelievably canny how it still felt like home. It’s literally like someone forbids us from going home. Think about that. You’re at work, or school or vacation. Someone comes up to you and says you can never go back home ever again. It really sucks, or at least I think that sucks.
We’ll be in this limbo in-between state for quite a while in the new house. We are a family without a home. I miss having a home.