The excitement around the new house is high. Our whole family has been energized. The kids are excited to clean and contribute to their new home. Nicole is finally going to have studio space of her own. Lincoln will get the tower bedroom he’s always wanted. We’ll have new neighbors, enough projects to keep us busy for years, and lots of new experiences and friendships.
But right now, I’m sitting home alone. Home. My house. The one I bought in 2004. The one that represented the culmination of my adult working life, my hopes and dreams with my then-wife. The place I bought to raise my kids in and get a little bit older in. In 2004, life looked very different, and I would not have even been able to imagine what twists and turns my life was about to take.
It’s easy to leave this place, at least on paper. The mortgage is insanely upside-down. The neighborhood has been rife with foreclosures. Real estate values are less than half of what they used to be here. The house has all kinds of problems, from flooding to a leaky pond, to a broken dishwasher. We could stand new plumbing. It’s horribly insulated. We need a new stove. There may very well be foundational issues. We need new siding. The garage window is broken.
But this is also the house that was once our dream house. The backyard (which is what sold the place) is still a paradise. The gorgeous pond, full of fish, is a jewel. The house is big enough, even for our crazy big extended family. The kitchen island counter has been the anchor of an entire online community—hosting late night conversations, laughter, tears, countless photos, and tons of wonderful treats made by friends from all over the globe. It’s always 12:42 at ICHQ.
Sometimes it seems like nobody else cares, and I can’t really blame them. To Nicole, this was never “her” place, and I can’t blame her for feeling like that. She loved me enough to move in here, even though the house was another woman’s in the past. To Lincoln, this was something that he tried to make happen, but the numbers just didn’t pan out—and besides, why continue to dump money into someone else’s asset? If it wasn’t for him, we would have lost this place long ago, but in the end it still just doesn’t make sense. He made a good go of it, but it was always still “my” house.
The boys grew up here, but they share a bedroom. They’re at an age where privacy is becoming a requirement. We could always have gone the “one of you gets the basement” route, but then again, the basement floods, and nobody really wanted to be down there anyway. The idea of each of them having their own large bedroom is enough for them to overcome sentimental attachment.
It’s entirely possible that I am more excited about moving to Detroit than anybody else in our family. It’s been a dream of mine for years, and it represents a homecoming for me. Still, I am giving up the last vestiges of my old life to do it. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
When we move to Detroit, I am no longer a homeowner. I will have shed the last anchor from my past around my neck—the biggest one. I suppose I should take solace in the shedding of attachments—after all, I am a Buddhist and this is what I’ve been taught to do, but that doesn’t make it easy.
When we leave this house for the last time, turn the water off, throw the breakers, and shut the door behind us, I may be the only one that’s not smiling.
In 2007, my ex-wife moved out. I was terribly lonely, even though I was surrounded by friends. I never thought the house could feel more lonely than that day.
I was wrong. It feels even lonelier right now.