As a Realtor, selling houses and condos day in and out, with many homeowners selling and upgrading quicker than they ever were, and working in Boston where the average homeowner spends 3-5 years in their first home, I don't have as much exposure to those people who have lived in their homes for years and years. I was reminded after visiting my grandmother recently of how important a house is, when it is truly a "HOME".
My grandmother had the most beautiful Victorian Home on Fairmount Hill (a really nice area in Boston). She is the reason I have such a passion for real estate, as at a very young age, we would walk daily through the neighborhood (where I now own my own place) and she would point out all the beautiful homes and details, and gardens, talking about what the rooms inside must be like, and telling me which family lived in each home. These walks are some of my favorite memories.
What's hard now is that my grandmother has Alzheimer's and while most of the time she is doing well, there are some days she is just so confused. She now lives in a condo-like community for the elderly. She opted to move to this community a few years back, feeling that after my grandfather had passed, being alone in an old house had many difficulties. With a long wait list at places like these, when they did call with an open condo, she had to make a quick decision, or the wait would have been another four years. She now has a bright corner unit at "Winter Valley" with lots of windows, and tons of light. Her pastel colored furniture brightens up what would otherwise be a "Vanilla Box" as we like to say. Her walls filled with family pictures bring life to the space, and her rocking chair with knitting basket fits right in as it had in her own home.
The other night we went out to dinner, and I was driving her back and like old times, again she was pointing out all the houses she loves, and now I am able to tell her which ones I have been in, and what the rooms like. At one point she said to me: "I always thought that as long as I could go on my walks, I Would never have to leave my home." I was so taken aback that I went into realtor mode - pointing how nice and bright her place was now.....how much easier it was to take care of a smaller space .....how much of a pain old houses can be...how things always need fixing etc. I meant all of it, but didn't want to face the truth of what she really was saying. She finally looked over and said: "I know it's nice, but I just really miss my home."
This broke my heart for so many reasons. She loved her home more than anyone I have ever known. She liked certain rooms at certain times of the day because of the way sunlight streamed in, or on a hot day she knew exactly which spot had the best breezes, she never missed watching a sunset from her kitchen window, and she was a welcome face for the commuters coming home on the train as she watered her garden every night. I was so naive to not see that no matter what her new small "condo" looks like, or how bright and sunny it felt - it just isn't HOME.
I guess I am just writing from the heart here...because I didn't know what to say to her then, and I don't what to say now. How do you help someone find the peace they felt in a home they truly loved, when for life's unfair reasons, they had to give that home up.