Lessons On Losing My Family And Finding My Home

Photo by James Garcia on Unsplash

Photo by James Garcia on Unsplash

In 2013, while living in Brooklyn, working for the coolest — but notoriously lowest paying — magazine, and selling promo albums to afford lunch, the concept of buying a home seemed a lifetime away. As in, someone else’s lifetime, and not my lower 500s credit score journey. I accepted the fact that I’d be working long hours so I could braid together a none too stable safety net of rent on a variety of tiny apartments (that were still, somehow, barely within my check floating reach). And that, maybe, if I hustled and managed to juggle a full-time job and four side-gigs, I’d someday get to upgrade to an apartment that had more than one room and an interior door. 

Buying a house, with multiple rooms, and other fully grown amenities such as windows that open and *gasp* a washer and dryer … that was someone else’s life. Those were someone else’s goals. I didn’t even want those things, right? But I did. Very badly. I didn’t believe it was possible. Flash forward to present day, and I am now the proud owner of a three bedroom house with up to date appliances, a front porch, backyard with a deck, and every other element of cuteness someone would want in a home. 

I did it. I finally did it. And it only took my whole family dying to get me here. 

When people think of “family money” and the lifestyle that goes with it, vignettes come to mind — like a Kardashian being gifted a condo with a big pink ribbon wrapped around it. Or stories overheard from that friend or co-worker who somehow always has the means to vacation or buy wild shit like food or whatever. That is not the case here. Over the past six years, I lost my mom (Halloween morning, 2013), my dad (early December, the day I had planned to buy my Christmas tree, 2017), and then my grandma (the last day of May, my birth month, 2018). Each loss was a punch in the gut that manifested physically and emotionally in ways I could have never anticipated. 

When my mom died, I developed alopecia. My girlfriend, now my wife, discovered this while checking to see if I’d dyed my hair evenly. “Um, have you seen this big bald patch?” she asked. 

It was the size of a fist. It came and went over a year. When my dad died, I developed crippling anxiety, more or less didn’t leave the house for a year, and all but completely stopped my creative pursuits. I went on medication, gained 50 pounds, and pushed my sadness down so far that it still hasn’t surfaced.

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When my grandma died, I snort-cried at her funeral and slipped a note into her casket with a secret message asking her to send a specific type of bird my way whenever she thinks of me. I see those birds frequently. 

With each of these losses — tragedies to me, just a part of life to everyone else — I got a little bit of money. That’s what happens when people die. They pass along their things, including their money. From a small family, and being an only child, a good portion of that came to me. As a married lesbian, this left me in a financially comfortable position. 

But I don’t have anyone to leave *my* money to. There’s no one left to take care of me or be taken care of by me — aside from my wife, our two cats, and future fantasy puppy. Buying a house became not only a definite possibility but the smartest way to begin establishing my new family structure, out of the ashes of the one I no longer had. 

This house, which I love more and more each day, is the last thing my family ever bought me.

A lot more was needed to secure it than just their money, which was the most surprising part of the process. Money is only a third of what you need to buy a house. You also need excellent credit and a stable income that you can prove you’ll have forever, and prove it in about five different ways, which is challenging when you're self-employed. It was an uphill battle, but it was made a bit easier with the help of a cool realtor we met through our tattoo artist. 

Sound like a mess? It kind of was. But it’s my mess now. Our mess. Forever. And forever doesn't last long, I’ve come to learn, so I’m enjoying every minute I have with the family I've created, in the home we now have. 


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