Hospice and Leave — Day 9
“If we close today…”
How many times have I started a sentence that way?
- “When we have the house, we’ll…”
- “When we start the concrete pour, then…”
- “If we ever close on the mortgage, I’ll…”
Since leaving my parents’ house at age 18, I lived four years in an undergrad dorm, three years in grad school apartments, and then seventeen years — my entire married life so far — in on-campus faculty housing.
When Clint and I were dating, choosing careers, and planning our future, we deliberately made choices based on passion and calling, not on money. He is a musician-turned-teacher. I’m a full-time teacher/part-time aerobics instructor.
We’ve always known home ownership was going to be something we had to plan for…for a looooong time. But from the time the kids were very young, we dreamed of a house on a lake.
By the time the twins were walking, the conversation had evolved to “Which lake?” And by the time they started preschool, we were sitting up late at night pouring over property listings and dreaming big.
Then one day in the summer of 2010, Clint met me at the door, laptop in hand, and said, “Kelly, you’ve got to look at this one.” He’d found our dream lot. We made an offer and bought it. Since it was a foreclosure, we had to wait a few months for the Right of Redemption period to end, but as soon as it was officially ours, we walked the property as a family, dreaming of sitting on a deck and fishing off a dock.
“When we have a house…” became a periodic refrain, but we didn’t get serious until the spring of 2013. That’s when we found our builder and started earnestly looking at floor plans. We designed and priced…then scaled-back and designed again (ha!) for months. I learned more about getting electricity to a country build site, the best size for a propane tank, specially engineered septic systems, water purification options, and pump houses than a history teacher should ever have to know. But it was all worth it because on December 20, our sixteenth wedding anniversary, we closed on our construction loan.
After a few million weather and permitting delays, we broke ground on February 28. We walked the property with our builder to choose the exact house site. We talked ravines, slope, the danger of “hitting rock,” and concrete. Our builder told us, “I understand what you want, but we aren’t going to know exactly what we are dealing with until we start moving dirt.” I must have looked skeptical because he looked at me and said, “Kelly, you are going to have to trust me to put the house in the best possible spot.”
I decided then and there to let go and just enjoy the ride. It was one of the best decisions I made in the whole process.
And there were So. Many. Decisions. I’ve always heard that building a house is a stressful process. But that winter and early spring were brutal. Terrible weather. Stressful situations at work. Seasons of loss for friends and family. Declining health for my mom and grandmother. And a health scare for me. My scare turned out fine, but long weeks of tests and waiting took their toll.
For Clint and me, the house was a source of solace. In the midst of all the sorrow and uncertainty, we cherished those conversations and decisions. In choosing countertops, lighting packages, tile, cabinets, floors, and paint, we were choosing to be hopeful.
Of course, I only had to make the fun decisions. For long months, Clint was shielding me from the more stressful aspects of house construction. He calmly dealt with countless problems, overages, and delays, only involving me when absolutely necessary. There are no words to describe how hard he worked and how grateful I am.
Spring finally came, and with it came some big benchmarks. We spent a cold and windy Spring Break day at the house site watching the concrete pour. By April we had plumbing. In May, the house was framed. By late June, we had sheet rock and windows, and in July we started planning landscaping, picking plants, and pricing stairs to the water.
I can’t take a two dimensional design and envision three dimensional reality. I have never been able to do this, and believe me, it makes things like studying maps and learning geometry challenging.
So, in building this house, I approved floor plans and picked colors and textures without having any real big mental picture of how it would all come together. This build truly was a leap of faith. The month of August was filled with walk-throughs and punch lists. The house was done, and it was more amazing than I had ever dared to envision.
So now, here we are. Only closing on the mortgage stands in the way.
Today is the day.
We are scheduled to close at 2pm. Of course, we’d been told this several times before, so I was preparing myself for more delays. The morning was blur of phone calls and last minute details. The underwriters still hadn’t approved the file. I was told to “stand by.”
“If we close today,” I told Mom on one of our many phone calls that day, “I’m sleeping there tomorrow night.”
“But you don’t have window coverings.” She has always been slightly obsessed by window treatments.
“Mom, the closest house is five minutes by boat and twenty minutes by car. We’re fine.”
Silence. She’s not so sure about this.
Later we spoke again.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Staring at my phone. Willing it to ring.”
“If you don’t close today…”
“Oh, we are closing today. I’m thinking about going to the attorney’s office now and refusing to leave unless he lets me sign the loan papers.”
“That’s not a good idea. If you get arrested, I can’t come bail you out. I’m getting my hair done at 1.”
Apparently, my mom wasn’t the only one worried about me and my decision-making that day. I got a text from my friend Andrea:
“Have you closed?”
“Not yet. Still waiting. I’m thinking of driving there anyway.”
“Text me if you need me to bust you out of jail. You’re worth losing my teaching license for.”
And then there was this phone exchange with Clint:
“Where are you?”
“In the lobby of the bank. I’ve been here for 20 minutes. I think I’m making them nervous.”
“Please don’t get arrested.”
At 1:52pm, while I’m hanging out in the bank lobby, the mortgage person finally called. She didn’t even say hello; she just started quoting numbers — the exact dollar amount we need to bring to closing. The underwriters have approved everything. Can we bring a certified check? And can we be there at 2pm?
It was surreal. This took four years to plan and build.
Four years plus ten minutes to get the certified check, eight minutes to drive to the attorney’s office, twelve minutes waiting the lobby while the receptionist figures out what’s up with a furniture delivery (Oh. My. God. Are you kidding me???), and then eighteen minutes with the lawyer to sign all the papers.
Clint and I looked at each other. We did it; we pulled it off. A wave of relief and joy hit. We started giggling, and we couldn’t stop. The attorney looked at us oddly.
Clint gave me a quick kiss, then we dashed out to the parking lot. Clint had a lesson in ten minutes, and the twins would get off the school bus in fifteen. We had to hurry back to campus.
As I was pulling out of the parking lot, my mom called.
“Well, are you in jail?”
“No. Mom, I own a house.”
She was silent for a long time, and then I heard her sniff. “Oh, Kelly. I am so happy.” ♥
Mama cut out pictures of houses for years
From ‘Better Homes and Garden’ magazines.
Plans were drawn, and concrete poured.
Nail by nail, board by board,
Daddy gave life to Mama’s dream.
You leave home, you move on,
You do the best you can.
I got lost in this whole world
And forgot who I am.
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here it’s like I’m someone else;
I thought that maybe I could find myself.
If I could walk around, I swear I’ll leave.
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me.