Building this house has been a long hard road. It wasn’t a choice that we made, it was a corner that we got backed into. Our illness made other living situations impossible at the time. Believe me, we tried, but all of our efforts were in vain and in 2005 we broke ground for the little house. We did our best to make the most of a difficult situation. We tried to be cheerful and we were deeply grateful, but we still struggled a good deal, all the same.
All of this time, we’ve been carrying the mortgage on the old house. We can’t sell it because we did the right thing and had it tested. And now we know. We know the connection that it had to our illness. It is documented all over the place. And even if it wasn’t and we wouldn’t be considered liable, I could never, ever knowingly expose someone else to such a health threat.
So, we paid our mortgage every month and at the same time drained our savings account to start building a house that we could actually live in. And then from there we kept running off of credit. Our debts kept accumulating until we were basically carrying the equivalent of two mortgages. And that’s just not sustainable. And even with all of that work and time and money being spent, we are still so, so far from being done. We have almost no siding and very few interior walls; inadequate insulation under the house and no plumbing; electric in only a small section of the house and on and on. It would take us years and tens of thousands of dollars that we don’t have to finish this place.
Earlier this month we declared bankruptcy. And getting by is still a struggle. With no credit to put towards the task at hand, we’re looking at a solid decade before we get even basic plumbing. And that is if nothing else goes wrong (she said while trying to ignore the strange sound that the refrigerator has been making, the groaning of the water pump and the hot water heater that’s on the fritz at the old house, and the car that we just dropped off at the junkyard).
This lifestyle is not an easy one and there are times that I feel on the verge of a nervous break-down and I do feel quite certain the Steve is working himself into an early grave. Meanwhile, the tasks of a day are so numerous and so all-consuming that we feel like the respective childhoods in progress around us are slipping away while we are both busy just trying to keep life going.
My dentist says that I’m wearing the teeth right out of my head with unconsciously clenching them and my muscles are so tight that they strain and twitch. Steve has had a herniated disk in his upper back for years now. It aches at it’s best and greatly pains him at it’s worst. He’s been told that his only option is surgery, but that he wouldn’t be able to do any lifting at all for several months afterward. We can’t get by that way, so he lives on in pain. Our bodies all wear the strain of years of illness, struggle and strife.
I love this land. Three out of four of my children have known no other and the remaining child doesn’t remember life before here. It’s been blessed with our blood, sweat and tears. It’s been the setting and the source of many stories that are sure to be told over the years, rich in familylore. It’s a good place. I’ve given birth to babies in both houses on this land. Each drew his/her first breath by the fire of what we called home. It’s been the scene of joyous reunions, heartrending sorrows and lots of everyday living in between. This house has been our salvation in some of our darkest times and I often feel that we quite literally owe our lives to it’s existence.
Thanks to this house, we are now well enough that we have the possibility of going out into the world to find housing we can tolerate. But it’s still scary. It’s scary on a lot of levels and for a lot of reasons. The truly terrifying part is that we risk reversing all of the strength and good health that we’ve gained being here. There is a chance that we may again have to watch our children suffer as our health deteriorates. We are going to do our very best to protect everyone but in a situation like this there is a certain element that has to be left to chance.
As my dear, sweet husband put it, “It is awful and it’s going to break my heart too and my blood is literally in that house but we can’t do it anymore. We’ve done an amazing thing the past four years or so but I think it’s time to try to live more normally again.”
And so we’re abandoning this house that we’ve worked so hard and sacrificed so much to create. It’s a very difficult and emotional decision, but I do believe that it’s where we need to go from here.
Cautiously we move forward, with heavy, yet hopeful hearts and many little prayers, in hope of a better life for us all.