Come and Knock on Our Door

We’re moving in with Nana, y’all. Let the Three’s Company style shenanigans begin!

I have tried for four years to get the bank to work with me on my house; four years of phone calls, hundreds of pages of paperwork (which, without fail, was always “missing” pages, even though it was scanned and sent successfully from my end), multiple “Save Your Home” events, and anything and everything I could do to get them to do anything to help me out. Yes, I admit, it was incredibly naive and stupid of me to believe my original loan agent when he told me, “I know the mortgage is 65% of your income, but you are getting such an amazing deal on the house, in six months you will have plenty of equity and be able to refinance.” At the time, I was getting a great deal on the house. Unfortunately, six months later, it was worth $50k less than I paid for it; two years later, the similar home across the way sold for almost $150k less than I paid for mine. Yeah, equity, not so much. A loan restructure was my only option, and they drug me along for over three years. When I was informed by one of their employees, as she read off her computer screen, that they had denied my third modification for a reason that was completely different than the answer they had originally given me, I finally had to acknowledge that they had no intention of working with me, they had no problem flat out lying and stealing over $10k from me, so now they get to have the house back.

Enough painful back story, let’s get to the good stuff. My grandpa died a few years ago after a lengthy illness, leaving Nana alone in her 2000 square foot house. While she is mobile and active, there are certain things, like anal-retentively scrubbing the kitchen floors with a toothbrush when they need it, or cleaning the higher shelves of cabinets and closets (she is Hobbit-sized), that just aren’t in her wheelhouse anymore. She is getting a little more wobbly on her feet, and we are all beginning to worry about her a little more with each passing day. When Jon and I finally came to the conclusion that keeping the house wasn’t going to be an option, we started discussing other living arrangements. Rent is currently sky-high in California, even worse than usual, and trying to find a 3 bedroom place for less than $2000 a month is virtually impossible in our area. We decided to ask Nana if she would take us in. I worked up my courage, planning out incredibly detailed explanations for every possible concern she could have. The day I went over to her house to ask, I had barely gotten the question out when she replied, “Of course you can. You’re always welcome here, for as long as you want.” Because my Nana is the shit, y’all.

The situation could not be more perfect. Nana, who gets lonely in that house all by herself, now has two people and one incredibly lovable lap dog to keep her company, clean the house, take care of minor repairs, and help her out with the things she shouldn’t have to do anymore. Jon and I get a place to live that has enough room not only for our bedroom, but for me to have my own craft room, and for Jon to have a full, detached, 4-car garage sized shop in the back to go hog wild on his sculptures again. There is plenty of room for everything, but it is taking a large amount of work. I have spent every spare minute re-organizing the house; Jon has been cleaning out my grandpa’s old shop. 50 years worth of detritus needs to be sorted, moved, or gotten rid of.

The treasures I have found going through the house are fascinating. My grandpa was in the Merchant Marines and was stationed overseas in various parts of Asia for a few years. I have found beautiful silk pillow covers and throws, opium storage boxes, and a decent sized collection of some pretty racist salt and pepper shakers and trinkets. Going through his steamer trunks revealed a huge collection of his Valentine’s Day cards from elementary school.

photos of vintage valentines featuring a child in a Native American head piece, a soldier, a small girl in a bonnet
Also a little bit racist. Seriously, what was up with that? And is that one guy in the back supposed to be a member of the SS? WTF?

There is also a pretty creepy Santa.

creepy cardboard vintage Santa decoration
Can you see the weird “twinkle” in his eye? Like he’s going to kick over your plate of cookies and roast up your intestines instead? He just gives me an evil vibe.

For those who can sew and are looking for the PERFECT gift for the most dapper gent in your life, I also found this-

photo of a Simplicity pattern for a men's leisure suit. 3 drawings of men in tan, white and blue versions of the pattern
I may learn how to sew solely for the joy of making this.

I have found a metric shit ton of old photos, as well. I told Nana I would organize her pictures for her since they were crammed in boxes or stuck in horrible photo albums with pages that were rotting away or crumbling apart. Little did I know what I was in for. I have found pictures in almost every single drawer, closet, dresser, or basket that is in that house. I spent every evening for a week sorting them into reasonable categories so we could put together new and more carefully curated albums and framed displays. While overwhelming in scope, the look on her face when I unearthed this one was worth any amount of giant piles.

sepia colored photo booth picture of a young man in a plaid shirt and a young woman in a coat

She thought this had been lost long ago. It is a photo from a Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk photo booth that they took when they were dating. Since they only dated for three months before they got married (because, as she informed me when I found this, she wouldn’t put out), there are very few pictures of their dating period. She immediately slipped it into a frame and set it on the coffee table. I feel like I have learned more about her life in the past few months than I have in my whole life. Upon unearthing 6 awesome bowling trophies, I learned that my little nugget of a nana used to bowl about a 240. Holy shit! I’m lucky to break 100.

It is easy to get caught up in life, easy to not make the time to spend lazy days with the elders in our lives, but I cannot stress how much fun it has been, how interesting it is to hear all her stories. I am so glad that we are going to have the opportunity to help her, learn from her, and be there when she needs us. Plus, she actually likes to cook, so I can finally have her try all the awesome P-Mag recipes I have bookmarked!  Pretty soon we are going to have to duke it out about who’s Janet and who’s Chrissy, which will be hard since we both look fucking awesome in hot pants, and Jon is going to have to up his physical comedy skills (I’m thinking of putting a bunch of random ottomans around so he can practice falling over them onto his face in a way that amuses us). However, I did find an amazing hot pink and lime green muumuu when I was cleaning out her closet, so maybe I will just be Mrs. Roper. We’ll figure it out eventually.

4 replies on “Come and Knock on Our Door”

Oh this is a fabulous solution to your housing woes. My guess is that Nana is happy to have the company, and you’re right in that you’re going to learn so much about her and life in general while you are with her.

When my parents moved my Grandma out of her home after 70-odd years there- and what they found was AMAZING. And also sometimes creepy and racist. They ended up having to get a dumpster, and only the most treasured things made it to her assisted living apartment.

Enjoy your time together! I feel like you could start some kind of blog about this experience, or  at least turn it into a weekly column here!

Awww. this is sweet. My grandma passed away years ago while I was still in college, but I remember the weekend my mom and I spent moving her from her house to an assisted living apartment (my parents lived about 5hrs away, my grandpa had passed a few years earlier, and her dementia was getting quickly worse). But that weekend I had a similar experience of helping her clean out all manner of old things (creeeeepy lawn ornaments), clothes, photos, and more. We heard so many great stories while we worked. It’s one of my favorite memories of her. I totally envy you.

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