Home Is Not a House

I've lived in lots of places in my life so far. I was born in Maryland and raised in Arlington, Virginia until I was 6, at which time we moved to nearby McLean. I attended Georgetown University in Washington, DC and lived on campus there, moving each year, in the dorms and residential housing. After college I moved back in with my parents, and then in with my boyfriend in Arlington, and then he and I moved to another house in DC for awhile after that.

A couple of years later we decided to make the big move to Los Angeles. I remember packing up our car, I remember my mom saying goodbye in the garage as we drove off. I realized later how sad she was, but, I think, she was also happy for me to be making a life on my own. She didn't question that move, even though she probably worried for me. Good thing it ended up pretty great for me there.

Our first year in LA we lived in Los Feliz in a super cool historical subdivided house apartment with another couple of friends from Virginia. We moved there about a week before the LA riots broke out in 1992. We watched the fires from nearby Griffith Park observatory in horror. Our friends subsequently moved back East, and my boyfriend and I moved to another apartment in Hollywood, an eight unit building built in the '40s right off Sunset boulevard, where we rode out the Northridge quake of 1994. After a year there we moved to a house in Studio City, in the hills above Hollywood, where I remember we had to clear out the brush by law to help prevent fires.

Then, our relationship ended and I moved myself to my own little apartment back in Hollywood a few blocks from the Chinese theater, just below the reservoir and that famous Hollywood sign. I lived there for about five years, alone, happily, working in the entertainment business, in my 20s; seriously people, it was really good times.

In early 1999, I suddenly felt the pull to consider buying a house. I'm not sure where that thought came from, still being single and working only job-to-job as things go in the movie business, but I followed through, and found an adorable 1920's Spanish-style home in a crazy part of downtown LA dominated by gangs and crime. It was all I could afford, and I was so excited. Right in the middle of escrow I met Mike. Why is it that big things all seem to happen at the same time??

Our relationship progressed so quickly that by the time all the papers were signed he was moving in with me. And we lived there happily together for two years. At which time, after having eloped and honeymooned on Maui, and visited the Big Island which we desperately and hopelessly fell in love with, we decided that was our future. We sold that adorable bungalow in LA the very first day we put the for sale sign on the lawn, bought a house in Hawaii sight unseen through that newfangled thing called the Internet, and never looked back.

I've lived in this house here in Kona for longer than I've lived anywhere else save my childhood home in McLean, Virginia. And right now, things are happening again all at the same time. My house in Kona is midway through the official foreclosure process. And my childhood home in McLean is being prepared to be sold, after 42 years.

I mean: wow. I've never lived in one house for that long. But my parents have. My dad, due to his rapid and horrifying decline, is now living in an assisted living home, and my mom, for the first time in her life, is alone in that house, until my brother, and then I, return, the next week or two. And I am facing the reality that the home I've known since 2001, this house, this beautiful Hawaiian oasis with all my memories of Mike, is also on the chopping block.

One of my friends asked me, knowing these changes and my back-and-forth travels, asked, so, where is home for you these days? What's going on??

I had to stop for a moment and think. In fact I don't really know. Kona will always feel like home, in a way...I will be leaving the dogs here with my boyfriend, so there will be reasons to return as often as I can…I've spent long weeks in Virginia this fall helping my mom care for my dad, and having grown up there, it feels like home too, even staying in my old childhood bedroom. But the DC area has grown so much since my childhood that the traffic and mean people thing makes me know for sure I can't live there for long with any sense of peace.

So now the discussion is revolving around big, giant decisions about where to move next. Sell the childhood home, move mom, and dad...move me...most likely to South Carolina, a place near to other family, a place warmer, hopefully with some nice people and more affordable living...it's huge. And, I think, a way bigger transition for my mom than for me.

I have moved a lot, when I think about it; when I write it all down here, and consider how many places I have called home in my 48 years so far. But mom hasn't had to do all that. Sure she moved, from her childhood home on a farm in Illinois, to college, then to Boston where she met my dad, to an apartment in Arlington with him, and then that first house there, before McLean, not even sure what other moves she made. But 42 years in the same house? I'm worried, that this move, this gigantic transition from the comforts of what has been home for so many of us for so long will be traumatic for her, especially considering what's going on with my dad, which is a form of grief, for sure.

It makes my own transition through this foreclosure of the home I shared with Mike all those years seem small. I know, in my heart, that I will survive this move. That I will make the decisions, the changes, the shifts in body and soul, that I need to make. But mom? I am much more worried about her, and dad, at their age, and the difficulties we are facing with all that. So, I will move with them. I will go to a new city, settle dad somewhere nice hopefully, with good care, at least the best that can be found in his condition, make new friends, build a new life and career, because it is in the cards for me, and also because I want to be with my mom. I want to drive her to every doctor's appointment, take walks together, find a new life in the strange new world we both face without our husbands.

I've done it before, and I will do it again. I have managed, many times, to make a home for myself, in so many different places. Home is not a house. It is a feeling. It is wherever you are surrounded by family, and love. I am just thankful I have so much of that. But I don't even have to say how much I miss Mike in all this. Because, you know.

 


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  • commented 2016-12-09 06:47:38 -0800
    What a lovely thing you are doing, moving with parents. Your Mom will most certainly appreciate all you do. Did the house purge with my parents, who were in the same place for 55 years. Not easy, but doable. And they thrived in a another location til health issues arrived. Yes, “home is not a house”. And I do understand your missing of Mike in all of this. Take care.
  • commented 2016-12-09 01:47:30 -0800
    Lisa, thank you for sharing, it helps so much to know I am not alone in this ongoing process of finding peace in a sea of change. Hugs.
  • commented 2016-12-08 14:29:40 -0800
    Stephanie I can’t begin to tell you how this captures my own life. I realized the other day I’ve lived longer now in this place Tony and I called home then I’ve ever lived anywhere before, even my childhood home. and yet I’m feeling the urge to move once again. To have new adventures while I still can, and maybe even find a new “home”. But my mom is still here, and my son is only in his first year away at college. So for at least one more year I’m here, wondering what lies ahead, where I might be going. And we all definitely know….somehow Tony was my anchor as was Mike to you. Without him I just feel adrift in a sea of change.

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