making peace with my house



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When Doug and I first moved to this house, it was to care for his mom who was deep in a battle with dementia.  She was combative and angry.  I spent my days trying to keep her safe and myself sane.   

I spent my nights listening to her sing and wander thru the house.  It was rare for me to manage more than 2 hours of sleep in a row.  There was little Doug could do as he worked full time and commuted several hours a day. 

When I planned ahead and paid for alternative caregiving, she was so angry when I returned that it didn’t feel worth it.  I felt like a prisoner, with one daily exception… the early morning hours and my view off the back deck of the house. 

Oddly, she usually fell asleep for two to three hours just before sunrise.  So I made my coffee, read, wrote and enjoyed the morning from a second floor window.  I typically ended up outside on the deck.  With phone in hand, I collected photos of the yard, the neighborhood and the sky.  I have nine years’ worth now.

I didn’t feel alone, or scared, or imprisoned when I was out there.  I felt loved. 

I felt the very words of Psalm 19, how the heavens “speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth and their words to all the world”.  Whatever the message was that was sent from the skies, held me together all those early mornings.

After my mother-in-law died, we moved my parents in with us.  We headed down that ugly dementia road again, but this time with my dad.  Dad was lost in his mind, Mom was struggling with physical issues and I was asking God how, in the name of all that is holy, do I keep on keeping on?  He never actually responded to that question, but as long as I showed up in the early morning hours, so did He.

One afternoon, Mom joined me outside on the deck and told me how thankful she was to be with us.  She told me it was a blessing for her and Dad to be here.  She told me this was the most lovely place and that it was a place where I could heal, if I’d let it happen.  

My only thought – –  are you kidding… this place is killing me! – – didn’t leave my lips.  Thankfully.  Because it’s a sweet memory of my mom. 

I’ve never found any healing process to be straight forward.  It takes more time and patience than I want to give.  I try to plan doing this, this and this and expect that result.  That doesn’t work either. 

Instead, these last few frustrating months, I’ve just had to let go.  Of a lot.  I let go of ugly sights I can’t un-see and words I can’t un-hear, let go of relationships that have crumbled, of loved ones I won’t see again in this life, and let go of precious time I can’t get back.  I had to stop hating this house for all the bad and the ugly. 

And that has allowed me to remember more of the good stuff.  

I feel better.

Putting the house up for sale has also not been a straight forward process.  It’s called for hard work and more letting go.  The more I’ve put into her, the more protective I feel.  I want the right family to have her and fill up all the rooms. 

A couple weeks ago we received an insultingly low offer to buy.  When we refused, they made a slightly less insulting offer and included a letter.  In that letter they actually whined about all the things they would need to change before moving in.  It would take them weeks to accomplish and would delay their occupancy.  

I’m not sure what they hoped to achieve with that letter, but it certainly didn’t win them the house.  It sounded like they just needed to move on.

But their letter did inspire me to think about what this house is to me and write it down.  I didn’t waste my words on them.  We just told them “no thanks”.  I’ll share those words here: 

She was a blank slate, built on almost two acres of rural beauty by my amazing father-in-law. 

She has celebrated new births, graduations, birthdays, goodbyes, and most American and Canadian holidays.  She has sent sons to war and gratefully welcomed them home.  Two generations of grandchildren have run through the rooms, into the garden, amongst the trees and camped in the attic.

She’s been a place to lament the hard parts of life.  Sometimes a lonely place, but always safe.  She’s been a healing place to recover.

Joyful weddings and receptions have happened here.

Aging parents have been lovingly cared for here.

She has hosted 22 family and friends for a sit-down Christmas dinner, a barbecue of over 70 military veterans and spouses, celebrating life, liberty and friendship, and yet is intimate enough to hold one man and one woman preparing for their next chapter.

What this house is not – – an HGTV beauty queen with all the fancy finishes. 

She has good bones.  The power and water running through her systems are strong and tested.  The windows of her soul, all 30 of them, are modern and energy efficient.

She is welcoming and comfortable. Ready, also, for her next chapter.

She is a spacious place for body and soul.

The view and the sky are beyond price.


5 thoughts on “making peace with my house

  1. Profound and perfect. Life can be gorgeous and unbeautiful all at once. The pleasant, comfortable and painful at the same time. I love how houses reflect and inspire life and relationships. Kudos to you for your years with care of parents. You will be blessed ( are blessed!).
    I’ll be interested to hear where the next steps take you..

    Good to hear from you, my friend,


  2. I never cared for someone in my home, but I know the grief of “the long goodbye’ with my sweet Mother-in-law and the pains and joys that come through walking this life.

    As I read your words and gaze into your photos, I see why your Mom could say it is a place for healing. I think peace and joy can and did saturate not only walls but your whole environment there. It is such a blessing to have a safe place in the storms.

    May the Lord send the right family and strengthen you in the waiting.


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