Tuesday, February 22, 2011

REO for the Faint of Heart

I was neither thrilled nor scared when the offer was accepted by the bank. The house needed a lot of work. The refrigerator was missing and the toilets didn’t work, among a long list of other things.

People tend to yank things they can haul away or break the ones they can’t when the bank tells them, shockingly, they have to go because they haven’t been paying the mortgage.

It was the thing we had to do, for the stairs will be impossible for mom to negotiate in the years to come, and all the half-way decent houses were out of our price range. I, on the other hand, had to suppress my tears whenever I thought about leaving the house and the city that have been my home for the past thirteen years.

I realized just now that I had lived like a gypsy until I moved to this city near the bay, and soon found out it was less expensive to buy this little house than to rent an apartment.

Things changed much downwardly after I read the inspection report. I called the agent and said I didn’t think I wanted the house anymore. It wasn’t painful to say it, because I didn’t fall in love.

Adding to the long list of repairs, the foundation was uneven from the moisture in the soil. The inspector said the problem was common--every house in that area had this problem and it was not anything serious.

Foundation lifting? Not serious?? I wasn’t going to buy into that. I wanted my deposit back.

He immediately came up with a great idea, which made me wonder why he didn’t say so earlier. I had my theory, or course. Anyway, his idea was to get repair quotes from two companies and submit an addendum to the bank. They might agree to credit the repair fee after the sale.

The bank was more than generous--they agreed to lower the selling price in the amount comparable to the foundation repair. That squashed my hope for skipping the deal and staying put for now.

With the same price I could buy two houses in Sacramento area. I can rent one out and, combined with the rent from the house I’m in right now, the income could be a big help for us. Mom said she could live in a townhouse with stairs, so we could afford one in this low-crime high-class area nearby and preserve my back from not having to maintain a house. Numerous scenarios ran through my mind during the ten-day “weasel” period I almost went mad. In the end though, I had to nip these ideas one by one.

Mom was thinking only the present. Her health will make climbing the stairs feel like conquerring Mt. Everest soon. The suburb of Sacramento is not suited for someone like her at all. The whole town probably has one Chinese restaurant. If you don’t like it, well, you just have to learn to love it. I’m not sure if I’m ready to listen to her constant complaint, giving that she likes to eat out so much.

So, with much dread and a trembling hand, I signed and released the contingency on the tenth day. Reluctantly, I will be moving to a strange city and living among strangers soon. The only relief is the tiring process of house hunting, that includes driving all over the places, the letdown after looking at the houses and their prices, the realtor who didn’t show up at the property because he simply forgot (and was promptly fired by me), or we couldn’t get in because the key didn’t work, or the renter changed the locks and refused to open the door so all the time and effort were wasted, or the strange remodeling work done to the house that made me think "WTH were they thinking," or the previous owner’s wife died in the house so I walked through the house with a repeated silent prayer, is behind me.

Now the new chapter begins--remodeling. I’ve heard that dealing with contractors is a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Heaven Awaits

My car is racing on the freeway the way my heart is. How can this be, I ask myself. They said he had six months, and that was no more than a month ago. They are doctors. They can’t be that off.

All these people driving on the freeway on a glorious 70-degree warm February day, probably off to do a variety of fun activities, taking full advantage of the unseasonal warm weather, makes me wonder if they know how ridiculous they look. It’s so bright out there I have to put the sunglasses on. It should be a happy day. You don’t die on a happy day. They shouldn't look so cheerful.

I pull up behind Lena’s car. She gets out and we hug each other. She comments on how fast I made it—I live three cities away. We both look like we missed something from our morning routine—either a shower or some makeup. I was working in the garage when I got the sad news. Shower will have to wait.

Jessie opens the door with glassy eyes and a surprised look. The hospice just left and the undertakers are on their way. Lena and I both decline the inquiry of seeing him. I don’t know about Lena, but I am a little scared. We don’t know what to do so we go outside and greet the dogs, who are going crazy from being blocked away in the backyard. We can’t go back in without the dogs squeezing through with us, so we have to go out the side door, circle back to the front door, and knock on the door to be let in. Jessie is talking to the undertakers and shakes her head at us. We are sufficiently embarrassed. We are supposed to comfort and support her, not adding to her burden, which is just what we end up doing.

We sit in the kitchen when they prepare the deceased for transport to the mortuary. She tells us how he was snoring all night last night and didn’t eat. He snored this morning as well. When she decided to wake him up and eat at nine o’clock or so, he was no longer breathing or having heartbeats. I take a look outside the bedroom door before they start the prep work, and his skin is in unnatural pale-yellow. His left arm freezes above his chest, reaching for something, it looks like. I wish with all my heart, and tell Jessie so, that he went peacefully; but I cannot fully convince myself. Nobody knows what happens in the last moment, and that scares me.

He is taken away in thick blanketed bag and a white car. A red rose is left on what once was his pillow. I say a silent sendoff to the gentle giant, whose three-hundred-and-eighty pound imposing physique has been ravaged to a mere one-eighty by cancer. Jessie wants breakfast—it has been a long morning and she hasn't eaten yet. We do our best to finish, but not quite successfully, all the pancakes, breads, eggs, butter and syrup. She packs up all the leftovers for the dogs, including the syrup, ignoring our advice of how bad it is for them, then back to her house.

The weather is too nice to sit inside, so the picnic table under the magnolia tree is where we sit and talk. Jessie has waves of emotions that come and go. They have been together for twenty-five years, with the last three and half fighting cancer. She wishes she had been home the day before, which would be their last day together while he was awake, when we assure her the goodbyes had been said, the love had been shared and understood, and there would have been nothing she could have done to make it better for him. We manage to add some humor to our conversation, at first tentatively, but soon freely, with Jessie being the leading lady.

When she talks about the problems of her dogs, and stops to ask her son who also has a dog: “You don’t have any anal gland problems, do you?” and we laugh until tears roll down our faces, that’s when I know. Heaven is great, but living is better. Jessie is sad and will be for a while, but she is strong, and she will be okay.

That’s what they mean by life goes on. The living has to find a way to continue.

(To Jessie, whose husband Wes passed away on 2/5/11 from throat cancer.)


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