Thirteen(ish) years ago, my parents bought a weekend/vacation condo in a quaint little port, resort town near Hood Canal. I’d say that the average age of residents is, mmm, 67. I’ve referred to it as “Summer Camp for Old People;” it’s retirement heaven. Actually, in order to reach the condo, you drive through a slightly run-down, crustified area called “Paradise.” I assume that the actual Paradise – where dad now resides – is a massive upgrade from this other one.
My dad loves a project. Condo life was a bit of a bore for him, really. We joked – not all that long before he passed away – after my mom had visited a friend in a gorgeous, swanky retirement place, that dad would be so bored in a place like that, he would’ve wandered around digging holes in the beautiful grounds just to have something to do. Well, two and a half years ago, dad went for a walk from the port condo. He stumbled upon the project of his dreams. The foreclosed (or short sale, I’m not sure which) beach front home situated on an acre had Bob written all over it. Dad called a local realtor and brought mom and I over to check the place out.
The property was pretty run down – stained carpets, peeling paint, dry rot in the deck and so overgrown you could just barely make out the expansive water view above the 10 feet of overgrown shrubs. Dad was in heaven and loved it. I was in heaven thinking about the kids running around in the woods and down on the beach (and not having to be constantly stressed about the amount of noise we provide to the condo neighbors when visiting). Mom, on the other hand, was not so pumped. She reminded him that they’d been enjoying condo life WITHOUT yard work for ten years. Why, would they tackle such a huge project in this stage of their lives? But dad knew what he wanted. Mom announced that she’d never let him “off leash” for a walk again. Look at what he does when he’s left to his own devices!
Within three days of seeing the house, dad had bought it and put the condo up for sale.
They spent the last two and a half years, slowly turning this overgrown place into an absolute dream. Using their good friends’ truck, they took twenty plus trips to the dump. Dad ripped out the nasty carpet, tiled the bathrooms, painted every wall, rebuilt a support beam by the front door, sanded down all THREE decks (including the wrap around one in the back), stained all three decks, rebuilt the planter box that stretched the entire length of the back deck and installed closet organization in two of the three bedrooms. He’d started spending a few days a week over there on his own working (we are VERY thankful he wasn’t there alone when he had his heart attack). Mom and Chris would walk on to the ferry Friday night and dad would pick them up on the other side for a weekend of work and play. Slowly it was becoming more play and less work.
The house is located directly across the bay from the beach club. On Saturday evenings, after spending every possible daylight moment working, mom and dad would sit in the hot tub and look across the water at his dream project. Slowly, the gleaming white deck was emerging and you could see the house clearly – their hard work evident with each passing week.
The condo never sold. For two and a half years now, it’s been on the market. Things just aren’t moving over there. That’s been a major stress for them. Mom used to tell dad (joking, but serious – ahh, the irony), “You better not leave me with THREE properties to take care of!” Well, here we are…
We’ve taken the condo off the market and are heeding the advice of many: “Don’t make any major decisions for a while…take your time.” It makes sense that mom wouldn’t want to keep the house. It’s so much work. She’d have to hire people to maintain the grounds. It’s a project. And let’s face it; she didn’t want it in the first place.
But man, I love that house.
Mom, Chris and I made our first trip, post dad’s earthly departure, this past weekend. I was sort of dreading it. Dad loved it so much there and, with all the work that he did, signs of him – his sweat, toil, hard work and love – are everywhere. But it was good. I’m glad we went. Mom wanted to stay at the condo, but we spent most of Saturday day and Sunday afternoon at the house.
As she was preparing lunch, mom showed me the beautiful new chef’s knife dad had gotten her as an anniversary present four months ago. “Do you know what they say about giving a knife for an anniversary gift?” she asked.
“It’s considered to be a bad omen.”
“Yep. When dad gave it to me, I said, ‘thank you! But you know, it’s considered bad luck to give a knife as a gift.’ Not that we’re superstitious or anything…but weird, huh?”
So, there’s that. Not that we tend to be superstitious people, but…yeah.
The other thing that she told me, left me with the somewhat-common-now combo feeling of happy and yet sad at the same time.
See, dad was always practical. He did things out of love but not for sentimental, emotional reasons, but because it would be the best thing for the family in terms of security. He and I had talked about his purchase of the house last year and how, like so much of what he did, it was an investment. Here, I was so excited to have a beach house for our family to get to go to, but he said that most likely, once the market started really moving again and he was done with all the major updating, in a couple of years, he’d sell it. It would help secure mom and Chris’ futures.
Well, mom told me this weekend, that, despite dad’s usual habit of house-flipping, he actually had planned to stick around with this one for a while. (Ha! He didn’t, now did he?!). In going through all of his desk drawers and filing cabinets, she’s found a couple of different plans for stand-alone shed-cabin type buildings. Dad wanted to build a combo two room building with garage/garden storage space on one side and a boys’ club/bunk house on the other. He actually envisioned being there a while and making the place an even more magical beach destination for us.
Happy yet sad.
Kayli's first visit to the beach house; July 2011
Just another day looking out from the deck
Dad's visitors while painting the deck
And visitors in the front
King of his castle (or his pile in the truck, anyway)
The boys' first visit -- look at the difference in how overgrown it was (below). And how much they'd cut down to open up the view (above).