The Temporary Accommodations people have found us a rental house! All I need to do is approve it. After a week at the extended-stay hotel, I am more than ready to move into a permanent temporary place, an oxymoron of sorts, but it’s all relative. The TA people and I have been in communication since the day after the fire, and they have assured me that they were looking every day. I need a 3-bedroom since I have a grown son and daughter, and because my dogs are about 50 lbs, an apartment just won’t do very well, so we need a fenced yard. Sounds simple enough, but rentals are not easily available for a short lease. I give the TA people a broad area to search. I don’t need to be very close to my house; in fact, I’d prefer to be closer to my ex’s as the kids travel between us and a bit more central and closer to my job. The house they do find is actually further away from my ex and job, but I run to check it out, nevertheless.
It’s almost obnoxiously large, at least from my perspective. Five bedrooms, four full baths, a large yard, and 3500 square feet. That’s 1000 square feet more than my own house and 2000 square feet more than the house I am hoping to buy in the near future. I do a quick internet search and see that it’s been listed to sell for some time now, so they’re probably happy for someone else to make the mortgage payments for a few months. I meet the realtor who is acting as the landlord. I walk around the huge space; the master bedroom is as large as my living room. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs and I know that my daughter will be ecstatic not to share a bathroom with her brother. I go out to check the back yard. The back fence seems a bit shaky, but I’m so eager to leave the hotel that I call the TA group immediately. I’ll take it. When can we move in? “We’ll check with the rental furniture people, but probably in about 5 days.” Not soon enough for me! I quickly text Jacob at his dad’s and Sarah in Florida. She is in the midst of finals and doesn’t pay too much attention to my news. There’s a pool for the housing association members, I tell her. Cool. My son pretends not to care, but in a conversation that evening, he reveals he googled it and looked at all the photos online.
Later I will remember this and realize that my son has been anxious about life after the fire all along. In normal circumstances, he wouldn’t bother to check out the house. He’s not even interested in looking at houses I may consider buying. It’s for you, not me, he says. You’ll be staying there when you visit, I remind him, assuming he’ll be back at school by the fall and living near campus again. Just over a year ago he began having depression issues after breaking up with his girlfriend. At the time, his dad and I thought it was situational and would pass. It didn’t. When he began school in the fall, it took only three weeks before he sent me an e-mail asking if he could visit on the weekend. Things aren’t working out quite as I hoped, he tells me. We talked a lot that weekend, and I finally convinced him to get professional help. He took the first steps, but it wasn’t enough to save his semester. In December he asked if he could live at home and take a break from school. Given his eagerness to leave home at 18, I knew it was serious.
After the fire and hospitalization, we’ve been watching him closely, making sure he sees his therapist regularly. He assures me that he’s had only one bad dream, which he thinks is pretty good, considering. But his appetite has not yet returned, and this worries me. I’m not used to seeing leftovers on his plate. He rarely needs a take-away box at a restaurant, and he usually snacks from morning to night. He brushes off my concern and goes about his life, still searching for a job and now preparing to enroll in summer school at Austin Community College as a way to ease back into school. I want to believe him, so I, too, go about my life, making the numerous arrangements needed to settle into a house for the summer.