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I've Been Looking for a House to Call Home
I think I may have found it.
When I wrote the piece last week about wanting to go home, what I didn’t tell you is that I’ve spent the entire winter and into spring thinking about where I might want to live after I sell my house. When I left the island last November I knew I’d be selling it this year and thought the winter months would give me time and space to figure out where I would go from here.
Clearly, I couldn’t stay in my house. Ed is gone and I’m alone now. Even before he died, we knew we would be selling our house. We have a buyer, a younger couple we know will love our house as much as we do. They’re just waiting for the word—that I’m ready to sell.
So where will I go? Common sense tells me at my age I should stay around my family, and, at first, since I love my family, every last one of them, I was okay with that. We all started looking around the city for something that would suit me and that I could afford. But nothing I could afford suited me. I couldn’t see me living in any of them.
Finally I realized, after a particularly teary night, that I really don’t want to live in the city. The city has its good points: every service imaginable is mere minutes away. I wouldn’t have to plan to be away the entire day in order to see doctors or get groceries or wander around thrift stores. I could plant flowers and put out bird seed without worrying about the deer or the bears making meals of them. Culture is everywhere in the city.
But so are people. Lots and lots and lots of people. So I crossed ‘the city’ off of my list. No, it would have to be up north somewhere. My heart is up north. My family, no dummies they, already knew this and gave me their wholehearted support.
But WHERE up north? Where would I like to live? Well, around water. That’s a given. And charming. It can’t just be a gray-walled box with doors and windows. Something with an up north feel but not so rustic that I’m back to worrying about things falling apart.
I gave some thought to apartments. Not a fan, but they’re efficient and if I rented I wouldn’t have to worry about repairs. That’s what landlords are for. Any apartment I rented would need to be on the ground floor or have an elevator. My knees have a thing against stairs.
Not a fan of elevators, either. Or public hallways with so many neighbors. I would want some outdoor space but not tiny, not matchbox sized. I want to be able to breathe.
So maybe not an apartment.
I’ve been thinking about renting a house. That could work, and there would be room enough for everyone who wanted to come and visit. There would be parking spaces—something else the city lacks. It would have to be away from the city but close enough to essential services like doctors and hospitals and shopping; close enough that I wouldn’t feel stranded and alone but far away from rush hours and traffic jams.
It would have to be charming and would have to have a view. I know I couldn’t afford waterfront or anywhere near it, but I need to wake up and look out my windows and see nature instead of walls. And of course, the neighbors would have to be wonderful. (Is there a way to secretly vet potential neighbors?)
It’s a great feeling to know I can go anywhere. Other than those few requirements, all of upper Michigan is mine! I’ve looked online at dozens of communities. I’ve looked at houses and condos and trailer parks. With every one of them something wasn’t right. I wasn’t feeling it.
And then I wrote that piece last week, and the dams burst. Every time I thought about my pictures and what I wrote, the waters rose. My daughter came in moments after the flood began and when I tried to explain why I was crying, I couldn’t. Why was I crying? She thought I was probably homesick, but that wasn’t it. I’m going home in a couple of weeks. I’m over being homesick.
The thought of going home to clean up and pack up and sell my house is overwhelming, but I’ll be decluttering—that’s a good thing. I’ll be embarking on a brand-new adventure—one of my choosing—and I can go anywhere. It’ll be exhausting but it has to be done. I can’t take care of my house anymore. We’re both getting old, and I can’t afford the upkeep on two of us. The smart thing is to sell it and take the money and run. That’s what I tell myself.
So here’s where I tell you what I think you’ve already guessed:
The house I live in is the house I’ve been looking for.
My little cottage is everything I would want if I had the money to fix it up. It’s nowhere near doctors and hospitals and shopping, but it’s on the water, and I can look out the window to that glorious view. It has a kind of sweet, tattered charm. It has plenty of parking, and it comes complete with wonderful neighbors.
Anything I bought or rented that might be comparable would cost two or three times what it’s costing me now. I could do it, I suppose, with the money I’d get for my house, but why would I want to when all of the good things on my list are already mine?
The bad things are something else again. There’s a reason Ed and I had planned to sell the house, and if he were here, he with his practical nature, we would be selling the house. No question. The work needed to get it ship-shape is daunting and expensive, and neither of us could have done much of it ourselves anymore. The solution—to sell—seems like a no-brainer. The buyers have building experience. They would turn it into the showcase it deserves to be. It would be amazing.
But I can’t. Not now. Not yet. I’m not practical. I’ll never be practical. I’m a wishful dreamer and I have a house and I love where I live.
I’ll need to figure out a way to pay for the repairs without having to resort to larceny. (Selling my body is out of the question—unless it’s for science, and I’d have to be dead, so that’s out.) I’ll do what I can, and the rest will have to wait.
But what about the unexpecteds? Trees will fall. (There’s one lying on the ground in my yard right now, with more expected to fall as the winds blow and the roots die and the ground gives out.) The old septic tank may decide to split in two, or whatever septic tanks do when they come to the end of their lives. The charming little A-frame bed-sitting room in the back—the one we’ve discovered has no foundation! —might keep sinking. (Oh, wait, it has sunk about as far as it will go. The insurance company says it’s not their problem, so it’s probably a lost cause now.)
But this house is mine. It was ours—mine and Ed’s. It has our fingerprints all over it and I like that. I’m happiest in that place where he and I grew old together. Whatever happens will happen on my watch. If I have to leave it, I will. But right now, I don’t think I have to.
I’ll be home in a couple of weeks, and, if I’m lucky, home is where I’ll stay.
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