The thought just struck me, a miniature epiphany brought on when I realized that today is usually one of my favorite days of the year. It’s April Fool’s day, after all, and coincidentally my first full day of “freedom”. From now on, the meaning of April 1 will no longer be associated with a prank, unless this whole thing happening in my life really is some cruel and massive joke. Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and discover that it really has been that.
One problem — I will wake up tomorrow in my own bed, but that bed is not in my house. It’s in someone else’s house, a house that will be mine in a few weeks, nonetheless it’s not the room I have known for some 23 years. What a strange, almost other worldly feeling this is.
Yesterday, after 23 years, I said good bye to my cozy little two story house. The past few days, weeks really, have been a whirlwind of seemingly constant work getting the house ready for someone else to live in, fretting over their requests to have this or that fixed/remedied/improved. Wednesday night, while I was beginning the last stages of packing my things for the move, I received a text from my lawyer, relaying a request from the buyers to verify that the breaker box had been relabeled and a dedicated circuit had been added for the microwave range. I wasn’t happy, not quite steaming mad, but upset enough that I could taste the sour mood the text had helped create. I chewed on it, almost decided to tell the buyers to suck pond water, then realized that it really was an easy thing to dispute. I sent the list for the breaker box that had been created when an electrician inspected the box, pointing out that breaker two was dedicated to the microwave range and stove. Done. Finished. Resolved.
I rented a UHaul truck Thursday evening, greeted my friends Jeremy and Steve as they arrived to help with the move, started in on getting the furniture out of the house. My dad and youngest brother arrived after a while, dug in and helped. Never have I been so encouraged to have good friends, thankful more than I could express for their kindness. It wasn’t just the work they offered, it was their support and understanding, empathy as we worked. Over the years, I have helped countless people move, never once thinking of what that service meant to those receiving it. Now I know. Had they not been there, not only would the huge task been next to impossible to finish, I think the weight of the day may have been enormous to bear. Instead, while I carried a lot of physical weight that night, the burden was a whole lot lighter.
Miriam left the house shortly after my friends arrived and before my dad arrived. I am pretty sure that she didn’t want to face him. If there was any doubt, she called me later on in the evening and asked me to tell her when everyone was gone, then texted me an hour later to confirm. Sad. I wished she would have wanted to try to reconcile. I realize that it was an emotional time any way, but it may have been a good time to try. Instead, she stayed away, giving up four hours that she should have been using to pack and clean, something she also was woefully behind on. I stayed up until one in the morning, as much I could take, helped Miriam and her sister as they packed her stuff. Cleaned as rooms were vacated.
I slept on an air mattress in the near empty house Thursday night. Miriam worked until four in the morning, then went and slept at her sister’s house. I didn’t see Nate. He went to the Bulls game with friends, went straight to his aunt’s house. I haven’t seen him since Wednesday night, have only talked to him for a few seconds on the phone since then. That too is sad. He called while the soon to be owners of our house were doing their final walk through of our house at 2 PM Friday, asked if he could come over and say goodbye to the house.. but Miriam had to tell him that it was too late.
We worked feverishly Friday morning getting everything out of the house, cleaning, throwing out the garbage. I had put our old couch, overstuffed chair, and ottoman out at the curb for the garbage men to pick up next week. Of course, when I was out to get garbage pickup stickers to put on the furniture for pickup, as well as the ten bags of garbage also out at the curb, a city code officer stopped by and left a warning ticket about the stuff being out at the curb. If the garbage and furniture didn’t have stickers and wasn’t picked up by Monday, a $75 ticket would be issued! I called the city, explained that we were moving and that stickers had been purchased ($75 worth, ironically). They were kind, told me that everything was OK.
We were finishing the packing as the buyers pulled up for their walk through inspection. Their realtor asked us if we were finished. I said that we had everything out and the house was ready. As Miriam drove off and her sister and I finished putting the last few things in her car, the buyers walked into the house with their realtor.
I paused in the driveway, stood next to my car, willed myself to take one last look at my house. MY house. MY FREAKING HOUSE. I turned looked at my house, unprepared for the emotion that slammed me in the face.
This was no longer my house. Someone else would be making new memories there. I hoped there were still some left. This was the place where my children were born and raised. Heck, it was where they were made. A lot of me was in that little structure. With all the change, it felt like I was leaving a lot of me there. I stood there, unable to move, no longer able to fight the tears that began streaming down in my face, sobbing as my sister in law came over and held me in a tight hug, told me that it would be all right, that I would always be welcome in her home and that she still loved me like a brother.
For weeks, I let the tasks keep me from realizing the full impact of what was about to happen. In one quick instance, with one quick glance at the house that represented so much of what my life had been, my life changed.
Now I live somewhere else. With someone that I knew very well some 26 years ago. She already has proved that our friendship has been remembered, a great comfort to me these past 24 hours. We shared coffee and breakfast this morning, talked a lot, went about the tasks of the day, then enjoyed a quiet time together out on the deck of what will be my condo soon. It’s peaceful, serene, with woods behind, birds and animals surrounding. At one point while we were out there, a large hawk flew over us and perched on the railing of the deck of the condo next door. I am relaxed, my old friend and the friends I have spent time with the past few nights a true gift from God. I feel blessed. I feel like God is telling me that he is OK with me, that I can move on.
And I have moved. Happy April Fool’s day, a day that no longer will be associated with fools any more, at least to me. I am free.