We bought a house. I like our house! It’s another ‘60s ranch, my fave. Some people were like, wow I guess you really like small town life and want to stay! And we’re like, uh sure. Guys, you can sell houses. We like it just fine here and buying a house was the best choice for us. Nick could get dismissed after three years, he could not get tenure in five years, we could decide at any point it’s just not working for us. But no matter what, we’d be contending with a very uninspiring rental market. So now we have a little more space to run around in, and we owe a few hundred thousand dollars to the bank.
It’s humbling to buy a house. Homeownership is still out of reach for many people in my age cohort, even in affordable areas of the country. I get weird class whiplash about how I have friends who own stunning well-appointed homes in high COL areas that they didn’t even have to fix up!, and friends who can’t afford to go to the doctor let alone get a few thousand dollars in one place to not be destroyed by a job loss or car failure. But neither of these things is reflective of their individual worth. Ok, duh, it’s reflective of their literal money worth but not their, like, spiritual worth. You get me.
Sometimes I feel like an idiot for not having more money. Like I squandered the immense unearned privilege of being born into a well-off family. I was miserable in my mid twenties, I could have been miserable in med school instead of miserable waiting tables and eventually doing catch-all “marketing” at non-profits for $15 an hour. I look back on these choices I made not with regret, more with dawning realization of why my peers maybe chose the paths they did. I always assumed they were trying to please their parents! I was decidedly not trying to please my parents because nothing pleases them! Freed me up to drop out of grad school, get bad tattoos, marry too young, all the things you want for your kids.
Nick and I pretty quickly zeroed in on the neighborhood in which we wanted to buy. It was walking distance to the college, leafy, with houses that were older but not so old they didn’t have closets. It was a graying neighborhood. There was a woman at the beginning-of-school-year faculty potluck with a severe bob and good eyebrows who told me she’d keep an eye on which of her neighbors she thought would kick the bucket soon. I thanked her. It’s not that I wanted anyone to die, but if someone had lived a good long life and had a ‘60s ranch with three bedrooms, two baths, a screened-in porch AND they were ready to meet Jesus? I wouldn’t mind that at all.
We closed on an unthinkably hot day. I rode my bike to the un-air-conditioned law office, Nick met me there with Jane. He was absolutely pouring sweat. I handed him the iced tea I’d grabbed for him since I got there early. We signed our asses off. The seller, whose elderly mother I had killed with my thoughts, teared up as she told us how much her mother loved babies, how thrilled her mother would have been to know that a family with a baby would be living there. Nick and I nodded and both had that hardened nostril flare of pre-crying people. Sometimes I can’t believe how much empathy and good will is lobbed our way for having reproduced.
I carried Nick over the threshold, which made me pee a little. (My lemon of a pelvic floor.) We picked Desi up from preschool and brought him to the new house, where we ate Taco Bell on the floor. He made phone calls on the landline with the curly cord still attached to the kitchen wall, and Kool-Aid Man-ed through the ‘70s saloon doors that separate the kitchen and dining room. I had Nick take my picture on our new porch. Later, we all had diarrhea. (Taco Bell.)
The house is beginning to feel more like ours and not a quirky museum of the elderly. Nick is one by one removing the grab bars from the shower, front door, screen door, toilet. The toilet had a whole cage around it to facilitate the safe lowering of one’s can onto the seat. I was going to make a joke about it on Instagram, but then realized it was kind of fucking rude.
She had dementia. Our neighbors across the street shared that she knocked on their door at 3 a.m. one night, barely dressed, asking for the person who used to live there. My 92-year-old grandfather has dementia, and so did his father. It seems pre-destined that my father will, too, someday. One of the hardest parts of being witness to my grandfather’s disease is knowing that someday it will be me trying to cajole my father into bathing, apologizing to nurses for his rudeness or sexual aggression. My dad has lived a life of the mind: speaking multiple languages, playing piano and trumpet at church, pursuing fellowships, publishing papers, authoring textbook chapters, getting two extra Master’s degrees in his fifties just for fun. That he might not get to keep his mind is unbearably cruel.
There are two enormous oak trees in the front yard. I asked the home inspector if those trees were how I was going to die, and he laughed and said not as long as the branches still had green buds. We named them Hester and Charles, for the family who was here first.
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