Last weekend I had a housewarming party. I’ve been in my new home for over 3 months now, and while there are still a few mini-projects to finish up, the house is basically unpacked, decorated, and settled. This party was approximately one year after the ‘Half-way Home’ party I gave in the rental house last summer. At that time, I thought I was halfway through the rental house phase and would be moving back to my own restored-after-the-fire house. I should have called the party my ‘Third-maybe-even-fourth-way Home’ party, but how was I to know? Probably better that I didn’t. I ended up spending over five months in the rental and then a little over four months in my own restored home. Eight and half months after I had originally planned to put my house on the market, I actually did put it up for sale and then sold it in six days. In the ninth month I moved, again. I set up utilities and cable and changed my address on every account I could think of, again. I wanted to put the fire episode behind me. I literally moved away from the house that burned.
One year ago I began publishing a blog about my experiences surrounding the house fire, my son’s depression, and the beginning of my empty-nester years. I waited six weeks before I posted my first chapter about the fire ( https://shoshwrites.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/ready-set-fire/) and even then it was tough to write. I still get emotional reading about those early days. The first few months were especially overwhelming and I soon realized that most people have no idea what life after a fire is like. I know because I tried to tell them all too often about what I was going through. I decided that I needed a forum to express the surreal craziness of life after a fire before I totally alienated my friends and colleagues. A few months later, the Bastrop area in Central Texas experienced a series of devastating wildfires. I tried to give some general advice about dealing with the initial aftermath (https://shoshwrites.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/the-fire-is-out-now-what-62/) and that post has been my second most read chapter so far. I hope it helped some people. That was one of my intentions in publicizing my own experience.
I also began to share the deeply personal ordeal of my son’s depression before and after the fire. Mental illness still carries such a taboo in our society, especially for the male creatures among us. For a short time, Jacob took an informal university class designed to help students deal with depression issues. He was the only guy. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay in the class very long. It would take more time before he truly acknowledged that he needed professional help. The consequences of depression can be deadly. Last summer I wrote about my friend’s depressed son who committed suicide and my own fears for my son; it was my most viewed post ever ( https://shoshwrites.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/a-parent%e2%80%99s-worst-nightmare/). I decided to write about depression because far too many dismiss it, consider it a weakness not an illness; they don’t want to acknowledge it, but it’s far too dangerous to ignore. My son continues to deal with varying degrees of depression and post-trauma, but at least he now realizes there’s no quick fix and is learning to manage it.
It’s been quite a year – full of challenges but also silver linings and small, unexpected blessings. Now that the housewarming party is over, I have begun to feel some closure on the house fire. I am ready to clean out the 400+ e-mails in my ‘House Fire’ folder. It’s time to move on. Looking back now with some perspective, I’m grateful to AAA and Bruce the insurance guy. I was frustrated with him at times, but having heard some truly horrible insurance stories from others in similar experiences, I know now that I’ve been pretty lucky. Triple A, you have a loyal customer for life. The people at Specialty Restoration of Texas, especially Mark the contractor, were absolutely the best to work with. I’ll be forever grateful for their help in navigating insurance requirements and reconstruction details and generally just getting through the year. My realtors, Sharon Downer and Bob Wolk, had my back throughout the whole much-longer-than-expected process of marketing my house — twice! They became my realtors 1 ½ years ago and ended up as my friends. My colleagues deserve a special thanks for all their support, both emotional and financial. Friends and family kept me going, and of course, son Jacob and daughter Sarah make my life worth living, even when it beats you down for a while. Dogs Buddy and Rosie remind me that as long as there is food, water, and belly rubs, life is good. To my all my subscribers and other readers who have come along on this journey, I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement. “Rebuilding house and life after a fire” may be coming to an end, but I’ve found that writing is addictive. I’ve already started planning a new blog or two, and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re up and running, just in case they interest you. This isn’t really the end, just a pause before a new beginning.