My wife Esther lived long enough to see our daughter graduate from high school. I feel both guilty and relieved that Esther’s gone. She was diagnosed with cancer when Samantha was three years old. We did not have a “regular” home life.
Samantha left Rhode Island for Penn State. I intend to follow her there. I left Pennsylvania for Esther. I stayed here for work. Now Esther and Samantha are both gone and I’m alone.
I have to sell this large house on the lake, though. Esther loved this house. She died in this house. How can I leave? How can I stay?
I put the house up for sale last summer. A friend recommended an agent, Ron. Ron wasn’t a good agent. He put up a “For Sale” sign. He held an open house. We never had any offers. I never heard from the agent, unless I called him myself. I let my listing agreement expire. I lost hope for moving on.
A few days after my contract with Ron expired, I got a letter from an agent named Dani. She wanted to help me sell the house. She was encouraging. I called her, and two other agents. Dani was the most energetic, knowledgeable and realistic. I liked her. I hired her. She won my listing.
She was also winning my friendship. Dani emailed me. She would show me other houses that had come up for sale in my neighborhood and homes that had sold recently in my town. She called me regularly to discuss the market.
I loved when she showed my house. I always kept it clean, but it always felt cleaner after she’d been here. The open houses she hosted were incredible. She would bake and cook for the open houses. I would come home to a warm and welcoming house after being away all day. She’d leave cute notes next to the uneaten cookies or dinners.
Esther was never well enough to cook. Samantha never had the mother-daughter cooking lessons. She never learned to prepare a home-cooked meal. Nor did I ever have the benefit of coming home after work to the aroma of a simmering pot roast.
Dani would arrive early on the mornings of the open houses, starting up the crock-pot. We’d share coffee and conversation while she worked. Home buyers could walk in to a home, rather than a house. They could snack and dine while considering the house. Dani gave them the feeling that they wanted to live here.
Only, now I was starting to want to stay, but with Dani.
Dani would bring me offers from buyers. These were my favorite times. I would invite her over to discuss the terms. It was like a date. The first time we did this I surprised her with dinner from the Chinese restaurant down the road. She loved the moo goo gai pan.
On our next “date” I brought Thai food, which I knew was her favorite. We shared a bottle of wine while discussing the offer. We talked about the house, the offer, and we talked about my past and my future. Well, I talked. Dani listened. She always listened so intently.
I felt guilty talking about Esther. I loved my wife, but the passion faded through the years, through the cancer. I felt guilty being relieved when Esther died. Esther had loved me, too. But our marriage wasn’t passionate. It was functional. I craved attention and affection.
Dani sensed that I was breaking down talking about Esther. She reached over and touched my hand. Her touch was warm, strong. We sat in silence, looking across the table at each other. My desire to stand up and hold her was stronger than I knew how to be. I struggled with the professional boundaries I knew Dani had to keep. We both stood and moved away from the table. I reached for Dani and she came into my arms and we stood there in a loving embrace for what seemed an eternity.
I kissed her forehead and brushed away my tears. I excused myself for a moment, but returned with two full glasses of wine. We moved toward the bedroom that Dani was familiar with, having been in the house so many times. We carefully navigated the corners along the way, our lips touching as we walked, sipping our wine. The bed appeared in the darkness and we lay gently down, wine glasses now empty.
We lay there for hours, affectionately. I was in love with a woman who would love me in ways I’d never been loved. Guilt was replaced with gratitude. I didn’t want to sell my house. Dani could no longer be my agent.
We made each other happy. We made this house our home. We didn’t sell the house. We stayed and shared our love and our lives.