The Moment When Everything Changed

One year ago, at this exact moment – June 16, 2017, 8:07 a.m. – everything changed. My entire future was altered with the push of a button. At the moment, I never imagined such far-reaching consequences would result from sending a simple email. Here it is, in its entirety:

“You know, if you wanted to expand our search area, there’s always this beauty. And lots others like it!”

And the beauty in question…

RC House

This was the Friday morning after what had turned into a frustrating week full of highs and lows. We’d finally gotten serious about buying a house, and were pre-approved for a loan. So we started shopping around, and found the perfect home just a couple of miles from where we currently live, in Vancouver, Washington. Experienced a bit of sticker shock over the asking price, but the housing market is red hot here and we figured we could probably make it work. We might have to contend with eating nothing but ramen for a few years, but that seemed like a high sodium sacrifice we’d be willing to make. So we drove over to take a look at it, and the first thing we saw was several other carloads of people who had the same idea. The house wasn’t even officially listed yet.

“Uh-oh,” Tara said.

Prescient words, because a bidding war ensued – something that is all too common in the Portland area these days. We never even bothered throwing our hat in the ring, because the listing price was already more than we were comfortable spending. The loan amount we were pre-approved for would require a hefty down payment in order for us to afford anything decent around here and would leave us so strapped with mortgage payments, there’d be no discretionary income left over, so our initial giddiness quickly gave way to despair.

So one year ago, I turned the tables on Tara and her Zillow addiction, and sent her the above listing. I can’t stress enough that this was just for fun. I’d long had a secret love affair with Rapid City, but figured ours would be an unrequited romance. Even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined Tara would be the least bit interested in moving to the Midwest. Desperate and frustrated, I typed “Rapid City” into the Zillow search bar, just to torture myself, I suppose? And was blown away by the cheap housing there.

Shockingly, so was Tara. It still seemed like “a pretty farfetched idea” when I blogged about it two days later, and would remain an unlikely dream for about six weeks, when I finally began to believe it might actually happen. But that one email opened a dialogue and unleashed a chain of events that have led us here: in a mere six days, we are leaving the PNW for a new life in Rapid City.

The house that started this all, by the way? It never did sell. The listing was removed two months later. Who knows why these things happen, but they do. How funny would it be if it hit the market again…and we ended up buying it? The odds are ridiculously long, of course. Everything would have to fall into place perfectly.

But that’s exactly what we said about moving to Rapid City in the first place.

Countdown: 6 Days

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Pomp & Circumstances

Things never really go as planned, do they?

We’d scheduled a farewell event at our favorite local pub on Sunday. It was to be a casual, low-key affair, an opportunity for friends to drop by at their convenience and see us before we leave. Despite months of planning, it never happened; instead, we spent a good part of the day at an emergency veterinarian clinic. Which, trust me, was about a thousand times less fun than hanging out at Shanahan’s and eating fried pickles would have been.

The issue? Sydney had been vomiting for a few days. Add in a lack of appetite, lethargy, and anti-social behavior (normal in most cats but not her), and we knew something was wrong. So we took her in and after waiting many hours, they were able to see her and run some tests. Which came back inconclusive; her vitals were normal and there wasn’t anything obviously wrong. They suggested admitting her to the hospital and running an ultrasound, or giving us some anti-nausea meds and hoping for improvement in 24-48 hours. We chose Option B because yesterday alone set us back $800 – money that we were counting on for our move. I don’t know that we can swing anything more. Which makes the whole thing a bit stressful, with our move happening at the end of next week. Poor Sydney. It’s breaking our hearts to see her this way. And she just got a clean bill of health less than two weeks ago, so the whole thing really came out of the blue.

By the time we finally got home it was late in the afternoon, so we just hung around the apartment with Tara’s friend Betsy, who is visiting from Las Vegas. We listened to records and I made a pot of Italian wedding soup, the perfect antidote for a surprisingly cold and wet June weekend. After two extremely dry and warm months, it just figures that the one weekend we had a lot going on, the weather gods refused to cooperate. Looking ahead to late next week, they are predicting very hot weather the day we load the U-Haul, so that’s going to be fun.

At least Saturday worked out a little better. Audrey’s graduation went off without a hitch, crazy weather notwithstanding. There were torrential downpours during the ceremony, and even a little hail and thunder. But that didn’t stop her from beaming with pride when she accepted her diploma.

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Because Audrey was senior class treasurer, her name was the fourth one called. This was great – no waiting through an endless parade of names to reach hers (letter P). To be honest, we left right afterwards. But the place was so crowded we were in the very back at the top of the bleachers, standing. Fortunately, it was covered by a roof, but still. Why stick around after seeing what we came for? Instead, we went to Gustav’s and enjoyed a cocktail and some fondue. My parents, Audrey and her girlfriend, and Rusty joined us for dinner and a photo session afterwards. I think Tara did a great job, especially this one!

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And just like that, I have no kids in school anymore.

Back in 2006, when I got divorced, I knew I’d be bound to Vancouver, Washington, for the next 12 years, unable to move because of our shared custody arrangement. At the time I imagined that move would entail crossing the river to Portland, not uprooting my life for the Midwest. Ahh, life. It’s like I wrote in my opening paragraph.

In any case, it’s very hard to believe a dozen years have passed. And with that passage of time, I am now a father to two grown adults. I don’t know how to feel about that. There are moments of nostalgia, of course. Occasional despair over the idea of growing older. But also excitement. The future has never felt so wide open.

Countdown: 11 Days