The transite siding on the exterior of the house contains asbestos. The outer walls have insufficient insulation. The furnace needs replaced and the duct work that runs from the furnace to all corners of the house is in disarray, with some ducts leading to no where and others missing whole sections. Some of the electrical work in the house is the old knob and tube variety, which painstakingly needs updated, outlet by outlet and light by light. The roof needs replaced. The water heater is unsafe. The paint on the porch contains lead, which is also true of the window trim and several rooms with wood floors that have been painted. The upstairs bathroom needs replumbed. There is water damage in the hallway. The attic needs collar ties and the side door of the house is held shut by two nails and a screw. The original wood floors are buried underneath carpet and tile and glue and tar paper. The gutters are falling apart and there are at least five places on the first floor where you can see through holes into the cellar, which is a dilapidated mess in itself. Did I mention we need a new roof?
Suffice it to say, after decades of neglect and hard winters and one hundred and forty-three years of aging, our poor old home has been dying a slow death.
We are here to bring it back to life.
My second daughter died on March 24, 2011. The day before we left the hospital, we were planning our getaway. Going back to our life seemed damn near impossible, facing the same daily routine, going about our business as usual. It seemed like a cruel punishment, another layer of shit to add to the reality of going home without our Margot. So we schemed and planned our escape, talking over a hospital bed about where we could move to or how long we could travel for. In the end, we purchased a beat up motor home that we only used for one weekend.
We needed our friends. Needed a place for Stella to feel comfortable while we grieved. We needed to try and have another baby, and needed to have our same Doctor along for the journey.
For twenty months, we stayed in Los Angeles. We grieved. We got pregnant. And then we had Leo and some color returned to our charred hearts. And then some of the fog lifted, out of our weary minds, and we decided it was time for a new beginning, however brief or long this Midwestern experience will be.
We have toiled over this house, day after day, one of us going in to scrape or paint or clean or fix, slowly bringing our old home back to life. We have hauled enough trash out of the house to fill a five hundred and forty cubic feet dumpster. We have scraped tar paper from the wood floors, inch by literal inch, with steamers and heat guns and paint scrapers and chisels, all while on our knees, with blisters on our palms and cramping in our legs and the kind of shoulder ache that wakes you up in the middle of the night. We removed an oil tank from the basement and walked through cobwebs and repaired drywall and we're not even close to the end.
The strange truth of the matter, as we bring this old home back to life, is that the house on Fletcher Avenue may be returning the favor.