Friday, March 2, 2012

Journal 132 A house is not a home

Talk to the universe. Ask your lucky star for help. You’re never alone. Stay in touch and keep the dialogue going. Answers will come.
--Phil Booth, astrologer extraordinnaire

Well, I'm back. 
I know.  
It's been a few days, unusual for me. 
But I will say this; I have been helping to move my mom to her new apartment in the city, closer to my sister and I, for the past two days.
I've had two vacation days off work (Thursday and Friday) to do this. Vacation days as a description of the last couple of day is a grave misnomer, but I haven't yet come up with an alternate. Not personal days, because those are more the type when you just cannot think of a good reason to get out of bed and continue with your daily routine sometimes; perhaps "Family days" in the sense of the word that, this is stuff you do to help your family member(s) and it can't be avoided, for the most part, in this life, unless you are one of the selfish types who leaves that stuff to vague "others".  
Alot has happened over the past few days. 
I had a three-day workweek due to the vacation days and that is stressful in itself. Wednesday I performed in a particularly Herculean manner, attending to tasks with lightning speed and dashing off email missives, typing faster even than my normal speed, which let me tell you, is fast. I don't do "slow".
OK pause here, the water is ready for the coffee. And I'm going to put my ipod on so I can block out the sound of a large truck outside.
I'm back.
The events of the past two days are almost too big to fit on this blog.  But I will try. This may involve list format, or date-blocking for the sense of breivity, a cup of coffee with Bailey's beside me, vase of flowers here too, reminding me to come back to peace..

Wednesday, February 29th (that ever-auspicious, clumsy date, apologetic for it's tardy, every-four-year-arrival):
Snowstorm in morning.
EARLY meeting with v.i.p. client that involves me driving from my condo in downtown TO to north, north, then west of the city. For 9am. This involves waking up at 6, leaving by 715 the latest, on the off chance that there might be a pile up on the highway.  Keeping in mind that I'm going directly to my mom's after work so I need to pack and bring a bag with pajamas, glasses, clothes for the next day, etc.
I arrive. Early. Find a coffee place, get one and drink it (I don't need it, by the way, I'm fuelled enough by caffiene at this time). 
Get back to the meeting offices, meet boss, go into meeting, wait the obligatory half-hour in the lobby.
Have meeting. Hit it out of the park, if I don't mind saying so myself.
Go back to office, about half an hour away, driving in the blowing snow. 
Work like a trojan tying up loose ends for the two days I won't be there (with one team member on vackay herself, and another sick).  Filled with a sense of "what is the whole f*cking point of this anyway?" continue working like a dog in spite of it.
Snow stops, turns to freezing rain, frozen black roads as I leave my office.  The highway is not an option at this point, so I drive a long, messy drive to Ajax, ninety-tired-minutes.  I arrive after 7 pm (yes, I'm into hour eleven of my day) and Mike is already there with my mom.  The house is very empty, except for a large collection of boxes and the furniture that is coming with her.  The house smells like cardboard, and my teenage bedroom, still painted eggplant purple, is empty.  My sister's old bedroom, slate blue, where my dad took his last breath, is a smattering of boxes and the glow-in-the-dark solar system on the ceiling she used to look at, presumably, as she fell asleep at night. 
After a nice dinner at the Ajax Keg, we go home, my mom talks to my sister on the phone, Mike and I watch American Horror Story (my mother does not understand my recent addiction to this and to watching any and all horror movie. I get it now--it helps make sense of my own life. I'm telling you. NOTHING on the screen will scare me after the events of the last few years). We watch it and when it's done it's time to do a task that I've been dreading--scatter some of my dad's ashes in the backyard. We go outside, the three of us, break open the box, the bag inside, clear, filled with grey ash, not with him, just ash.  I have trouble making the connection. We sprinkle them together; the corner where we sprinkled the ashes of our black lab, Shadow, our family dog, my father's dog, really.  We sprinkle them where his lawn chair used to be, where he would sleep outside after treatments that last summer, in the shade, his feeding tube visible on his stomach, taped down. Evidence of a major illness.
Beside me, Mike puts his arm around me and squeezes. He's tearing up, as is my mother. I'm numb. Not with the cold (and it's cold, and I have that sense again that I seldom get--         I can't get warm).  I also can't, as I mentioned, make the connection between these little particles and kneeling in front of a statue of St. Jude in my church, praying to the saint of lost causes. It seems more likely my father is somewhere in that building, St. Paul's Basilica, where I spent so much time praying (begging), crying (panicking, on the inside, where no one could see), hoping (hopelessly).  That aside, on this last night in the house, we wanted him to at least have some part of his 'final resting place' (what an expression. honestly) to be at the house he loved, irrationally sometimes to me. Anyway, we do it.
My mom keeps only her double bed to bring to her new apartment. Mike stays up late, watching tv, on the last night in the house, I go upstairs to my old bedroom, and, fuelled shamelessly by a sleeping pill (my anxiety has racheted in the past few days, to a level I haven't seen in a long time) and go to sleep on the floor, duvet wrapped around me like a sleeping bag.

Thursday, March 1st: 
Morning comes about ten minutes later (this is what it feels like) and at 8am my mother wakes me up (it does feel like teenage-hood) and I get ready for the movers' arrival at 9am.
They arrive promptly, as I am in the middle of drill-sargeant mode, gearing up for what I know is going to be a very very long day.
I won't linger over details of the move. 
It was executed over a series of hours, with Mike acting as the third moving man, with me throwing the last few items  into random boxes, running out of packing tape, using masking tape at the very end, locking the door at the very end, the kitchen empty, our kitchen table that we ate dinner at from the time I was about eight years old, gone.  My mother crying in the kitchen, free-form sadness. Me, unable still, to cry.  The weight of all that's happened financially to my parents sitting squarely on my shoulders, a yoke that I am unable to budge.
Moving truck pulls away, my mother and I lock up the house, one last time, and I drive her
to her new home.  We have garbage in the garage and a buyer squawking about having her second visit (which my mom told the agent she was too busy to deal with--my sister and I unanimously commending her for standing up for herself--after speaking to our agent I told her that the buyer could come on moving day AFTER we were out. Quick background--the buyer had pushed aggressively for the March 2nd closing date, which was hard for us to meet--and we all felt she could bloody well wait to get in there one last time).
The second half of a move, as Mike pointed out, does go faster--you systematically unpack the truck, put stuff where-ever, and deal with all the boxes later. It goes quickly. We have a tense half-hour of not being able to get my mother's oversized (beautiful) brick-red couch in the narrow doorway of a building built in 1928.  Mike and the movers take the legs off.
Finally--it fits.
Move done, movers paid (ah when I summarize it here it all seems so simple and easy..oh god).
That done, Mike and I go to get cleaned up, and my sister is coming over to my mom's later with her kids.
I also go to a therapy appointment, where I unabashedly cry, something I haven't done in a long time, but I have no idea that this is pre-meltdown. It ain't, as they say, over, til it's over.

Meaning: real estate deals are tricky.

It's evening, I've been back and forth to my mom's a couple of times, and the agent is calling. There's some confusion with the keys, with the lockbox (which we removed) and the buyer is raising a bit of a stink.  I talk to my agent, at this point, I'm still calm. My lawyer, I explain, has had a key since Monday, and knowing him, the buyer's lawyer already has the key. I'm not worried about this, and swat away the query like an errant, annoying fly.
It's 9pm now, end of moving day, Mike is engrossed in a Bruins game, and the agent (my agent) calls again. I ignore it. I'm hungry, the buyer gets possession tomorrow, and I'm done dealing with this today, tonight. 
Mike and I decide to go over to the pub across the street, and I go ahead of him because I'm hungry and need a few minutes to mull over the exhausting day. 
Seated at a booth at the pub I check the message from my agent, that (paraphrasing) goes something like this: "umm they, the buyers, are threatening not to close tomorrow because they didn't get an opportunity to view the property again."
I double, no, I TRIPLE take and send one succinct text, not trusting myself to call her: 
'I'm sorry, WHAT?'
Hit send.
Minutes pass. 
My phone rings. It's my agent. I waste absolutely no time and no words on this call.
"A.--let me explain something to you--I am an extremely stressed-out individual right now, and have been for a couple of years. NOTHING has changed on the 'property' which by the way is not some house where we had squatter's rights for a couple of years--it is my mother's MARITAL HOME WHERE SHE LIVED WITH MY NOW-DECEASED FATHER FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS".  
(the capital letters indicate how my voice began to raise. Like, really raise. Like. YELL).
I continued:
"Let the buyer and her goddamn agent know that I am furious that they would even broach this issue after how emotional today was for my mother, and that if they so much as move the closing by a minute I WILL SUE THEIR ASS AND YOU KNOW I'LL DO IT.  Tell them this, from ME."
By this point my agent was stammering. She couldn't get a word in.
Me again: "Tell you what-I am calling my lawyer first thing tomorrow morning and I will get back to you with WHAT I DECIDE TO DO".
I was back in that place--the hospital with my dad, anyplace where my parents, older, defenceless, are being threatened, either by a cunning disease, or in this place, a cunning buyer with a cunning agent. I HATE CUNNING.
Mike happened to arrive after this phone call, this exchange, and by this time, I had dissolved. I pulled it together. My friend N. texted, as I had run into her earlier. I texted her back, the kind of text where there is tone, and just relating it to her, what was going on, what might happen, sent me over the edge again. I had to leave the pub, go back across the street to my condo, where I literally did have one of those melt-down moments where  my mind goes on a loop of "what the fuck am I going to do now? WHAT THE FUCK?"
all while crying hysterically.  Mike, once again, calmed me down, I took another sleeping pill to bed, and slept for about eight dreamless hours.

Friday, March 2nd
My eyes popped open at 8:56 am. Friday morning. I awaken as enraged as I was the night before, and somehow, I remember my lawyer's phone number, total recall, without looking it up, and I am punching in the numbers on my cell phone before I have even left my bed.
I get the office's machine, probably because the office opens at nine. 
I leave what I hope is a succinct, understandable message, and my lawyer's lovely legal secretary calls me back about ten minutes later, with some calming news (that my realtor, I feel, should have known); a buyer can't legally delay a closing for not getting a second visit). I breathe, shallowly, some relief, and she says she'll talk to my lawyer when he gets in. And also tells me they sent the key to the buyers lawyer on Tuesday (so out the window goes their sob story about not being able to get in the house--I had told my agent to have their lawyer call my lawyer {dear god this is complicated, even writing it's tiring, but I must get it out, I must excise it} so something, to me, is going on. I don't know what it is yet).
Mike and I have early dentist appointments, so we get ready, coffee'ed up, and head to Scarborough where my dentist  is. My appointment is first. I wait for Mike when he goes in after me.
It's in the dentists' waiting room when my lawyer calls. With news that I was not prepared for in any way. It seems this whole 'second visit, delay closing' has been a bluff, a smokescreen, for a much bigger issue: their financing is on the verge of collapse. I feel things flashing, but I keep calm. My lawyer describes himself as "being a bit perturbed by this" and goes on to explain what our options are, and I am in shock (can things really really go this wrong ALL THE TIME?).  We have the option to terminate the deal, today, get the buyer's deposit (back all in one piece, to us--more tricky real estate/legal stuff), or give them a slight extension.
If the deal falls through, we have to re-sell the house, the one my mother is now no longer living in, and we will have to carry the costs (taxes, etc) until it's re-sold, and closed. Only then will we get the money from the house.
I am literally almost on the floor from this news, but I am in a public place so I maintain my composure, give my lawyer the instructions, which are the most vicious options I can--I don't have any sympathy for the cunning, and I believe they need to be dealt with very differently from honest people. They have until Wednesday, now, to come up with the financing, and will forfeit the deal if they don't, and we up the deposit amount they owe by 50 %. Note: not reducing it by 50%. UPPING IT.
Then, I will have to re-sell the house (lord help me) and sue them (the first buyer) for damages.
Mike comes out of his appointment as I am getting off the phone with my lawyer, and I try to explain this all to him, and repeating it makes it even more real.
We go grocery shopping, I'm in a fog (I'm also medicated, I'm coming clean right now: xanax came with me that morning).  
We drive to my mom's new place, my sister is there with her son, and I catch her in the hallway, and I unload on her. I have to. She can see it in my face. She is incredulous, but somehow we cobble together a plan where we will float the costs together, and worry about it later. We decide not to even worry my mother about this, but it does come up later. 
Maybe it was good that it did. My mother channels her worries and problems through her faith, something that today, I sorely admit I had real trouble doing.
We continue with the unpacking, I am again, fuelled by anxiety and I get alot done that way.
The lawyer calls mid-afternoon.  It's looking good he says. They seem to have secured the financing. I am in my mom's new bedroom, door shut, hearing this news. I sink down on the bed, really breathing now. He says he is waiting for the money to arrive and that is the only way this will be complete. He will call back. Goddamn, I think, why does it had to be 2pm on a Friday?
His assistant calls at 5:30pm.  They have the money, my lawyer does.
It means the house will now close Monday.
I don't care. We are out of there, and the buyer is (I hope) thoroughly chagrined, and ashamed of their behaviour.
I also have the distinct satisfaction of knowing that if it was this tough to cobble financing together at the eleventh hour, a mortgage, taxes, and all the nuances that go along with it will not be easy for this buyer to carry.

So that's my saga, that's my story.
It ends Friday night, cooking dinner with my mom and Mike in her new, (tiny) but lovely kitchen, after a 4 km run in the dark, up and down the hilly streets of the Beaches. 

Survival. Wow. Sometimes it just takes everything, doesn't it?

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