The Old House

hallway with windowDon Tassone

No sooner had Bob retired when he learned his old house, the house he’d grown up in, was on the market.  

Bob was thrilled.  He had always been nostalgic, and he loved that house.  It held such precious memories.  Now he might actually own it!  He could easily afford it.  His wife wasn’t crazy about the idea but said she wouldn’t stand in the way.

Bob went to see it the first Sunday it was shown.  He almost didn’t recognize the place.  There had been two owners since his parents sold it 25 years earlier.  Each had remodeled it.  Walls were missing, the patio was now a deck and the landscaping was completely new.  Seeing his old house look so different was unsettling to Bob.  It made him want to buy it, and restore it, all the more.

The owner was asking six times what his parents had spent when they built the place 50 years earlier.  Bob expected as much, and he knew restoring it would be expensive, maybe even double the asking price.

But he went for it, and his offer was accepted within hours.  Bob was ecstatic.

He gave his wife the good news.  She seemed indifferent.  He expected her to be more excited, if not for herself, then for Bob.

He emailed his siblings.  They were all surprised.  One of his brothers thought Bob was kidding.  All of them said congratulations but not much more.

Bob knew his parents would be happy, if they were still alive.

A few weeks later, Bob closed on the house.  In the meantime, he began working with a contractor on a plan to remodel the whole place.  

His goal was to make it look and feel just like it did when he was a kid.  They worked from Bob’s memory and old photographs.  By the closing, the remodeling plan was complete, with a price tag twice as large as Bob had estimated.  His wife wasn’t happy, but she grudgingly agreed on the condition they take two family vacations the following year.

There were moments when Bob himself had doubts about buying the old place.  But once the work began, and old, familiar walls, rooms and cabinets reemerged, Bob felt like a kid again, and he knew he’d made the right decision.

Once the reconstruction was complete, Bob hired an interior designer to decorate the place just as it was when he was growing up, from the red sofa to the black rotary telephones.  He hired a landscape designer to replicate the outside too.

It was pricey.  By the time the makeover was complete, Bob’s investment was nearly three times what he’d expected.  But he didn’t mind, although his wife insisted on a third vacation the following year.

To Bob, it was well worth it.  The place now looked spectacular, virtually identical to his childhood home.  Inspecting it inside and out, Bob felt as though he had been transported back in time, and what a blissful time it was.

He couldn’t wait to share it with his brothers and sisters.  He decided to invite them all to spend the weekend there.

But they all declined.  Everyone claimed they were busy, but in truth, they simply weren’t interested.

So Bob invited his own children to spend the weekend.  After all, for them, it was grandma and grandpa’s house.  They had loved the place as kids.  But their lives were busy now, including with their own children.  They all declined too.

“Well, I guess it’s just going to be us,” Bob said to his wife.

“Well, you’re half right,” she said.  “Enjoy yourself.”

Bob was disappointed that he wouldn’t have any company, but he was still excited about the prospect of staying in his old house, even if he was alone.  He packed a bag, kissed his wife and took off.

He stowed his stuff in his old bedroom and went out to the family room to watch TV, an old black and white Zenith.  The house hadn’t been wired for cable, so there were only three channels, the major networks, just like in the old days.  Bob quickly got bored with that programming, though, and turned the TV off.  He’d almost forgotten how to do that without a remote.

For a moment, Bob thought about going online.  But then he remembered there was no WiFi or internet connection.

He walked around the house, not sure of what to do.  It was getting dark, so he decided to turn in early.

He changed into his pajamas and got into his old bed.  Or he tried to anyway.  It was way too small.  He thought about sleeping in his parents’ bed, but that just didn’t seem right.

So he drew his knees up and tried to get comfortable.  But he couldn’t and ended up sleeping on the davenport.

He woke up in the middle of the night, wondering where he was.  This doesn’t feel like home, he thought.  And indeed it wasn’t.  He knew it hadn’t been his home for a very long time.

Bob decided to put the house up for sale.  It sold in less than a day.  Financially, he took a big hit because he had to price it close to the other older houses in the neighborhood.

Bob learned you can’t reclaim your youth, no matter how hard you try or how much you spend.  It was an expensive lesson.

The following year, he and his wife took four vacations, one of them in the south of France.  It was there that Bob decided to try his hand at painting.

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Don Tassone is the author of three short story collections and a novel. He lives in Loveland, OH. Visit him at https://www.dontassone.com

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