Christmas was a bit of a blooper reel for me. Kids puking while on vacation, a lot of driving thanks to a family wedding. Presents for 6 people....
Then, my Dad’s house sold. I have been the executor for my Dad’s estate for over 3 years now. There is a running joke that you don’t choose someone you like to be your executor because it’s a tough job. I wasn’t actually named in the will, so I assume that means my Dad liked me, but I ended up being designated the administer after the will went to probate and we had to jump through a number of other legal hoops.
Finding time to be he executor along with building Jerry’s business and raising 4 small children has been a bit of a joke in and of itself. The number of appointments, paperwork and visits to the bank is pretty staggering. Do you know what a tax clearance certificate is? Neither did I. I had a safely deposit box needing to be opened in New Brunswick, I had to front my own money for things like the funeral, extensive property maintenance and immediate bills while I waited for probate to go through. Emotionally, it takes it toll too. Clearing out my Dad’s possessions and pictures and giving his clothing to goodwill. I had a hard time giving away strange things… like his ties, for example. Oh and you are personally liable for any decision you make (meaning if creditors or beneficiaries aren’t happy with how you distributed the assets, they can sue you).
The job I was dreading most was selling my Dad’s house. Over the course of 2014 I listed, cleaned, cleared, patched up and showed the property. Emailing my finial signature on the deal was tough. Of course the possession was between Christmas and New Years Eve (because we didn’t have enough going on as it was).
The whole process was like a very slow walk down memory lane. I did not want to move and live in that house. It was in a town I couldn’t move my family to, and the house itself really not the best fit for our needs, but it was a beautiful house. I only spent summers there while I was in university, it wasn’t my childhood home, but that was enough for it to feel like home.
My parents searched extensively for the right house. My Dad told me that as soon as he glanced in the window of this house, he knew he was in trouble. I painted the house for my parents on one of my breaks between semesters. We hosted many parties and big dinners there…including my wedding reception (where my brother dropped a glass light cover from 10 feet up, causing a nice explosion…luckily not on anyone’s head). I watched my mother grow sicker and sicker there from cancer. The night she died we all slept in the living room by the fire…because no one wanted to be alone. I watched my brother open his mission call to Russia. Two of my children’s first Christmases were there, and one of those years we actually had 4 generations living there. We had 8 stockings on the mantle… the next year, for many sad reasons… there were only 2. We walked the dog around the block so many times talking about both the things that were singularly happy and devastatingly sad. Mom would wake us up and take us to the field across the street to watch the northern lights. One hilarious memory is when my brother sat on an open-faced peanut butter sandwich by accident, and then went around asking all of us if we had seen it, and accusing the dog.
Still cracks me up today…I could go on and on. Seeing it empty, after so much emotional investment was like saying hello and goodbye to my parents all over again. It’s the last place I remember everyone being happy and together.
After Dad died, the house was rented it out, and it had so many problems and ended up costing the estate a lot of money. Guess who gets to deal with broken furnaces at -30 below on New Year’s Day in an estate property-The executor. Being the executor actually made my attachment to the property stronger in many ways, even though the grief it caused me should have meant the opposite. I was the caretaker and thus even more invested in it. The last time we drove into the town where it’s located, past the hospital where my Mom died, my husband said to me “you must hate this town”. I don’t hate the town, but I knew what he meant. It’s not the town, but rather the emotional wear and tear of what happened there. Over time, I solved most of the big problems with the house, but it was time to let it go. I mourned a loss of what might have been. How I should be driving down to have a big New Years party with my parents and siblings, not driving down the throw away the last of their things and hand the keys to a stranger. The house was like an old friend, and I was severing all ties. I finally understood why my Grandfather had a hard time leaving his farm, why my Dad didn’t want to leave that house after all his kids left. As the old proverb says ‘A house is built with bricks and beams, a home is made of love and dreams”. I left a lot of love there, as well as a lot of broken dreams.
To work my way out emotionally, I had to continually remind myself ‘A home is just a house’. It’s just a structure for human habitation. It’s just wood and cement, and a furnace that was often unreliable. It was just eaves that kept falling off and a garage with a broken window. Just hardwood and tile and grout and kitchen that was really small. I could take the memories and the life lessons away with me and leave the structure. Memories, after all don’t have to carry insurance. They don’t break down or need to be maintained. Memories do not need to designate an executor. The cold Alberta winters don’t affect recollections of happy times from the past, and if you write them down, you can keep them for a life time.
I drown my sorrows with milk and cookies and lots of you tube videos of warm destinations that maybe I will fly to if I ever see some inheritance money from the house (remember the tax clearance certificate…yeah, the CRA wants their cut too).
Although selling that house was one big step towards finishing the estate and firing myself as executor, I still have lots of hoops to go. Being an executor (actually my official title is executrix) is a part-time job, I underestimated how much time it would take.
I only have one New Years Resolution for 2015. I want to make some happy things happen. I really would just like to put 2014 behind me, make some new memories and take a moment to revel in the hope of a new year.
What are your resolutions? What are you letting go of from 2014?