Living Life

Not Ready

Dad called last night to discuss Pittsburgh Dad’s new commercial and the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory. I expect his call after every new episode, but I didn’t know to expect the gut punch that followed.

“Grandma’s house is listed.”

As I choked on air, he proceeded to tell me all about the listing and the three showings that happened on the first day the listing went live. Having sold a house in the current market, I know that three listings on the first day ranks as miraculous. But I’m not looking for a miracle in this case. I want that house and the nine acres of our farm that it sits on to sell as much as I’d like a lobotomy.

Meaning: Nope. Not interested.

Grandma's Flower Garden

I grew up in that house. I spent after school hours with my Grandma, watching The Little Mermaid. One day, I colored on her with magic markers when she took a nap. I sat at the table, which is now sitting in my dining room, and ate macaroni and cheese and pork chops, which I now make for my family. I ran out the back door and up the hill, and later after they built them, the steps to the top of the backyard and picked grapes from the grapevine, slurping the slippery insides out of the purple skin. I’d run down the steps, down which I fell a few times, and greet Grandpa when he got home from work. I learned to sew in the basement; I sewed the bottom of a skirt together, thus making a giant pillow case. I remember our old collie, German shepherd mix herding my baby brother as he tried to escape into the tall grass of the Back 40; she knocked him over. He cried; I laughed.

My tree is on that piece of The Farm’s property. My Grandpa planted it for me. They took pictures of tiny little me standing next to it that first year, and then the following year when it already towered over me. Now it’s one of the tallest trees on The Farm, beautiful and strong. I look at it every time we pull in the driveway on my parents’ side of The Farm, down past the old barn foundation and the creek, just up a small hill. My tree.

And now it’s going to be someone else’s tree? Even though I’ll see it every time I arrive on the nine-less-acres-of The Farm?

My Dad rambled on as only my Dad can, and then he threw my soul under the bus.

“Are you sure you don’t want to buy it?” His tone suggested that he was joking, but the sound of truth rang loud and clear. “Don’t you want to live next to us? It would be fun! We’d yell and get mad at each other and all those things, but we’d have a blast.”

Because I need more heartbreak in this process of letting go. Because letting go of Grandma wasn’t hard enough. Because not ever wanting to have two mortgages ever again on top of the fact that my husband can’t work as a professional firefighter in Pennsylvania as they don’t accept Ohio’s fire license means the question is an absolute impossibility.

Because when it all shakes out, I’d love nothing more. But it can’t happen; it won’t happen.

This is not what any of us imagined. We knew that someday Grandma and Grandpa would pass, but we didn’t know that Chesapeake Energy had run a scam on them, preying on the financial problems that so many aging people face. We didn’t know we would be losing part of the family Farm, adding insult to injury.

I’ve felt helpless, over here, while my family over there dealt with the cleaning up and out of the house, the incessant back and forth with a company who doesn’t even know what the land looks like, let alone what it means to us. I feel helpless as I don’t know how to say goodbye to something that is an inanimate object—just land and a house, right? But so much more. That land, that house, they are my childhood come to life in the leaves of the trees, in the sliding of the back door, in the wave of the tall grass.

In everything.


4 replies on “Not Ready”

{{{{HUGS}}}} I am going through similar things with my Grandma. She has not passed, but has had to move into a nursing home and the house put up for sale. I was glad that I was able to visit this summer, since I live so far away. It was so hard walking through the house, knowing that it was the last time that I would ever be there. The flood of memories was overwhelming.

Hang in there.

Oh, Jenna. I know this unique anger. My grandma had Alzheimer’s. She went into a home when I was in college after being cared for at home by my grandpa for several years. Every single day he went in and sat with her. She thought he was her boyfriend.

One day, my vibrant, 83-year-old grandfather went to cross a highway and was t-boned and instantly killed. The person who killed him sued and got the farm. All of it.

My grandma died a month later. She stopped eating when my grandpa stopped showing up, not understanding what had happened. Their funerals were a month apart almost to the day.

The insult added to injury of those people taking the farm was indescribable. In our case, the family of four kids combined efforts. My dad bought the Morton building, and my farming uncle bought the land he was already working and the house. There have been renters in it for the past eight years. My sister is going to move in there, God willing, in 2015. The thought that someone related to us might be back in there, that we might be able to walk back in there soon, is a shock at this point after so long driving past the house across the field where my horse lived and seeing strangers’ cars. We lived next door to my grandma and grandpa, too, and when my mom had cancer twice, we lived over there and at my aunt and uncle’s house quite a bit.

My best advice is to push it from your mind. The pain fades gradually, but it doesn’t ever really go away. I’m not sure it’s meant to. Those memories are strong and beautiful. That said, it’s a house, not a person, and even if you hold on to the house, after a while you realize it is just a house, even though you want to squeeze the smells and memories out of it. After a while, the house stops giving them up and becomes wood and tile again.

At that point, you have to look at your own house and your kids and start over. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

Oh, families, with their well-meant, inadvertent guilt trips.

I love the imagery of your tree. I have a tree at my parents’ house. Well, half a tree; half the walnut tree split and fell during a tornado. I think you should plant yourself a new tree. And maybe bury a note near your other tree and let it know where your story, your new tree, will be hanging out.

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