When we visited the 55 and over new construction carriage house last spring, I thought it was the perfect place for my father, who was overqualified by 20 years, to live in. After checking out the brand new state of the art kitchen, open floor plan, group exercise room and heated indoor pool, I kind of wanted to live there.
I was so pleased with myself as I watched my father write the deposit check to the builder. I had finally convinced him to move out of my childhood house – the same one his parents had built, and in which he had lived in as both a young man and an older man. The house hadn’t really been touched in nearly two decades since my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She spent her energy fighting the disease, a battle she would eventually lose. I thought it was finally time to say goodbye to the house, and in doing so, to the lives that had been lived there.
No one was more surprised than me to get the call from my father just a few days after the deposit check had been written, explaining that he had backed out of the new house. He was going to stay in the old one. He would Love It (not List It!) and I was somehow given the job of his Fixer Upper, his Property Brother his Rehab Addict. I wasn’t sure that I, that he…that the house, was up for the challenge.
My father had no doubt. He enlisted contractors to move forward with renovations and upgrades to the bathrooms and to deal with several structural issues (new windows and doors, cracked ceilings and the like.) He had already renovated the kitchen a few years ago, in what I believed was a getting ready to put the house on the market, decision. Clearly I was wrong about that.
He ran every decision, no matter how big or small, by me. He asked me about sliding doors, light fixtures, paint colors, shower tiles and even the direction the tiles should be laid. I answered him rather quickly without really thinking things through, as I just wanted the process to be over. I was the one who wanted him to list the house after all, so I was kind of checked out in regards to what he was doing to love it.
As we spent more time together in what I imagined to be a quirky, comical and completely un-curated HGTV series of our own, I began to see the strong bones of the house, and so too of my father, coming back together. I started to develop opinions, as I felt connected once again to the house and to the man who lived there. I ran my fingers through more carpet and rug samples that I knew existed. I measured for multiple drapery lengths and even attempted to re-hang them myself when we noticed they were improperly installed.
My father had the giant front yard shrubs cut down, the old ivory shutters painted black and the old boob tube television replaced with a flat screen. I’d like him to refinish the giant living room wooden wall in a lighter shade of something. My father tells me that the dark wooden wall is still state of the art having been constructed from the bark of one huge tree shipped in from Oregon in the late 1960s. I tell him in my best HGTV host voice, that refinishing the wall will lighten up the space and compliment the clean lines in the house. I recognize our conflicting concepts of state of the art.
We did agree on the new colorful fabric with which to recover the cushions on my father’s beloved bamboo porch furniture. We spent a lot of time trying out sofas, dining room chairs and dining room tables at Pottery Barn home of everyone’s favorite Apothecary table. We even befriended an awesome stylist at Pottery Barn who helped us with a completely new layout for his living room.
My husband got involved when he suggested my father replace his tiny antique kitchen table and chairs one day as he noticed my six foot two inches tall father hunching over the table while sipping his orange juice and reading his thoroughly wrinkled copy of The New York Times. I realized that my father had been hunching over that antique table (designed for antique sized people) for nearly 40 years. We selected a brand new 21st century sized kitchen table and chairs at West Elm, a cousin of sorts to of our beloved Pottery Barn. I think my father loves that new table and chairs the most.
It’s so nice to see my father sitting upright at his kitchen table. It’s even nicer to see him smiling there, and also both in and outside of the house. The house looks so great now I can almost feel it smiling back at him as if to say thank you for not listing me.
I’m so glad he decided to love it. I love it too.