Friday, May 13, 2011

#327: Strangers in the House

This turned out to be a little more mopey than I intended. Feel free to pass it over and I'll write about my long run tomorrow.

Winter in Martha Park
Mrs P is writing a report and I am under strict instructions not to disturb her, so I'm just going to meditate with you for a while.

I've mentioned before that we are losing our house. In order to avoid foreclosure, we are pursuing what is called a "short sale" where you sell the house for whatever you can get, then the bank decides whether or not to forgive the rest of your loan. At least that's how I understand it. Mrs P initiated the process while I was still very sick, so I'm a little foggy on the details. What I know for sure is that strangers are spending a lot of time in my house.

 OK, look. We are lousy housekeepers. Always have been. Mrs P an I both come from families of pack-rats. We've even inherited a lot of their stuff to supplement the junk we have collected over the past 24 years. Are we hoarders? I don't think so, but I can't watch that show on TV. It hits just a little too close to home.

Molly teaching Jake where to pee
in the dining room
Point is, it's embarrassing to have friends wander through our house. Having strangers do it... it's agony. I drive the realtor crazy. She calls to say she has someone to come see the house, and I hem and haw and mumble. I finally just asked her to talk to Mrs P. It's less stressful for me for some reason.
Baby Jake (rug cleaner in the background)
We've had some lovely people come through. Young couples looking for a "starter home," whatever the heck that is. Professional house flippers looking to make a quick profit, (good luck, fellas.) Families looking for an inexpensive place to live.

Yeah. Inexpensive. In 1998, we paid $71,000 for our home. We're trying to sell it for $56K. Less than half the balance on the mortgage. The Great Recession can get a little depressing, sometimes.

Usually, when they come, I take the dogs and go out back on the porch until they leave. That way I can imagine them judging us without having to actually see them turning up their noses at all the retriever hair and cat litter. And books. And tools. And shoes. And... you get the point. Today, I had chores to do, laundry to wash, socks to sort. I was not inclined to go hide while the house shoppers prowled around wondering why there were running shorts and brassieres hanging from half of our doorknobs. So we got a chance to chat.

The garage has some
structural issues
"What's the neighborhood like?" Great. Great neighbors. Generous people. A mix of ages, races, national origins. A diverse neighborhood,  Kind of a rarity in our city. "What are the problems with the house?" Well, there's that big hole in the wall where I passed out while peeing in the middle of the night last summer. There's the siding that blew off in a windstorm. There's the garage that should have been demolished when we bought the house, and is now a clear and present danger to the cats, coons, and possums who have taken up residence in there. "Why are you selling?" That's my favorite. I always want to tell them that it's haunted. You know, by the guy who hanged himself in the basement. But I don't have the courage. So I give them the thumbnail version. Laid off, savings gone, cancer, can't pay the loan, bank won't help, blah, blah, blah. All I need is violin music. I was folding Mrs P's underwear during both of these visits, so the pathos was just that much thicker.

NO! Not the
Get Well  Troll!
I noticed that the salesmen didn't seem to appreciate my contribution all that much. They were all "You could add this," and "all it needs is a little what have you." What it needs is a family who loves it as much as we did. That's what it needs.

Buddy enjoying Christmas
dinner while the humans
ate in the living room
Fifteen years isn't all that long, not really. Neither is 24, in the great river of time. But for Mrs P and me, it's a lifetime. I always used to marvel when people had to pack up their houses after decades, only to move into a room in a retirement home. We aren't that bad off, but we are having to let go of a lot of memories. Some are silly, like old show tee-shirts. Some are very hard like the vanity Mrs P's mother refinished for her, or the journals I have kept for every role I've played since college. Even the old, unused litter boxes are reminders of the many cats we have loved and lost over the years. There is no reason to keep them, in fact, it's kind of gross, but seeing them stacked in the corner reminds us of them and putting them on the curb feels like throwing away memories.
Kizzie trying to set
her bed on fire
In college, I read a short story by Stanley Elkin called I Look Out for Ed Wolfe. It's about a collections agent who gets fired for bullying people. He loses himself. He decides to sell or pawn everything he owns in order to find out just what his life is worth. It turns out to be about $1400 dollars. The realization causes a kind of psychotic break or break down or something. I don't remember the details. It's been a long time. All I know is that he winds up in a bar in Harlem screaming racial epithets and throwing all that cash up in the air for the patrons to have.I got the impression that he was committing suicide.

The ramp our brother-in-law built
 for Molly when she couldn't
climb the steps anymore.
If Mrs P and I tried to sell or pawn all of our stuff, it wouldn't be worth much. The books are musty. The records are ancient. The clothes are worn. The furniture is scratched or chewed or broken. The strangers who come through these rooms must think we live in a dump.

Mum quilting in the bedroom
But this is our home. These are our memories. This is the place where we learned to be husband and wife instead of married room mates. Where Mum came when I was diagnosed and stayed till my treatments were over. This is where we taught dogs to poop outside and nursed sick animals and played Scrabble with friends and spit in death's eye. I want them to know all that, these strangers. There is love in this house. Love that will haunt it like a ghost, long after we are gone. At least, I hope so. Look past the dust and the animal hair and stacks of boxes, and that's what you will find. This dumpy little shack is a house of love. But I don't think the realtor wants me to tell them all that, either. They just want us to pack up and get out so their clients won't have to listen to my sad stories any more.

Just pack it all up and go. It sound easy. But it's not.


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