I didn't want to make any big decisions in the first year. As my wise friend SG said, "There is irony in post mortem reluctance to recognize that time waits for no man or women, BUT it is both rational and normal to take plenty of time to get to the next place of emotional homeostasis after a great loss." It has been a year and a half now, and I am trying to figure out what to do with This Old House.
Doug and I lived in a 170 year old farmhouse. It looks beautiful from a distance, but something is always in need of repair. As we often said to admirers and each other, "the only thing that works in an old house is the owner."
Over the years, Doug poured sweat equity into the place, fixing it up little by little, and in some cases, big by big. I'll never figure out how he did some of the more challenging tasks by himself (since he never wanted to ask for help.) I mostly just made HoneyDo Lists and cheered him on.
He was rightfully proud of the maintenance and restoration he made happen. After a hard days work, we would "walk the property" arm in arm, enjoying a tasty beverage while we admired "our" handiwork.
The tasks were many and varied, involving carpentry, plumbing, painting, electricity, landscaping, stonework, roofing, historical research, and both brains and brawn. He tore off rotting leaking roofs and floors on the carriage shed, shop and barn and replaced them. He saved the barn from collapse by single-handedly putting a giant telephone pole underneath the floor to prop it up. He installed copper gutters on the barn. He reclaimed the yard from brambles. He built a goat pen, complete with a mattress and box spring. He rebuilt stone walls. He refinished floors. He gutted the bathroom and outfitted it with a claw foot tub and flooring from a demolished historic house. He redid the counter tops and tile in the kitchen and rebuilt the pantry. He dug huge rocks out of the lawn with the backhoe I gave him for his 45th birthday. He plowed the snow in the winter. We mowed the four acres together, but he was the one who was underneath the mowing deck fixing it when it fell apart. He fixed all the things that were constantly broken.
He had gutted the back room, but did not live to see friends, family, and contractors finish it for me.
Now that he is gone, the house is big and empty. It was "our" happy home. Now it is a home alone.
I have been thinking more lately about whether I can handle keeping it. It overwhelms me. It is expensive. It is so much work - and I am now so dependent on others for help.
I am seriously involved with someone wonderful now. He helps me selflessly and endlessly with repairs and renovations. But he does not want to live here. For him, this was Doug's house and Doug's neighborhood. Doug and I were married in the yard. His mark is everywhere. And so are his ashes. Along with so many happy memories and such great sadness for its missing master.
It is true that Doug gave me "permission" to go. He often said that if anything ever happened to him, I should stick a for sale sign in the driveway on my way to the funeral parlor, as he didn't think I could handle it. He knew full well what a load an old house can be.
But I keep coming back to how happy we were here. Over the decades, many previous occupants returned to see their former home. They all told us the best years of their lives were spent here, and some wished they had never left.
Plus I love the 'hood. I'd never been part of a community before. My friends here have made all the difference. (See cushioning the blow.) One friend and neighbor in particular - DH - is my hero. He rescues me from broken things on almost a daily basis.
And this is the only house I've ever lived in that felt like home. My connection to it is almost organic. I would call it roots, but it seems more like a symbiotic connection between a fungus and its host, where the tendrils become intertwined with the other living creature.
And the house is filled with so much STUFF!! The stuff two people accumulate over half a century. If I moved, it would be a lot of work. I would have to get rid of a lot of things. Getting rid of things with so much meaning attached is difficult. I have donated some, or given them to friends. Each one wrenches a piece of me away, involves taking another step further away from the life we had. And as PS says, each step is like another little death.
And where would I go? Do I need to go live in a condo like a little old lady? I'm only 55!
And last, but not least, would it really be any better? Or would it just be a case of moving my broken heart from one place to another?
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