Six years ago today, May 20th of 2015, Mark and I signed papers to close on our home. Finding the home we wanted to purchase was an adventure in itself. But most things with Mark really were. Mark and I started our house shopping journey probably around October of 2014. We were not married, we weren't even engaged. I mention that because to me it was very clear that we were shopping for a house for us to make our home, somehow my Dad still was completely surprised when Mark asked for permission to propose in December of that year. Mark and I had talked about it though, so we knew that even though it was Megan shopping, it was going to be a decision we would make together. Mark and I both worked in the apartment industry at the time, and we had seen some pretty awful places, so renting was not really on our radar. But finding the right house was hard! I can't imagine looking in the market we are currently in, because back in 2015 I thought it was crazy enough! Luckily for us, Mark had very few requests in what he needed in his home. He had two stipulations, he didn't want to live in a neighborhood where we needed bars on our windows and he didn't want a house with an attached garage. I on the other hand had a longer list. I wanted a house with a yard, a driveway big enough to park a few cars, no split levels, I would prefer stucco, an actual dining room, a front closet, two bathrooms, wood floors, a dishwasher, and a basement. I also had a pretty specific area I knew I wanted to live. We had an incredible realtor that was committed to finding us a house that would work.
We searched and we searched, we went to showing after showing. There was one house we saw in White Bear Lake that we loved the layout of, and had a beautiful yard, but Mark was completely freaked out by the many many locks on interior doors and windows and the winding maze of walls in the basement. That house was out. We saw a cute little house with an incredible sun room that Mark rejected because there was tuck under garage. Then one day while I was at work on the last day of the month, I got a call about this house in Mounds View.
I was able to sneak out of work early to check out the house, but Mark was working turn day. He had no way to leave. I arrived at the house with a great sized yard, detached garage, little red shed, and it had a stucco exterior. When I went inside I found a decently well kept home, that needed enough updating we could get a good price. There was pink carpet, wallpaper, paneling, big curtains, a blue bathtub and underneath that carpet were my hardwood floors. What was missing was the front closet, the second bathroom, and the dishwasher. But this house was in the perfect area, Mounds View. We were about 8 miles from my parents and about 12 miles from work and church and all of our friends in the Crystal area. The school district is one of the best in the state, and the little tiny house was so charming. I called Mark and he knew he wouldn't get off work until at least 8:00 pm. Denise agreed to meet us back at 8:00 to do a second showing and when he arrived he agreed that it was the one. We put in an offer within 24 hours. We had to go through one heck of a time once we offered. Mark actually told me he thought the seller's agent was demonic. He was very worked up about the process, but his friend Dewey told him that if it was what God had for us, it would work out. Dewey was right, it worked out. The day we found out that our offer was accepted Mark took his friends Nate and Dewey out to see the house. It was late, probably about 10:00 pm, and he called me. Mark said "Megan, do you have any idea how dark and quiet it is out here at night?" Of course I knew, I grew up in a more dark and quiet place. Mark though, probably never experienced silence like that.
The day Mark and I closed on our house we drove from the closing office to our new home to change the locks. Its funny to think about it now, we argued on the way. We felt rushed but we got stuck in traffic on Highway 10. Mark was so irritated with me that I forgot about an alternate route. Now that I think about it, Mark tended to get irritated when good things happened. We fought on almost every big day we had. Maybe we just communicated passionately, but I think part of it was the disbelief Mark had that things were really working out in his life and it made him anxious.
We had big plans for our house and we got started on some improvements right away. Of course Mark painted the entire main floor interior, and argued with me when I wouldn't let him paint the oak trim. He got help to install lighting and ceiling fans, and only electrocuted himself once. We ripped up the carpet and much to my disappointment found a huge plywood patch in the middle of my wood floors, so we re-carpeted. We replaced the toilet, and the bathroom vanity. Plumbing projects were our biggest fights. We did a few more interior projects and we planned the project I was most excited about, painting the exterior. The exterior of our house was partially painted for about a year. On July 28th I got home from work and Mark came up to me in the kitchen and told me he was going to paint the exterior of the house the next day. I couldn't believe it! Mark had been working 12 hour days trying to get his business of the ground. I didn't expect to be next on the list, but he told me he wanted to make it happen for me. July 29th I kissed my husband good bye in the morning and told him how excited I was to see the house when I got home. I didn't get the chance to tell Mark how much I loved the house because he was already unconscious when I made it home. The last gift my beautiful husband ever gave me was painting my house.
Every once in a while I come home and as I walk through the door I put my hand against the dark grey stucco and I take a breath. I think about how he put that paint there, how we argued about the color for months, about how excited he was to tell me it was finally my turn. I am grateful and heartbroken all in that same breath. Sometimes I think about moving from this place, but I don't know that I will ever have the desire or the strength to leave. This house is the only place where we lived our married life. This house is where I cooked our first dinner as a married couple. This is the place where I would wait at home when Mark worked late. This house is where I would sit next to him on the couch and complain about how boring his video game was. This house is the house that we played ping pong in the basement through my whole pregnancy with Hezekiah. The house where we created our babies, and the place we brought them home to. This is the home that Amaya and Aaliyah came to live with us. The kitchen is the place where Mark would hug me from behind, or smack my butt as he walked by. His chair still sits in the living room where I often expect him to be when I walk in. His spot at the dinner table sits vacant most of the time, and his coffee maker is unused on the counter. Man I miss all of the little moments, I miss the big moments, I miss the arguments and the slammed doors. Even almost 10 months later I would still give anything to change the outcome of Mark's heart attack. I can't change the outcome so I need to keep moving forward, so I will paint the soffits he couldn't finish, I will put up the address placard we had planned, and I will keep touching the stucco wall as I pass through the door and think about Mark while I take the breath. Six years in this tiny little home filled with many tiny little feet, and a whole lot of love.