This Old House

“Can you believe it’s ours?” said my wife, as we stepped into the modest three-bedroom house.

Although, technically, I wouldn’t call this house “ours” yet. The house is ABOUT to be ours. There’s a difference. A few days ago we put an offer on this home and were answered with a phone call later that night. The realtor informed us that our offer had been accepted.

It was an emotional call. Afterward, my wife hung up the phone and wept like a baby. So did our tax guy.

And now here we stood. In our soon-to-be new house.

Well, actually, it’s not “new.” Far from it. The house itself is 100 years old, built slightly before Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, back when Social Security numbers were still in the single digits.

The home’s floors slope like tsunamis, the doors are ancient, the antique windows are made of warped plate glass, and the porch is roughly the size of the Jefferson Memorial.

My wife was pulsating with glee.

“It’s perfect,” said she.

Our realtor, Robin, was with us for the victory tour. My wife’s friends and cousins were there, too. In fact, I was the only male in the group.

No sooner had we entered the front door than the home was filled with an impenetrable cloud of estrogen. In mere seconds, the ladies were deeply involved in heated conversations centralizing around crucial topics such as, for example, duvet covers. Frankly, I don’t even think they knew I was there.

“You’re just here for eye candy,” said my wife.

Which only shows you how delusional all this excitement has made my wife. Because on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being Brad Pitt, I’m the late Gabby Hayes.

Soon, the women’s design brigade was marching through the house dutifully. I headed up the rear, carrying approximately 29 handbags and pocketbooks.

Photos were taken. Notepads were consulted. Tape measures were brought out of purses. And these weren’t the amateur tape measures with steel tape. These were Star Wars-style lasers, capable of cutting Bethlehem steel.

Members of my wife’s posse were constantly throwing around terms which most guys I know could never use while maintaining a straight face. Words such as, “sconce,” “monochromatic,” “settee,” “focal piece,” and “Target.”

I watched my wife thrum from room to room like a kid who had just snorted Mountain Dew. Her voice was loud, her smile was broad. She must have opened each cabinet door 60,203 times and remarked, “Would you LOOK at this storage?”

Then she’d turn to me and wait for my decidedly male reaction.

“Absolutely,” I’d say.

Because this is the role of a husband, you see. To nod and say, “Absolutely,” no matter what the question is. Over the years I’ve become so skilled at uttering this husbandly response that sometimes I use this phrase to answer other people.

TRAFFIC COP: You realize how fast you were going back there, buddy?

ME: Absolutely.

So that’s what my wife and I did today. We walked around our soon-to-be house; she joyously slammed cupboards and I absolutelyed everything.

We toured the backyard. My wife used her hands to describe all the grandiose plans she has for me landscaping-wise:

“Over here you’re going to build my brick firepit, and we could do something fun right here with a birdbath. Tell me, how do you feel about hammered copper?”

“Absolutely.”

Truthfully, I wasn’t listening to her anyway. Because as she spoke, I was too busy remembering when her mother was dying last year. My wife sat at her mother’s bedside and held the old woman’s hand as her mother struggled to breathe.

Before the old woman died, her family gathered around her pallet and explained their future plans to the queen dowager. It was both touching and rending at the same time, to hear adult children tell of how their lives would look without the old woman around.

My wife sat beside her mother and said, “You know how I’ve always wanted to live in Birmingham, but I couldn’t leave because…?”

Her mother nodded and said, “Because you’ve never felt right about leaving me?”

Then my wife started to cry.

And in a moment that can only be called heavenly, the old woman touched her daughter’s hand and said, “I’m sorry I’ve held you here.”

My wife began to sob harder. So did everyone else in the room.

“You haven’t held me here, Mother,” my wife said. “Taking care of you has been the greatest privilege of my life. But now, I’m thinking it’s time for me to live.”

Then her mother closed her eyes and spoke with a thick tongue. “Yes. Yes, it is.”

Before we left the room, her mother mumbled with a smile. “I’m so excited for you, let’s get our money up and go pick out a house right now.”

She died shortly thereafter.

So watching my jubilant wife wander through this antique home brings it all back. I am experiencing a feeling I’ve never felt before. It’s a merging of emotions. It’s both sorrow and nostalgia. Somehow I feel older, but also a little younger inside. Like I’m 18, and my life is just about to start. Although right now, mostly I just feel grateful to see my wife so happy.

“What does your end of the tape measure say?” asks my wife.

“Absolutely,” I say.

65 comments

  1. Ann Marie Bouchet - February 4, 2022 7:06 am

    Where are y’all going.to be? This is great!!! So glad you are movimg.to Birmingham!!!

    Reply
  2. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - February 4, 2022 7:42 am

    Absolutely, we welcome you to Alabama!

    Reply
  3. Lori Klein - February 4, 2022 7:52 am

    My mother took really good care of my father for years. When Daddy died, so many well meaning people told my Momma to wait at least a year before she made any big decisions, especially about the house. She dutifully waited 366 day, then sold the house and moved to Florida. I don’t think she has ever regretted it, except for waiting that year.
    Sometimes, you just know. Welcome to Birmingham.

    Reply
    • Dawn - February 8, 2022 2:38 am

      Congratulations on your home. And the memories to ge made.

      Reply
  4. Lisa K Riley - February 4, 2022 8:37 am

    Absolutely! Thank you for bringing some excellent memories back, Sean. That old Craftsman will hold many more for you and Jamie.

    Reply
  5. Debbie g - February 4, 2022 9:44 am

    I absolutely love you and Jamie. Congratulations!!!!! Thank you for lifting us up every day. It’s your readers turn to lift y’all up !!! Want a house shower ? We’ll all be there 😀😀😀😀love to all

    Reply
  6. Karen Erwin-Brown - February 4, 2022 10:10 am

    you are absolutely closer to the Brad Pitt end of the measuring tape! Glad y’all picked a new home.

    Reply
  7. thatcase - February 4, 2022 10:22 am

    Absolutely!

    Reply
  8. Leigh Amiot - February 4, 2022 11:18 am

    Pocketbook.
    So good to hear that word again. Not sure exactly when we switched from pocketbooks to purses or totes, but my mother, grandmother and her five sisters all carried pocketbooks when I met them in the ‘60s.
    I also love what Jamie’s mother said, “…let’s get our money up and go pick out a house right now.”
    Here’s your virtual housewarming gift: “…wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.” Psalm 104:15

    Reply
  9. Marianne Bryan - February 4, 2022 11:44 am

    Happy for Jamie. Enjoy every minute.♥️

    Reply
  10. Melanie - February 4, 2022 12:01 pm

    So delighted for both of you. How I can be delighted and crying at the same time beats me. Hugs all around. Sean you could write a study guide for “how to be a dutiful and good husband”. ❤️

    Reply
  11. Anne Arthur - February 4, 2022 12:05 pm

    Congratulations to finding your next home. I absolutely wish you much joy and fun-filled days in your new dwelling. I am happy to read that Jamie has gotten back her happy smiles. Wishing you all the best for this new endeavor. Fire pit, birdbath, and all.

    Reply
  12. Lucretia Jones - February 4, 2022 12:07 pm

    Sean, Absolutely of”the heart”. Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Heidi - February 4, 2022 12:10 pm

    So very very happy for you!!!! We all know Mother Mary is smiling real big right now.❤️

    Reply
  14. Anita Bosley - February 4, 2022 12:23 pm

    So happy you found a home you like! I live in B’ham and if I can help you guys in any way, let me know!

    Reply
  15. Tahma Nash - February 4, 2022 12:26 pm

    My Mother and I were best friends—we still are, she just lives in Heaven now and doesn’t answer the phone when I call. Cheeky! She has not answered for ten years.

    The grief was overwhelming in the beginning. It nearly broke me, which may have happened—had my husband not stepped in. Well, he was wrangled in, if you listen to him tell the story. He said God told him to buy me a dog—which he was game for, until God told him it had to be a Rottweiler. Thus began the wrasslin’! You see, we had a Rottweiler in our early marriage, which was his girl—Tara. If you are unaware, Rotties love their family and if you raise them right anyone who comes through the door (if cleared by owner and properly, embarrassingly sniffed). However, Rotties bond with one member of the family so deeply that, well, you almost become one person.

    Chris didn’t want another Rottie—he had already had his one true love and he’s a loyal,loyal man! God waited for him to realize this dog wouldn’t replace Tara, since she would be for me. Chris says, God waited for him to get over it and do as told. Eventually, he wrote me a book from my puppy to be—cutting out photos of little Rotties and making a sort of report. I say report, because the whole thing was presented in one of those acetate covered notebooks we all used for our fifth grade science project on battery powered potatoes. It was charming and now that God had convinced Chris—he was on board to convince me.

    And, that was a job, since I was still teetering on a broken road and couldn’t imagine loving at all —nearly a year after Mom’s overnight sensational graduation to that far green country. Still in the Shadowlands, what was I going to do with a puppy?

    Come back to life. That’s what LuLu June did for me, is still doing for me.

    The day we brought her home, our stray cat, Hobbes, strutted right over to the blanket we had LuLu June upon, raised his paw and smacked her across the cheek. There was background music playing in his head, something from an old western, with that whistling before a shootout. I scooped LLJ up, since she was crying like a baby, and if Hobbes hadn’t been able to jump atop an eight foot fence, well, he would have been dead cat, not Hobbes Kitty. He had hurt MY baby.

    With LuLu June in my arms, I walked though our backyard, comforting her. A sudden wind met me on this still, June day—a wind that didn’t move the treetops, but enveloped us, the grieving girl and her new Rottweiler. I felt the most relief from pain, the first sign of joy since Before. It was Heaven scented wind, pulsing with life—I felt my Mother’s embrace and the arms of the Holy Spirit and the velvet ears of LuLu June and that was when I started to live again.

    Puppies, Birmingham, men who love their wives—absolutely God given!

    Reply
  16. Alison Crosby - February 4, 2022 12:38 pm

    So happy for you two!

    Reply
  17. Lana - February 4, 2022 12:47 pm

    I was thinking the same. It’s so great that she is happy! Now hush and go make a list for that backyard.

    Reply
  18. MR - February 4, 2022 12:51 pm

    Sean, your words are so healing. Yes, your funny story about following your wife around the house carrying pocketbooks and purses let me know that my pain is not unique to me. I live in Birmingham and five years ago I moved our aging mother next door to me so i could care for her. We bought a 40 acre farm in North Alabama to raise cattle and stretch out legs and find out what it is like to not hear sirens every hour. Our goal has always been to retire to the farm but we would not leave Birmingham for the same reason Jamie would not leave North Florida. My Mother is now on a ventilator with pneumonia and every day I ask God to heal her, but if He does not, I hope my husband (who is, by the way, a 10 along with Brad Pitt) will be saying “ Absolutely “ to my new countertops and built in bookshelves as we hold on to the memories our our ‘Mimi’. Because that is what she would want for me. I hope you and Jamie are happy in your new home. Sounds a lot like the one we live in now – an old craftsman with wonky floors. These old homes have such character – they are are built strong and sturdy and hold generations of love and memories – much like you and Jamie.

    Reply
  19. Nena M - February 4, 2022 1:01 pm

    Your new house is Absolutely a fabulous house! Congratulations!

    Reply
  20. Melanye Wrighton - February 4, 2022 1:03 pm

    I love everything about this…absolutely

    Reply
  21. Jan - February 4, 2022 1:14 pm

    I am so excited and happy for you and Jamie. Making your new house into a home is a wonderful experience! Congratulations!

    Reply
  22. Diane - February 4, 2022 1:55 pm

    LOL…. Love it , If only all husbands were so compliant! You the best! We love this new beginning for you both and wish ya’ll the greatest happiness.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/48100319764/?ref=share
    This is just a link to a Birmingham group with fun info of Birminghan…♥️♥️

    Reply
  23. Paul McCutchen - February 4, 2022 2:00 pm

    Ya’ll have been living in her mothers castle and Jamie is ready for her own castle. How it should look, what colors she wants and about the only thing you are there for is to cut the checks. Try to have fun…She will.

    Reply
  24. Suellen - February 4, 2022 2:05 pm

    My husband and I always dreamed of one of those old homes on a city street with a big porch. Unfortunately when it came time that we could choose our own home (not live in a parsonage) we were both beyond doing the upkeep those homes require. You either have to be young and handy or rich enough to hire people to do it and we are neither. I’ll have to live our dreams through you and Jamie and your new adventure. Congratulations!

    Reply
  25. Frank - February 4, 2022 2:06 pm

    Beautifully written. Yes sir, absolutely beautiful.

    Reply
  26. CHUCK GREER - February 4, 2022 2:15 pm

    Hey, Bub. You said “Bethlehem steel” after you just wrote a column defending Alabama. Couldn’t say “Birmingham steel”?? Even though they don’t make much steel anymore, and it’s a good thing because I remember as a young child riding in the car through B’ham and thinking, man, this place STINKS. Worse than Mobile’s papermills!! Anywho, welcome to the Yellahammer State (state flower is the camellia, js)

    Reply
  27. Sue Rhodus - February 4, 2022 2:33 pm

    Gabby Hayes…hmmm..you are way too young to know him !!! CONGRATULATIONS to Jamie and to you also !!! Just remember that one word…”Absolutely”

    Reply
  28. AlaRedClayGirl - February 4, 2022 2:52 pm

    “Eye Candy” that’s what you are, Sean. Absolutely! Welcome to God’s country…that’d be Alabama!

    Reply
  29. Robyn - February 4, 2022 2:57 pm

    Sean – thank you for writing today’s column. I too have lived this column. Luv ya, Robyn

    Reply
  30. Shelton A. - February 4, 2022 3:07 pm

    Congratulations on your new house! Absolutely! I laughed so hard and then was taken to another place by the memories of your mother-in-law and her conversation with Jamie. Hope you’ve got fencing for your dogs who have been free to roam the woods behind your current address. Life is going to change for them, too. Keep them safe and secure in your backyard. Blessings and peace.

    Reply
  31. Jim Thomssen - February 4, 2022 3:10 pm

    Absolutely!

    Reply
  32. Laura - February 4, 2022 3:22 pm

    This may be your best column yet!

    Reply
  33. Maggie Priestaf - February 4, 2022 3:34 pm

    I’m so happy for you two…

    Reply
  34. Charlotte McCraw - February 4, 2022 3:34 pm

    I ABSOLUTELY love to read your posts. Your words make me smile, then laugh out loud – – and, also, they can cause a tear or two to slide down my cheeks. Your writing reminds me of Dave Barry and Lewis Grizzard.

    Reply
  35. Cynthia Russell - February 4, 2022 4:19 pm

    THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR MEMORIES & YOUR LIFE!! GOOD LUCK IN BIRMINGHAM… LOVE YOU & JAMIE!! MAY GOD CONTINUE TO POUR NEW WONDERFUL BLESSINGS INTO YOUR SWEET LIVES!!!

    Reply
  36. Gayle Wilson - February 4, 2022 4:36 pm

    This is absolutely beautiful Sean. I am so happy for Jamie and you. Please keep us posted on each detail.

    Reply
  37. Arnold Kring - February 4, 2022 4:37 pm

    This is for yesterday. Are you aware of the Boll Weevil statue on the front lawn of the courthouse in Enterprise, Alabama? Do you know why it’s there?

    Reply
  38. Susie Flick - February 4, 2022 4:39 pm

    Excited for your move – absolutely! so many synonyms for this word it’s amazing! Enjoy settling in to your new home!

    absolutely [ˈabsəˌl(y)o͞otlē, ˌabsəˈl(y)o͞otlē]
    ADVERB
    with no qualification, restriction, or limitation; totally.
    “she trusted him absolutely” ·
    synonyms:
    completely · totally · utterly · perfectly · entirely · wholly · fully · quite · beyond · thoroughly · unreservedly · definitely · certainly · positively · unconditionally · categorically · unquestionably · no doubt · undoubtedly · without (a) doubt · without question · surely · unequivocally · exactly · precisely · decisively · conclusively · manifestly · in every way/respect · one hundred percent · every inch · to the hilt · autocratically · despotically · dictatorially · tyrannically · tyrannously · in an authoritarian manner · arbitrarily · imperiously · domineeringly · high-handedly · with draconian powers · autonomously · unrestrictedly · supremely · omnipotently · without challenge · without check · without checks and balances · without let or hindrance

    Reply
  39. Marsha S Hinnen - February 4, 2022 5:15 pm

    Enjoy your new old house!

    Reply
  40. Pingback: Sean of the South: This Old House | The Trussville Tribune

  41. Barbara L Shields - February 4, 2022 6:09 pm

    I am so glad to have read this post today. Beautiful, enduring love. That is all there is.

    Reply
  42. Connie - February 4, 2022 6:11 pm

    Congratulations! Living in a 100 year old house has been my dream all my adult life. It never worked out but I’m super excited for y’all!!

    Reply
  43. Stacey Wallace - February 4, 2022 6:24 pm

    Sean, I am so happy for you and Jamie. Congratulations on your beautiful new home! Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama, God’s country. Love to you and Jamie.

    Reply
  44. Chris Morrison - February 4, 2022 6:26 pm

    OK, it has to be asked…

    Does this mean you’ll come from Alabama with a guitar on your knee instead of a banjo?

    I come from Alabama with my Banjo on my knee—
    I’m goin’ to Louisiana my true love for to see.
    It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry;
    The sun so hot I froze to death—Susanna, don’t you cry.

    Reply
  45. Lisa - February 4, 2022 6:35 pm

    Congratulations on buying your home. I hope you enjoy fixing it up. You may need to change the channel when DIY TV shows come on.

    I saw this on FB and there is a lot of truth to it. People in Montgomery ask who are you kin to. People in Huntsville ask where you work. People in Mobile ask what is your favorite drink. People in Birmingham ask where you live.

    I lived in Shelby County several years back in the 90s. I hope it has changed. But I was constantly asked if I lived in a house or trailer. I just thought the people didn’t have any learning and know better. But the peer pressure over status in the schools was horrible. When my 7 year old son was asked by a classmate if he was one of those trailer park people because he’d never been to Disneyland, we moved our trailer to Elmore County. Since 1995 I’ve been asked once if I live in a house or trailer.

    Things I remember is the parks are beautiful, the thunder is louder, most people you’ll meet aren’t from there, not all train tracks have gates, and take a jacket because the temperature drops fast.

    Reply
  46. Larry Wall - February 4, 2022 6:36 pm

    Sean, my condolences in having to leave the bay. I feel that you are really hurting. Sorry, Jamie. ABSOLUTELY nothing in Birmingham can or will replace that area of NW FL. Sean, your columns of the last several days remind me of a friend who always tried to make humorous remarks about the bad situations that might have been occurring in his life. He laughed to keep from crying. The things we men do for the woman in our lives! O.K., I will wait for the oncoming verbal flogging.

    Reply
    • caroline hawkins - February 6, 2022 1:14 am

      agree Larry! Birmingham is no where near the charm of NW florida!

      Reply
  47. Jenny+Young - February 4, 2022 6:42 pm

    So beautiful.
    It’s hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it but sometimes, when a life ends there is a good new beginning. There is grief but there is hope for things or actions you’ve longed to do. I experienced this when my mother died. But it’s not something I really share because somehow it made me feel judged for not loving her enough or missing her more.
    I am so happy for Jamie that she has you to share this with. What an exciting time for both of you & I am more than sure her mother will be a big influence on how things are done!

    Reply
  48. Susan Norman - February 4, 2022 7:09 pm

    How very very heartwarming. Reminds me of my dearly departed husband’s philosophy, “Yes, is all you need to know”, in response to anything I asked him. It was a joke really, but held a lot of truth. He’s been gone for over a decade and I smile every time I am reminded of him. Thank you.

    Reply
  49. Dawn Ritz - February 4, 2022 7:10 pm

    So excited for you two. But also, we on the Gulf Coast of Florida miss you already!!

    Reply
  50. Linda Moon - February 4, 2022 7:53 pm

    Gabby wasn’t too shabby, depending on one’s taste for Western-movie sidekicks. I’m so happy about your new old house and the women’s designing taste, too. My “Gabby” finally learned that one of our furnishings is a settee. (I like Western movies). And Jamie’s story here of her house, her mother, and her loving husband is so very life affirming. Welcome Home, Jamie! Love, Uma.

    Reply
  51. MAM - February 4, 2022 7:55 pm

    The words that my husband recommended to both our sons-in-law at our daughters’ marriage receptions were: “You only need to know two words, ‘Yes, dear.'” Same as your absolutely! I hope you and Jamie have many happy years in your new old house. Most women love to fix up houses. I prefer ones ready to move into!

    Reply
  52. Jim Key - February 4, 2022 8:05 pm

    My grown daughter and wonderful son-in-law and their two young ones live in the Homewood section of Birmingham and reside in a older neighborhood and house with fabulous character. Their neighborhood like the good ole days, children playing in the front yards while the parents visit each other at the end of the work day. Obviously I love it when we visit my daughter and share their wonderful lifestyle

    Reply
  53. Harriet White - February 4, 2022 9:31 pm

    That’s Great Sean and Jamie! No matter where you go you both will have fun. I hope you can post a picture of the new house!

    Reply
  54. Pam Patterson - February 4, 2022 9:36 pm

    When grief comes around, it’s always good to put your hands to something. For me, it was gardening, for Jamie it’s a house. Many new blessings to you both.

    Reply
  55. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - February 4, 2022 9:36 pm

    Reply
  56. Rick Putnam - February 4, 2022 10:32 pm

    Sounds like you’re in Southside or (lord help you) Mtn.Brook. I lived in Southside in the early 70’s, and loved it. Just stay away from 65 and 280. Stick to 31. You’re minutes away from Smith Lake and rivers and foothills. You’ll adjust. “Fear Not…”

    Reply
  57. Marcia - February 5, 2022 12:18 am

    I can feel your wife’s joy and excitement and your love for her. Your words continue to bless us.

    Reply
  58. Patricia Gibson - February 5, 2022 2:09 am

    Congratulations 🎈

    Reply
  59. Steve McCaleb - February 5, 2022 2:43 am

    Gol darn it Roy, which way’d they go ? God bless the great George “Gabby” Hayes. Best cowboy sidekick…EVER. Absolutely!

    Reply
  60. Belinda Byrd - February 5, 2022 7:17 pm

    Touching story. You’re a great, loving, caring husband.

    Reply
  61. KATY - February 5, 2022 10:05 pm

    💕🥳🥰Sounds like Jamie has joined the ranks of Designing Women ! Enjoy! 💕🥳🥰

    Reply
  62. bamarphSteve Sandlin - February 8, 2022 4:41 pm

    Sean, Forty seven years ago my wife of two years brought me to look at “the perfect home” for us that she had discovered on her lunch break forays. Being a 28 year old, who was trying to open a new business and who barely knew the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver, I stared dumbfoundedly at an 88 year old Victorian that had seen better days. Lucky for us, my father-in-law was available to help us with our remodeling. Being short of money as well as time, we worked every off day we had to make our house habitable. So, this goes without saying, that I absolutely know what you are experiencing.

    Reply
  63. CHARLES LIVSEY - February 9, 2022 6:39 pm

    I redid an old house that was in great need of repair. It took me 3 years and many hours with help to get it ready. But I paid $250 for it and it later sold for over half a million.

    Reply

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