About 9 months after our daughter was born, Peter and I made a very quick, and somewhat impulsive decision to buy our first home. A 90 year old renovation project that was somewhat over priced and out of our capacity to finish the way it should have been.
But it was OURS! We were dreamers. We made plans daily and talked about what tile we’d pick for the back splash in our kitchen, or how many sinks we’d put in the bathroom(he cracked and gave me the two!) , or what colour we’d do the siding.
The weeks leading up to our move in was a living hell, but he carried us through it with his enthusiasm and imagination and hard work. I packed and prepped for the move while caring for the children. In the evening after a hard days work with Daytona Homes, he would eat and immediately leave to our new home and resume the labour needed to scrape wall a paper, mud walls, tear out carpet, and tape for painting. Somedays I’d throw our daughter into a back pack, and our son and I would scrape wall paper til our hands bled to make it easier for him. One evening I smacked my head hard against the slanted roof and broke down from the pain and exhaustion. He assured me we had made the right decision despite the roof hitting me right in the kisser. Literally, it was blood, sweat and tears. But we were able to get the kids rooms and loft upstairs finished for the move. It was a labour of love and we wanted to show the kids that hard work can pay off.
He made me laugh, we danced, shared dusty kisses and sang as we mudded the walls and sanded the trim. We were working our asses off to make our dreams come true. I was just 27. He was 25. That was 8 years ago.
We’d often find ourselves in hardware stores play arguing over what kitchen cabinets we’d pick eventually or what finishings we could reasonably afford.
Often I’d find myself frustrated at the lack of progress and finances needed to complete our dream home. He was always able to break things down better than I could.
He’d focus on a room while I’d obsess about the big picture and work myself up until I thought we’d never get it done. When we finished our room, I came home to find lit candles casting shadows against the freshly painted cream coloured walls and new light fixtures. Finally, we had our sanctuary.
We never finished that house. It was 3 years later that we started planning to complete the grand dining and living area that greeted us outside our room that the illness officially took hold.
An impulsive decision to leave his career to start his own business and a 4 month long depression left us in a financial crisis. Then the upswing into mania. I had went out with a friend one evening after a day of arguing and wondering what was going on with him. When I went to pay for my drink, my card was declined. An online check of our joint checking and savings account left me shocked, embarrassed and angry. Over 3000 dollars between both accounts were gone. There was nothing left. It was weeks later before I seen the dent he made on our credit card.
I came home that night to find my home had become a construction zone. The kitchen full of renovation materials we hadn’t even discussed yet. Saws lain out in the dinnng room. My then 13 year old son on his hands and knees laying out flooring that I had no part in choosing. Trim and wainscoting lined the kitchen floor between stacks of dark vinyl floor tiles.
My mind could not wrap itself around what was going on. I made him return the unopened flooring in exchange for hard wood, because he had lost the receipt and couldn’t return it. That night he told me he had MS. The realization that he had lost touch with reality hit me as hard as the roof did years earlier. It took me a while to accept how ill he was and not with MS. He was hospitalized two weeks later.
That flooring would be the last of the purchases towards our renovation project minus a toilet he had found on sale at Costco. We still ventured into hardware stores to talk about the kitchen or bathroom, but I had lost the ambition and drive to keep dreaming.
Today, for the first time since the beginning of his last manic episode, I found myself in a hardware store running errands for my parents.
And it hit me right in the kisser…
About 5 steps in the smell of wood and paint filled my nostrils and stopped me dead in my tracks. It felt like I was brought back in time to the Saturdays we would walk hand in hand between the kitchen exhibits and shower stalls. I close my eyes for a second. I haven’t been in a renovation store since. I haven’t needed too. The house is gone. I rent now. He’s not here. He’s dead. Just keep walking. Don’t look. In and out, quick and easy.
The tears were just below the surface as I sped walked to the paint section. I scanned the two buckets of wallpaper glue and paid as quickly as possible through the self checkout because I didn’t want someone to ask me how I was. I was great before the grief hit me when I least expected it!
I got out to the car and as soon as my door was shut I cried. Usually I can anticipate the grief waves and certain triggers. This one came out of nowhere. Like that familiar anvil or feeling of sudden falling. Hard and heavy. I took my time and let it all out.
Yesterday was the ten month anniversary of his death. The 9th was the day last year the house foreclosed. I had the unfortunate experience of seeing the damage he and his new homeless friends did while manic and in psychosis. In short, all our hard work, destroyed. It was a symbolic resemblance to what Bipolar did to him, me and our life. Destroyed it.
The house, our house, the one that once was ours – whatever you want to call it, has been bought and gutted. They even sided it the same colours we dreamt of. The rock he hand painted our house number on still stands outside the gate. Rose bushes and lillies I planted decorate the path way in front of the fence. Atleast there is some Residue left of our hard labour and sweat – of my previous life and what is now lost.
I hope love will bloom in that house again one day. I hope someone avoids getting hit right in the kisser, and can enjoy a life there with someone they love for a long time.
You can’t always prepare yourself for when reminders come and grief hits. It just happens and it hits hard and hurts bad even on your greatest days. Just like the work we did on the house. We planned and prepped but we weren’t prepared for hitting our heads or for Bipolar. We didn’t anticipate that. Just as with grief, it isn’t fair, it comes with no warning and it will knock you down when you least expect it. Just remember you will stand up again. Slow at first. But you’ll get used to the punches. Even when you don’t want too.