There are a limited number of times in life when one permanently closes a door for the last time. Maybe it is the last time you visited your childhood home or the last time you visited a loved one before they died, but the result is the same. There will eventually be a moment in your life when you close the door on something or someone you love for the last time. You don’t always know when it is happening but sometimes you are vividly aware of it.
And I experienced one of those times this past weekend.
A White Ranchhouse in Suburban Chicago
My 81-year-old grandfather decided last month to take the plunge and downsize to a new house that will put him within short driving distance of his two children after both of them moved out of state to Wisconsin many years ago. In order to do that though, he had to put the home he’d owned for over five decades on the market.
The entire family corralled to the suburban Montgomery, Illinois home for a long weekend to make that happen, scrubbing down the bachelor pad, clearing layers of slime and forgotten photo albums, and turning it into something clean, welcoming, and presentable to the general public—no easy task.
I altered my plans that weekend and drove up 500 miles from Nashville to spend a week remote working and cleaning in every spare moment I had. I ended up staying for over a week after most of the family departed just to keep the house in presentable condition while I and my grandpa still remained in residence.
We needed the house to be totally presentable at a moment’s notice and that meant keeping someone around to make sure every mess was resolved in seconds. Eventually, we just shipped grandpa off to Wisconsin for the weekend to hang out with his son long enough for the house to remain unmolested for weekend visitors.
That did the trick! The house was sold by Sunday, at slightly above market value, and we set a closing date for just over a month out in early November.
The Weight of a Place
As I departed the house last Friday though, it really struck me that this was the last time I would meaningfully enter the house as I remembered it.
For context, my parents got divorced when I was about 12 years old. As a result, I ended up spending upwards of three nights per week living with my late grandmother and grandfather for the remaining six years of my adolescence. I spent more time in that house than I did in my own bedroom for many years.
I’m not saying this for pity points. I’ve had a decade to get over these events. What I am saying is that grandpa’s house became a refuge of calm during a very turbulent adolescence where I was being shipped between four different homes on a weekly basis to satiate the whims of divorce lawyers. I’d be driving at least an hour per evening some nights, bouncing between homes and high school, and that Montgomery home was always a place of stability and quiet in the craziness.
As this was happening, my grandfather’s home progressively became a more tense place in its own way as my grandmother’s Altzheimers Disease progressively degraded her motor functions and memory, to the point where she was wandering the house at odd hours, injuring herself, and was generally unable to do anything without nursing assistance. She would be moved out of the house in 2018 and passed away in November 2019 in a care facility.
Happy Childhood Memories
Even without that baggage though, the house was still one of the last remaining vestiges of my adolescent life. Most of my earliest childhood memories are me attending Christmas parties in that house, attending piano lessons being taught by my grandmother, or running around on that shaggy wool-carpeted floor playing with Lincoln Logs and toy trucks.
I have distinct memories of being nine years old on Easter 2004 and listening to my Uncle and Dad discuss Passion of the Christ over ham and buttery mashed potatoes. I remember the time my cousin gifted me a copy of Harry Potter on DVD in front of my incredibly Baptist grandparents and feeling embarrassed. I remember sitting in the playroom and watching Danny Phantom or Avatar: The Last Airbender on TV while chowing down on my weekly Burger King dinner. I remember squirming impatiently on the couch as my grandpa would read the Bible to us every night.
That house in Montgomery was a warm place and it still is. Even after all of the events that my life has brought up, the home still radiates with love.
Reluctantly Closing the Front Door
As I prepared to close the door on that chapter of my life last week—to literally close the door on one of the last places from my childhood I could still call home—I knelt down a prayed. I thanked God for the warmness of the place, for the love that three generations of my family felt living in that home, for bringing me up into a Godly man, and for everything it meant to me. I asked God to bless the house for the new family that would take it over, that the blessings my grandmother and my grandfather would carry through for every generation that owned that beloved home.
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
I picked up my remaining bags, locked the door, and felt the door close one final time. I encircled the building once, walked through the gravel alley next to the garage, climbed the rusty metal ladder to the neighbor’s yard, walked through the garden of my grandpa’s bird feeders, and finally worked up the courage to walk away—my eyes feeling a bit heavy.
Then the truck started, and I drove away.