We recently closed on a house that is being built. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a small house – 1100 square feet, two bedrooms, two bathrooms plus an office and a sunroom. It will have a walking track, lawn maintenance and is about a half a mile from a cute, small town. It’s in a community of nice homes with people who seem friendly. I’m hoping we can make some friends there.
We had looked around this area for a place to buy off and on since we moved here nearly ten years ago. We considered moving to an area where we could be closer to our daughter or son and grandkids. It’s difficult to have people you love and want to be around on two separate coasts. With health issues (Joe’s heart attack and me being in the hospital twice last year with UTI’s that went septic) and COVID, we haven’t seen Eric and his family in more than three years. We haven’t seen our grandkids in more than three years. It’s a difficult thing for me not to be able to see my family on a regular basis. Although our daughter no longer lives near us, we are able to see her more often as she lives only four hours away. We still miss having her close. Housing costs in both areas were prohibitive for us, especially since I would have to give up my job to move either place and we wouldn’t qualify without my income. There’s no easy solution. This opportunity came up and we decided to make the commitment to once again try to make a house feel like our home.
After Jason died, we had a hard time figuring out where we belonged. No place felt like home any more. Everything was changed; nothing felt comfortable and easy. The house that was busy with activity and people before Jason died was now so lonely and quiet that the silence literally hurt my ears. It hurt my heart even more. Every corner, every place was a reminder of Jason’s absence. Every time we left the house and had to drive by the accident site, which was often, the reminder of that horrible day and his death stared us in the face. Some of the people we knew were uncomfortable with such deep grief and avoided us like we had something contagious. We became the people that other people pointed to from across the room, the ones whose son had died, the ones people ducked down the grocery aisles to avoid. Most people had no idea what to say to us. It was difficult, to say the least.
Joe and I struggled horribly. I felt like I was crushed to nothingness, an empty box with both ends cut out. Increased noise sensitivity and a flight-or-fight reflex whenever I felt trapped or cornered in any way were just some of the things I dealt with on a daily basis. I couldn’t sit still for very long. I was antsy and restless. My doctor prescribed sleeping pills so I could get some sleep. We didn’t want to stay around the empty house on weekends, but we didn’t have much of anything to do. It was hard to find the enthusiasm and interest to do anything. I kept going to school and Joe kept working. It’s as if we thought that if we just kept moving, maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much.
We eventually sold our house in Snohomish and most everything we had and moved to Oklahoma. We purchased a home and bought some furniture. I got a job. Instead of feeling at home, I found that I pulled inside myself and went into a survival mode there and, although I worked full time, felt like I mostly just existed to make it through the day so I could go to bed. While it had been difficult to live in a place that screamed of Jason’s absence, it was even harder to live in a place where he had never been, around people who never knew him. My sense of connectedness was gone and I felt adrift.
After deciding that Oklahoma was not the place for us, we once again sold our house, along with all of the furnishings we had purchased a few years earlier. The things we wanted to keep, such as photos and momentos, went into storage until we knew where we were going to land. Since then, we have lived in furnished rentals in Florida and North Carolina, trying to figure out where we fit. We still have the few belongings we have left in a storage unit. I currently work two jobs – one for 30 hours a week and one on a contract basis. Joe, never one to sit still, has found odd jobs to keep him busy in retirement and in pocket cash. We really don’t know where else to go. You really can’t outrun grief. No decision is a decision in itself and it’s time we have a home of our own.
I am, at the same time, both excited and filled with trepidation at this purchase and such a large commitment at this stage in our lives. It hasn’t helped that rising inflation costs and supply chain issues are affecting building materials and things we need to purchase for our home. We need to purchase most EVERYTHING for our home – from pots and pans to appliances to a bed to sleep in – and everything in between. I have been working gradually at purchasing kitchen items – with the help of my sister who had a virtual “housewarming Pampered Chef party” for us a while back and family who bought items for the house at Christmas. We are working on the big-ticket items, but need to have the house to be done enough to be able to have delivery there, all while trying to work through rising prices and backorders. It’s a bit overwhelming at times.
I’m hoping we finally can feel “at home” in this house. As I said earlier, I haven’t really felt “at home” any place since before Jason died. Carrie Underwood sings a song called “Temporary Home,” one with which I feel an affinity. I know that we are all travelers just passing through this life on earth. This is our temporary home. I believe that one day we will see Jason again in our final destination, our home in the heavens. I look forward to that day. Until then, we will do our best to be people of whom he would be proud and try to find joy and contentment where we can in our new home while we are here on earth.
The anniversary of Jason’s death is one month from today. It has always been a difficult time of year for me. Grief ebbs and flows, but it never ends. As of this year, he will have been gone longer than he lived. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that. We will find some way to honor Jason in our new home. He is always in our thoughts and in our hearts. We take him with us wherever we go.
© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney
(edited slightly for clarity)