For everything that was wrong with my family, it was more than right with my brother. We have had a friendship that goes beyond brother and sister. We are closer than close. There is only one person who sits higher than my brother in my mind and that is ‘The Man’.
The day following the initial viewing of the barn I was back with my brother in tow. We went from room to room discussing what would need to be done and how we could do it. During our search we came across a board on the furnace room floor. When you lifted it there was a hole with a ladder in it and it went under the foundation. My brother took a flashlight and went down the ladder. He discovered a room built of cinder blocks with an air vent. This was right around the time of the notorious killings by Bernardo and Homolka and it was all I could think about when I envisioned the room my brother described. Needless to say – I have never been in it.
After we examined the entire house, we went to a restaurant with the real estate agent and I put in an offer. My brother sat across the table as the paperwork was being completed. When it came time to say how much I would be offering as a down payment he calmly stated he would be lending me the 25% that would cinch the deal. I could have kissed him, but he hates being touched or hugged. I spent an anxious day when we heard that miraculously – after four years – another offer had been presented at the same time as mine. I jumped with joy when I finally got the word that it was mine.
On moving day the entire family showed up to help! We packed every vehicle and truck we could find and moved it into the first floor of the barn. (barns don’t have basements)
My mother took one look at my happy face and told me there were ghosts in this old building and they probably said ‘Moo’.
When everyone had gone, my nephew and I got out our sleeping bags and set up camp in the dining room. It was the only room without that dirty shag carpeting and we slept there for a couple of weeks. My brother owns a white-water rafting business and he brought all of his guides over the next weekend. They spent the day pulling up all the rugs. This brought about the discovery that the previous owner had a dog, a cat, and a rabbit – and all had used the shag carpet as a litter box. My mother sent one of the staff out for the day and the two of us cleaned for eight hours. Then I sat on a step and cried myself silly, wondering what I had got myself into.
Before the banks final approval of my mortgage, I had to complete the kitchen, rebuild the deck and some other bits and pieces. They withheld $5,000 and requested that it be completed in three months. My poor brother moved in with us and spent his days rewiring the entire house. We found an unbelievable mess from the previous owner who had died of a GI bleed from alcohol at the ripe old age of 44. Thankfully he did not die in the house. I’d come home from work and my brother would be waiting patiently for me to give him a hand. He would be on the third floor and would jiggle a bit of wiring and I would be on the first, trying to discover which one it was. The neighbors once complained that we worked until 1am every morning.
I was pressed with the necessity of completing the first project for the mortgage and being out of money. Lawyer’s bills, unexpected and vital repairs, my nephew’s school supplies and clothes – it all had drained me. Without a word, my brother handed me his credit card and told me to keep a running tab. We had an inspection right before the time limit was up and we passed with flying colors and my brother went back home.
In return I have worked for my brother for free for many years now. I give up my summer and take my little trailer and go out and live at his place. I am his receptionist and cook and everything else. When you walk into the building for a day of white-water rafting – I am the first smiling person you meet. At the end of the day – I am the one who locks the front door after a final check that everything is prepared for the following day. Luckily it is only for 4 months of the year – as it is exhausting.
When the winter came around that year I discovered the cost of heating this huge barn. When we were rewiring we discovered there wasn’t any insulation in the entire building. My nephew and I spent every evening in front of the fireplace as it was too cold to spend it anywhere else in the house. We played chess or read – or wrote. I could hardly afford food and we existed on tuna melts on rice cakes and popcorn. I was bound and determined not to lose the house or to ask for assistance. We lost a lot of weight that first year here.