I miss my grandmother. She died in November. I think of things every day that I wish I could share with her. I want her to come help me make pie in my new kitchen that she never got to visit, and to hear about the people who come into my violin store. I want to talk with her about books and movies. I want her to see how much my kids have grown.
A few years ago, when she first had to be moved into a nursing home, her house had to be sold to help pay for her expenses. This was a reasonable and logical step. No one could argue with that, but it’s hard when the right thing hurts. We want the right thing to feel positive, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the right thing feels wrong.
Since her house in Ohio was sold I have only been by it once. I won’t do that again. I just wanted to drive those familiar streets and see the place where I spent so many Christmas and Easter vacations as a child, the last place I ever saw my grandpa alive, the home where my parents got married and the first place that made my husband feel part of our family. It was painful to see it and know I didn’t belong there anymore. The house may remain, but the home I knew inside it is gone.
I know loss is part of life, and I know I am lucky to have had such a wonderful grandma at all. I’m just not ready to let certain things completely go. And the last place I still feel my grandma is at her cottage.
(Aden in 2009, standing on the steps my uncle built leading to the cottage porch.)
My grandparents had their cottage on the Western side of Michigan built back when I was in fifth grade. My grandmother pored over dozens of house plans before she came across the perfect one. The layout is such that you can comfortably live on one floor, (which they figured would be useful as they got older), but there is space to share with visitors upstairs. It’s somehow cozy and spacious at the same time, and it’s the most relaxing place I know. It’s a place for all the family to use, and the more people used it the happier it made my grandparents.
(Quinn and Mona jumping on and off the bed, cottage 2009)
Until my grandma became too frail to travel she used to spend a month up at the cottage every summer. It’s been the site of family gatherings, weekend retreats, visits with friends, a big New Year’s Eve bash, and it’s where Ian and I spent our honeymoon. My kids are crazy about the place, and when we go they catch frogs, play in the sand, and look for deer. I love the cottage. Everyone in our family loves the cottage.
But while talking to my mom recently, she mentioned the time had come to sell it. The market is terrible in Michigan right now, so they didn’t expect to get too much, but the upkeep and the taxes and the fees have become a burden on the relatives who have been entrusted with it over these past few years. It was time to let it go.
The thought of the cottage leaving the family broke my heart. When I’m there, it’s home. It’s timeless. And my grandparents’ touch is in everything. I don’t want someone else moving in and taking out the table and bookcase my grandpa made. I don’t want the birds my grandma did in needlepoint to come off the wall. I want her chair to stay where it is, and the oars to the rowboat hanging in the garage and the ancient collection of board games to be in the utility closet. I want the cottage to stay the cottage. I want the cottage.
(My kids at the same little beach where my brothers and cousins and I played)
Ian and I aren’t rich by any stretch, but we are careful with our money and we work hard. And one of the things I love about my husband is he makes my dreams come true. That sounds sappy and weird, I know, but it’s the truth. If it weren’t for him we would not have the home we have, I would not have my own business, and the proof that I’m with the right person is in the smiling faces of my children. I can’t ask for more. And yet, when Ian saw how sad I was that the cottage was for sale, he pulled out his laptop and crunched some numbers, and said he thought we could afford to buy it ourselves.
It’s impractical, it’s expensive, it will probably be complicated…. But the worst case scenario in my mind is we try owning it, it proves to be too much, and we sell it ourselves down the road when Michigan’s economy improves. In the meantime at the very least it buys the whole family a few more years of playing at the lake, walking the trails, and making s’mores under stars while the leaves of the poplar trees rustle like rain.
I think that would have pleased my grandparents very much. I know it pleases me.
(Quinn at the lake)