Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.
It is a miracle that we have a house at all. The circumstances that converged to allow us to leap into the echelon of homeowners in our forties still shocks me.
Twenty one years ago John came to Pennsylvania and heard from his boss that we would be leaving California to live here. My mother took him to the station to catch a plane home to tell me about this, and as he boarded the train my cousin stepped off. Mom, eager to help us find a place, asked her nephew if he knew of a house for sale in our tiny town.
“Actually the man across the street from me is getting ready to put his on the market.”
As providence would have it, I was coming to stay with my mother the next week, so we drove by the property and dreamed of living there. My sister went with me to knock on the door of these total strangers and we asked for a look. They were caught off guard but let us tour the first floor. Then, under my sister’s instructions, I offered them $1000 to retain it while I figured out if we could buy it. Surprised, they took the check and agreed.
I called John to say I had given people I had just met $1000 in earnest money for a house he knew nothing about.
“You did what?”
“My sister said I should.”
For the next two months we worked with a mortgage company by phone and fax to buy a home that John had still never laid eyes on and could not google. Assuming as we were that I would find a job, not having yet figured out that I would be having twins instead, it looked like we qualified for the loan.
Then our firstborn totaled his beloved car. He was crushed. (So was the car.) We switched focus and spent the next few days on the phone with insurance agents, and were relieved when they decided to pay the remaining debt on the vehicle.
We returned to the task of the mortgage. John was pacing with the phone, still attached to the wall with a long curly cord as they were back then, when the person broke the sad news that we almost made the cut, except for the outstanding loan in our name.
“The car? Oh, that was totaled on Friday. Insurance paid it off.”
The next weeks were a blur of packing, me not understanding that my diminishing energy had more to do with a pregnancy of multiples than the strain of smashing our worldly belongings into a 24 foot truck. Then our last day in California arrived. We had turned off the landline and John conducted his final church service. We were about to start the ignitions of the van and U-Haul when the church phone rang.
My mother’s apartment had flooded and everything she owned was gone. I collapsed on the church floor and sobbed (being pregnant and emotional).
Then I realized. We had a new house… well almost. She could live with us. Never mind that she was manic, she was with me when I first dreamed of owning it. Mom would live there too.
We drove across the country unable to talk to sisters and mothers and brothers, not yet belonging to the family plan of five cell phones for eight people, and I wondered what the future would look like.
My sister, the financially competent one, had of course purchased insurance when our mother was flooded two years earlier. So there was a handy sum waiting for us when we moved in with which to build her a grandmother’s addition.
My mother enjoyed her last years in that apartment and has found a way to support our family even after she died. The renters who have inhabited it since have been a blessing.
That is the interesting part about change. Looking ahead can seem foggy. But gazing back, I have the clear sense of being cared for.