I moved back to my old home in Texas in February because my company-paid long-term disability was running out in April, and I could no longer afford to live in Colorado near the kids. This was a heartbreaking decision, and I’m still not over it. I miss my grandson more than I can say.
A couple of months ago, I realized that my SS check was not enough to live on, even here, and I was drawing too much out of my IRA each month for it to be sustainable for very many years. I decided I was going to have to try to find a home back in the little town in FL where my son and I live for 18 years as he was growing up and going to college. I found a couple of possibilities, but each time my best friend back there went to look at them, she found things that she knew would be a problem for me. She is very aware of my health and disability issues, and wanted to make sure I didn’t buy something that I wouldn’t be able to handle.
One evening, my neighbors (who are wonderful and dear friends) were over visiting me and the dogs when I told them I was planning on moving again. I explained that I just couldn’t keep up with the payment on the house and the maintenance. I had spent tons of money fixing the A/C unit, replacing the malfunctioning dishwasher and refrigerator, fixing the garage door, replacing the flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms, and having the back yard re-sodded and irrigated because the former people who owned the house allowed their dogs to turn it into a mud hole. I told them I just couldn’t afford to keep dealing with the frustration of things breaking down and the cost of fixing them. They were upset that evening, but they were understanding. They have helped me in so many ways since I moved back here, but there are just things I don’t feel comfortable asking for help with. I know I should learn how, but when you’ve done everything yourself for over 30 years, you just don’t want to accept the fact that you can’t continue on that way.
A few days after their visit, my neighbor called and told me they wanted to buy my house and allow me to live here, rent free, for as long as I want to. Of course, I told them I couldn’t let them do that. It was too much! And I know I’m not that wonderful! We had many long talks for many days after that evening. I was afraid of not owning my home. After all, I have always owned my home.
Here’s where a bit of explanation might come in handy… When I was working, I made about 97K a year. When I had to go on disability after cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, I received 60% of my salary from a company-paid disability plan. This was still more than enough for me to live on comfortably. I had no idea that the disability plan had a 24-month limit provision if I became disabled after I was 65. I never applied for Social Security Disability because I didn’t think I needed to. When I found out about the 24-month thing, I was frantic because I only had 4 months left! In the space of just over 2 years, I went from over 90K to about 24K a year.
This is obviously my own fault. I was never good with my own money. I made more than I needed, but instead of investing it, I spent it on the kids, donated to multiple local, national and international charities, bought lots of camera equipment (which I have now been slowly selling), and just enjoyed my life. It was only the last 2 years that I worked that I was putting 15% into my 401(k). Basically, that means I have enough money in my IRA to last about 5 years just scraping by. I’m 68 now. I had hoped to live to see my grandson at least graduate from high school. He’s 9 now… There’s no way I could make it that long.
So, the reality of being homeless began to set in. Not just a thought, but an actual possibility. I always wondered how people who worked hard all their lives, tried to do the right thing, and gave to those less fortunate, ended up on the streets. I was looking that right smack dab in the eye.
I didn’t count on having breast cancer. I didn’t count on having chemo and radiation. I didn’t count on the continuing after-effects of the drugs that I had to continue to take after the big treatments were over. I didn’t count on the tremors that make it difficult for me to type and use a mouse (I ‘write” with my microphone). I didn’t count on the neuropathy that makes it hard for me to stand and walk without falling. I didn’t count on not ever being able to get a good night’s sleep. I didn’t count on the CHF that they told me was a slight possibility because of the Doxorubicin I had to have after Taxotere tried to kill me. I didn’t count on the thyroid problems that no one can seem to find a way to regulate–the dosage is either too high or too low–and I never feel normal. I didn’t count on the Raynaud’s that makes it impossible for me to go to the grocery store or walk outside on a nice cool evening, because it’s too cold and my hands turn white and numb. I didn’t count on the severe arthritis–bone-to-bone in my left thumb and left knee, and almost as bad in my other joints. I didn’t count on my eyebrows never growing back. I didn’t count on the hair on my head continuing to fall out in clumps (it does grow back slowly). I didn’t count on my scalp and back being constantly itchy–waking me up in the night (I keep a boars hair back brush by the bed to scratch with). I didn’t count on being unable to cook anything that needs to be chopped or cut, because I drop knives (I quit doing this when I dropped a large knife that almost hit one of my dogs. I do purchase the pre-cut things when I need them, but it’s not the same as fresh-cut fruits and veggies.). I didn’t count on breaking over half of my drinking glasses, and my butter dish, because sometimes my hands just throw things around on their own. I didn’t count on my depression coming back, and thinking about going back on the depression meds.
But, the biggest thing I didn’t count on was that I might not be able to keep my house. So, you are probably asking now what I decided to do about my neighbor’s offer. We sat down several times. I had so many reservations, and questions about what would happen if something happened to them and their kids wanted to sell the house or rent it to someone who could afford to pay rent. They assured me they had taken care of all of the issues that I brought up.
Earlier this week we went one afternoon to a local title agency and I sold my home to my dear, wonderful neighbors. I sold it for exactly what I paid for it, even though the appraisal just 9 months later was almost $50K more, and even though I had put almost 20K in it since I moved back. I didn’t care about all that. Living here rent-free will quickly make up for that difference.
But, I still had such a difficult time believing that I was actually doing this, and that they wanted to do this for me. We went to dinner after the closing, and I asked them once again why they did this. Their answer? “Because we love you.” I sat there in the restaurant and cried my eyes out. The waitress asked me if I was OK.
Not only have I never asked anyone to do things for me, because, after all, I can do anything! But I also never expected anyone to do anything like this for me just out of love. Now, I’m not stupid. I understand the house is a great investment for them. It will only appreciate in value. And that’s OK. I don’t care. I still have a home, and that’s the most amazing gift anyone has ever even thought about giving me. My cup runneth over.