the day i grew up.

The day I grew up was August 31, 1995.

That’s the day I drove to my lawyer’s office and closed on our first house.  It’s also the day I drove to the hospital and brought home my wife and our baby.

The closing was scheduled for early in the day.  We were all packed and ready to move, but ultimately did not plan on actually moving on that day – too much, you know?  So I went to the lawyer’s office where I met the man from whom we were buying the house, his realtor, and our realtor Angie.

When I shook the man’s hand, he was crying.  He had built the house in the 1950s, lived there for 40 years with his wife.  He raised his family there.  Less than a year prior, his wife had passed away, leaving him alone in the house.  He didn’t want to be there on the anniversary of her passing, and so he listed and sold the house quickly.

We all sat down and began reviewing paperwork, signing documents, and writing checks.  The poor old guy was trying to hold it together the whole time.  As part of the deal, we had purchased his dining room set from him (which we still have), as well as his fridge and some of his yard maintenance tools – he was moving to a condo and didn’t have room for all that.  Eventually he began talking about the dining room set – how much his wife had liked it, how they ate so many good meals there, that sort of thing.  He was so emotional, I was actually getting a little choked up.

When it came time to write the checks, I signed the check that would be turned over to the owner.  He looked at it, then turned to his realtor and said “This is not how much I sold the house for.”

We had bought the house for $154,000.

The realtor explained that she gets a commission on the sale of the house, and so his actual cut was less than $154,000.

“But I sold the house for $154,000,” he pleaded.  “Where I come from, $154,000 is $154,000.”

His realtor looked at me and said “Don’t worry, I explained this all to him.  He’s just confused.”  She said this as if he wasn’t sitting right in front of her.  I remember promising myself that I would never marginalize the presence of another human being, regardless of how old they were, by talking about them as if they weren’t there, and as if they weren’t intelligent enough to comprehend the discussion that was happening right in front of them.

“I’m not confused,” he said.  “I listed my house for $154,000, and this young man offered me $154,000.  Now you’re giving me a check for less than that.  I built this house.”  He was crying again.

I felt awful for the guy.  Awful to the point where I almost negated the deal right then and there.  Clearly, he didn’t understand how a real estate transaction was supposed to work, and he thought he was supposed to be getting more money than he really was.  I felt like I was complicit in duping him.

Then I thought of my wife and baby, waiting for me in the hospital.  I was going to go to the hospital and tell them that they had no house?  That we were back to the drawing board – again – and would have to start the entire process of house-shopping? 

Fuck that, I thought.  I have a family to think of.

I finished the deal and got the keys to my new house.  I shook the man’s hand and thanked him, wished him the best of luck.  He smiled weakly at me, and congratulated me.  Then, I left and drove to my new house.

My new house.

I walked around inside the empty house, just looking around.  Things looked a little dingier than they did when the place was full of furniture and life.  The grass in the back yard didn’t look as lush, the shrubs that were so gorgeous were now looking a little overgrown.  I was quickly becoming aware of how much work needed to be done.

But it was our house, and we had forever to do it.

After about half an hour of sitting in my house, eating lunch (I had picked up a sandwich or something), I hopped in the car, took a deep breath, and drove to the hospital.

After filling out reams of more paperwork, and watching the nurses wheel my wife and baby out the front door, I went to the parking lot to get my car.  I specifically remember that I was listening to a demo CD (that’s right, a demo CD, not a demo tape – things were changing) by a band called Ironlung.  They were one of these bands that sounded like an ex-hardcore band that had mellowed and begun writing hard-edged, commercial metal songs – almost like a Token Entry-type of band.  

I had installed the car seat in the back of the car, and after wrestling with the baby carrier and helping Sandy get into the front seat, I got into the driver’s side, sat down, and buckled up.

Then I looked at Sandy and said “Now what?”

She laughed and said “I have no fucking idea.”

I’ve never driven so slowly in my life.  I was petrified that I was going to have a car accident, or that the car seat wasn’t properly installed, or that I was going to give my baby whiplash with my driving.

But more than that, I was afraid I was going to hit a pothole or a bump in the road.  I can’t wake the baby, I remember thinking. Once that baby wakes up, I have no idea what the hell to do.

Eventually, you woke up.  I don’t remember when, but you’re awake right now as I’m writing this, downstairs in the kitchen, Facebooking with your friends.

~ by Al on September 13, 2009.

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