Friday, April 7, 2017

Goodbye House - Goodbye Tennessee

This was the house I lived in when I first met LC back in Tennessee.
I lived here with my dog Jamie, and it was the home I had bought right after my divorce.
It was only five minutes drive from work.
It was only 10 miles from the trails I consistently ran on and the lake I kayaked on.
It was on a quiet street with homes all the same age, all lots of established trees.
A nice, quiet middle class street.
It was fully fenced for the dog, had a covered back porch to store my kayak, canoe, road bike and mountain bike, had plenty of room inside to be comfortable and plenty of storage space to stash all my adventure racing gear.
It was solid.  Brick.  New vinyl windows.  Hard wood floors and some carpeting.
The yard front and back was beautiful.  Huge mature trees.  Flowering bushes.  Plenty of grass to mow.
While house hunting I must have looked at 30 different houses in three different towns before fnally choosing this one.
I still remember doing a walk through the first time and immediately loving it.
As I stood in the empty living room waiting for the real estate agent to turn off lights and lock doors, I absently looked at the wall of framed photographs on the wall.
The home had only been owned by two different couples since it was first built back in the 50s.  
One original couple who eventually sold the house to their daughter and her husband.
I was getting restless.  Had to go back to work.  Interested in the house and already deciding that if the maintenance director for the city (and my friend and colleague) came and took a look and gave me the thumbs up, I was going to make an offer.
Still waiting I scanned the faces in the pictures with only the slightest of interest.
Lots of pictures.
An older couple together.  Him alone.  Her alone.
Cute little toddlers with heads full of cute little curls.
A young woman.
A young guy.
A guy on a mountain bike wearing helmet and goggles.
Still deeply embedded in a lifestyle of continual training and racing, I was immediately drawn to the picture.
Looking more closely at the picture I studied it, wondering who the guy was.
I knew every road biker and mountain biker in town.
I had to know who this person was, but I couldn't identify him while he was wearing the helmet and goggles.
 My half hearted interest had unexpectedly turned into great interest and I quickly scanned the photographs looking for a young face that I recognized.
And then I saw it.
Mike had been my mountain bike mechanic for years.
He worked out of a bicycle shop in Winchester (20 miles away) and he was my go-to guy.
A better mountain biker on his worst day than I ever was on my best day.
A gear head and a trail rat.
The guy who fixed whatever was broken or worn out on my bike after each race.  
The guy who always shook his head and laughed about my adventure racing mishaps, when I told him the stories of how my bike got the way it was, each time I brought it in. 
The guy who tried for a year to talk me out of brake pads and into hydraulic brakes, until he finally called me one day and said "Karin I put hydraulics on your bike.  Try 'em and let me know what you think.  If you like 'em you can pay me for them.  You'll like them".
He was right.
I liked 'em.
This house belonged to Mike.
A month or so later it belonged to me..................... 

Two years later I was in an extremely unhappy and dysfunctional job in Alaska.  
A year and a half after that I was unemployed, having walked away from a high paying job that was slowly - actually quickly - wearing me down.
LC and I loaded onto a ferry in Alaska having no idea what we were going to do or where we were going to go next,
No idea at all.
Our house in Tennessee was rented out and we were tied into a lease that we had willingly signed.
With one exhausted shell of a woman, one tired and stressed out man, one lovable dog that would willingly follow us anywhere we went, and two overloaded trucks, we unexpectedly ended up in Cody WY.
And for a few months we contentedly explored the beautiful terrain and western adventures that Wyoming and Montana opened up for us.
Only.........our renter back in TN stopped paying rent.  
Our property manager kept making excuses for her, and promises that she would pay, and she didn't.   This same formula of promises made and promises broken lasted for months and LC and I realized that we were effectively paying the mortgage so that a stranger could live in our house for free.
The situation quickly moved from annoyance to completely unacceptable and we reluctantly (after having fallen in love with Wyoming) decided that it was time to go back to Tennessee.
Time to kick a wayward renter out of the house.
We would move back to Tennessee.
Pick up our Tennessee lives.
Start over in our home.
Start over again.

We kicked her out.  Her (and a thug boyfriend and three small children whose existence we knew nothing about until we actually arrived back in Tennessee).
And we moved back into our home, and we caught up with my oldest son again (who was happily fixing up a home of his own while also building a wonderful life with his wife and starting an exciting new career).
He had struggled and worked hard through so many years of college, and every time I saw him I was reminded of how proud of him I was.
How decent of a man he had grown into.
How exciting it was to watch him begin his career in a field that he had studied for years.
How good it was to see him and his wife actually have money, after struggling financially for so long as she graduated and then a year and half later he graduated.
Their life was good and happy and filled with so much hope for the future.
At the same time, LC and I repainted our house and fixed what the wayward tenant had broken.
 I returned to the trails I loved and the lake I loved, and running and kayaking and mountain biking became a regular part of my life again.
And I loved it.
But I didn't love Tennessee anymore.
Neither did my Tennessee Mountain Boy.
The roads were too busy.  The parks were too busy.  The stores were too busy.  The towns were too busy.  
The lower class neighborhood not far from the house had drawn in scumbags who pilfered through vehicles and played loud rap music late into the night.
Drug deals happened regularly at the local market.
I told myself that we were looking at our Tennessee life through Wyoming eyes.
Life was just faster in Tennessee.  
Busier.  More crowded.  We would adjust.  We would get used to it again.
I kept telling myself that.
And then one day LC told me that he wanted to go back to Wyoming.
I did as well.
But I didn't.
In the span of less than two years we had lived in Tennessee, Alaska, Wyoming and Tennessee.
I couldn't move again.
Not again.
I couldn't leave Sean again.
Not again...........................

And then he died.
And I couldn't stay in that house.
The house that I had been so excited to buy, the house that had been the home to me and Jamie (and then LC), the house that stored all my beloved outdoor gear in rooms and closets and covered car ports.................I couldn't be there.
Not anymore.
He was in every room.  I could see his face.  See his body.  Hear his voice. See him walking and eating and smiling and hugging and laughing and reaching under the Christmas tree for gifts and rummaging through the refrigerator for food.
He was everywhere.  
And slowly...............and day at a was driving me towards grief-stricken insanity.
I could feel it.
LC - we have to leave here.
We have to go back to Wyoming.
There's nothing here in Tennessee for us anymore.
We have to move again.
Start a new life.

For the past few years my house in Tennessee has been rented consistently by a number of tenants.
Thankfully decent tenants.
LC and I toyed often with selling the house since we had no intention of going back to Tennessee, but we also couldn't afford the luxury of keeping the house empty for very long.
Not while also incurring bills here in Idaho.
We needed consistent rent to pay the mortgage on the house in Tennessee and so we never did get it sold.
Until this week...................... 

About a month ago I received a phone call from our property manager in Tullahoma.
There had been a fire at the house.
He didn't know how bad, but the city Fire Marshall would call me the next morning.
Little by little over the next few days, I began to get a fuller picture of what had happened.
At first I understood that the fire had been small, that the elderly lady in the house was in the hospital but the extent of her injuries was unknown, that her grandson and his girl friend were also staying at the house.
Within a few days I finally understood how serious the fire had been.
I spent a couple of days talking to the city Fire Marshall, the insurance agent, the insurance adjuster, the insurance fire inspector, and receiving endless reports from various city and state fire inspectors.
The lady died.
A combination of burn injuries and smoke inhalation.
A Dollar Store extension cord had been overloaded, which had started the fire.
The grand son and his girlfriend had gone to the grocery store, the extension cord had caught fire, which in turn set the recliner on fire.
The lady was on oxygen, which fed the fire, which set the lady on fire.
She made it as far as the den before collapsing.
She survived for one more day.
With all the working smoke detectors we had installed in the house we were found to not be at fault in any way, and the fire was ruled an accident.
The fire department arrived quickly enough that there was no structural damage to the house, but every room inside had extensive damage.  Some fire but much of it smoke damage.
And of course all the damage (holes in ceiling, water damage) resulting from the fire department putting out the fire.
When it was all said and done I received a call from the claims adjuster giving me a dollar figure and three options.
The option LC and I chose was to try and sell the house as-is.
Likely to a contractor who could do the work himself and get supplies at cost, and who could either fix and rent the house, or fix and flip the house.
It took a week to sell it.
Between the settlement from the insurance agent and what we will get from the contractor who bought the house (after paying real estate agent fees) we will make a little money on the deal.
And our association with the house will be done................

So ends my relationship with a house that I loved.
I abandoned my house in search of professional opportunities that turned into a nightmare.
I came back to my house with hopes of rebuilding the normal and organized life that I had left behind two years earlier.
And I abandoned my house again in such grief that I knew I would never return to it.
I haven't been in that house in four and a half years now.
Goodbye House.
I only knew you briefly.
I loved you.
Goodbye Tennessee.
I don't think I will ever see you again.....................

No comments:

Post a Comment