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Leaving the Family Homestead

May 18, 2024  |  615 words  |  Philosophy

I am in the process of selling the property where I’ve lived for the last 30 years, the place where my ex-wife and I raised our four children.  She moved out in December 2021, a month before the final divorce decree was issued.  I spent the next few months having the first floor refurbished after the wear and tear of those three decades’ worth of living, with the idea of staying put and preparing for the next phase of my life.

But my plan had to be revised when I took up with a woman who was not the least bit interested in moving that far out to the western suburbs, that far away from her own life.  I was forced to compromise and the two of us met in the middle, geographically speaking, finding a place that is much newer and much smaller than the two-acre garden of paradise I gratefully tended all those years.

My now-fiancé and I took occupancy of our new home this past January, and I have spent these last few months refurbishing the remainder of the old house, the basement and second floor, making it market-ready and hoping for a quick sale.  That plan worked like a charm, and now settlement with the new owners is just a few weeks away.  The only things left to do are a few minor issues the township inspector wants addressed before the title transfers.  

So it was this morning that I found myself sitting on my old back porch waiting for my youngest son the carpenter to arrive and tend to those inspector-mandated items.  Being early gave me a chance to linger and take in my surroundings.  The sky was lightly overcast and spitting rain ever so gently.  The azaleas and rhododendrons were in bloom.  The red maple out front was in its glory.  The birds were singing their hearts out, and the smaller ones were flitting back and forth from shrub to tree and back to shrub again, as if conversing with me.  Such a bucolic scene, with such a mellifluous soundtrack.

It wasn’t that long ago I was telling anyone who would listen I was never going to leave this place, never going to sell this property.  But things change.  The old man version of me no longer wants to spend the time (or has the energy) to maintain this much house and this much yard, no matter how beautiful the setting.  The last two years have helped me come to terms with this reality and get me psychologically prepared for the prospect of leaving.  I think I might just be ready to begin the proverbial next phase of my life, even though it is going to look vastly different than I previously thought it would.

In hindsight it was also a good thing to clean out and tune up the entire inside of this 65-year-old house, instead of eventually dying in place and leaving my kids with a big mess on their hands.  Naturally the massive make-over helped the house sell faster and attract the best price.  But now that it’s all done, I am experiencing another positive by-product I hadn’t fully anticipated.  

As I am finally coming to terms with moving on, there is also a corresponding and very appropriate sense of handing things off, as if I am actively presenting the new owners with a lovely gift.  With the decks cleared and everything stowed away they get to move in and start dreaming right away.  In a fond, farewell gesture I find myself hoping this place inspires the new owners to dream productively, the way it did me.  I hope they have many years of happiness here.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.

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