Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Archive for March, 2021

Casa Blanco

What makes a house a home? What is it that turns a bunch of numbers, maybe a word or two, and makes them more than a something you locate on Zillow or Google Earth? And then if you’re really, really fortunate, is there any way you could imagine your house becoming a home that then becomes more than your own home?

A place that earns a name, and everyone knows why.

I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before. I’m getting kinda old; us old guys tend to repeat ourselves, to tell our stories over and over again. Forgive me if I have (as I’ll forgive you if you do remember and choose to walk on by). Casa Blanco is sort of a take on Casablanca, of course. Should it be one word? I dunno. Might be a bit too precious, that. My last name is White, so the Blanco part is a no-brainer. You might ask why the Spanish, though. That comes from my daughter Megan and my “Extra son” Alex who teasingly called their mostly Irish mutt of a Dad “Papi Blanco” just for giggles.

It’s been 7 1/2 years since we decamped from 29123 Lincoln Rd., the home we made as our family grew. We moved in there just about a week before Randy, child number 3, arrived. We stayed there for 21 years. Frankly, I never would have predicted that after the ordeal that was purchasing the house. If we hadn’t put on an addition and totally re-designed the spaces we kept, my memories of the sale would have driven me out and into something that made me feel like it was ours and not “theirs”.

But stay we did, and Lincoln Rd. did become a very special home for us and for many of our children’s friends. It’s where Beth started collecting what my daughter-in-law calls her “Extras”. Kids who needed just a tiny bit of extra love, of extra attention, a little bit of cheerleading and guidance that Beth was able to give. My abiding memories of Lincoln road revolve around our kids and their friends. Dinners with various and sundry buddies at the table, everyone there, chatting and laughing for what seemed like hours. My very favorite memory is all of the times I came home to find a child, but not one of my children, sitting at the kitchen counter doing their homework.

“Hey Papi! How’s it going?”

With all of that you could reasonably ask why we would leave Lincoln Rd. at the tender ages of 53 and 52. Why downsize, why leave a home that had such wonderful family memories for us and our kids? Trust me, the kids all asked! It was really the only home they’d ever known. The sad reality is that we were in the middle of my Dad’s protracted illness. He was marooned on the first floor of the 2 story farmhouse style home where I’d grown up. Unable to climb the stairs, he and my Mom moved into the dining room. The poor guy didn’t have a proper shower for the last 3 years of his life.

We live 750 miles away from my hometown, making our ability to help out my Mom and my siblings a challenge. Beth took 80% of my turns. She returned each time with the same conclusion: we are not going to be in that position. We will downsize before it’s necessary. We will move early enough that our new home will have a chance to be the next family home, not just the house Mom and Dad moved into.

Beth was committed, which meant I was committed, but it was far from clear when we were actually going to pull up stakes and head for wherever. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a leak in one of our bathrooms which resulted in water in our basement. I came home one night to Beth on her hands and knees, cursing, picking up melted drop ceiling at the bottom of our basement stairs. She was so angry. I blurted out “Bleep it, let’s move.”

Beth: “Great, but I still want to downsize.” Me: “Sure, I’m good for 20, 25%”. Beth: “Oh no pal…50%!” Me (just to win the “argument”): “Then I want to live on the lake (thinking what’s the chance we could find a house 1/2 the size of Lincoln Rd. with one story, on the lake, in our price range?). It took her less than 3 hours to find what would become Casa Blanco on Zillow. We looked at it the next day, signed the sales agreement 3 days later, and Beth immediately began to build what she called a “grandchild trap”.

So here we are, 7 1/2 years, one renovation, 2 redecoratings, 3 weddings and 5 grandchildren later. Casa Blanco has become a home. Heck, Casa Blanco has even spawned a new version of yours truly. Megan has described 3 versions of her Dad over her lifetime: Work Dad (very intense; sometimes not much fun), CrossFit Dad (who knew your Dad could actually be cool?), and Lake Dad (super chill; so far the favorite). As I write this I am gazing out over Lake Erie, my vast watery backyard. The lake, and my soul, becalmed.

All four of our patents were able to visit Casa Blanco, something for which I am eternally grateful. My brother still teases me about my Dad’s visit. Sitting at our picture window, gazing out at the lake oscillating between raging whitecaps and On Golden Pond stillness, his short term memory long gone as a functional part of his being. About every 30 minutes or so he would exclaim “who owns this place? What a lucky guy HE is! He must be really rich”. Whenever we recall his sole visit that quote invariably comes up.

Our lives at Casa Blanco have been marked by loss. 3 parents, two dogs, a few friends who’ve fled our latitude for more welcoming climes. Despite that when I look out the windows what I see is little ones, the grandchildren caught in the magic of Casa Blanco and “Camp Grammy”. I hear their voices, the peals of laughter, the clamor as they jump off the pier or climb onto the lily pad. Despite myself, a man who avoids expectations as the emotional time bombs they so often turn out to be, I find myself dreaming of what might come next.

I can’t help myself.

As painful as it would be if none of these come to pass I look out into the yard and I see wiffle balls and bats and tees and, oops, a broken window or two. Theres a little plastic pool perpetually filling and spilling. Fishing poles with bobbers floating just off the pier, a tiny shoulder resting on my arm as we sun ourselves and pretend to fish. Cheek splitting smiles that burst of pride as one child drives our silly little antique Whaler and a sibling or a cousin or maybe just a friend gets up on one ski for the first time. And sunsets. So many sunsets that Beth and I share with our children and grandchildren.

Expectations mean hope, and hope is a dangerous thing, I know. When I dream of tomorrow’s tomorrow and see Casa Blanco it looks like my forever home. Looks like just what we hoped it would be, our next home, filled with the grandchildren Beth so very much wanted to nurture. How I will fight leaving that, for as long as it’s there. But what if none of that comes to pass? Is it still Casa Blanco if there are no children, or children’s children to warm our home with another generation of love? It will always be a home, my home, as long as I have Beth and she has me. Without all the rest, though, is it just where Mom and Dad live, a very sensible house for an older couple, albeit one with a nice view?

Today it is still Casa Blanco, the home where my heart lives. Where I hear yesterday’s tiny voice explaining a tiny puzzle (I think it goes here, Papi), and look forward to a big, messy, loud dinner table tonight, filled with family, where we will sit for what seems like hours (in pre-school time), happy in each other’s love and safe for at least today from whatever tomorrow may have in store for our little home.

What a blessing, today, filled with hope, living in all that is Casa Blanco.

I’ll see you next week…

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