I took my final walk through the empty house. A single tear rolled down my cheek. More threatened, but I was holding them back, though not sure for how long. I had already cried on the drive to the house and knew I would cry once I got back in my car. But for now, I would hold myself together.
“Why is this so hard? It’s just a house,” I keep telling myself. But is it? No, not really. To me, it was our first real home. It was the first place of which we really took ownership. We built it. Our name is written in the concrete of the pool deck. Our dog is buried in the backyard. We baptized two of our children in the swimming pool. We renewed our vows under the trees in the front yard. Memories.
When we moved in, the kids were 12, 10 and 4. Now, they are 20, 18 and 12. Two of them learned to drive here. They graduated high school here. They are adults now and no longer living at home. They grew up here. When they think back on their childhood, this is the home they will think of. Our youngest learned to swim in the pool in the backyard. He started school here. He graduated elementary school and started middle school here. Milestones.
I completed two master’s degrees while living here. I figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I started my career. Josh celebrated his final Air Force promotion soon after we moved in and retired as we moved out. We both turned 40 here. More milestones.
We also weathered some storms in this home. We made it through several deployments and long TDYs. We both lost our grandfathers. We faced a family member’s cancer diagnosis. We faced autism. And we fought like crazy for years as bipolar disorder tried to destroy us. Somehow, these four walls offered us protection through all of these trials. This was our safe place. We found refuge here.
So, no, it isn’t just a house. It’s a home. It’s our home. And even though we will no longer be living in it, it will always be our home. We will miss it. I will miss it. But, I will take with me my memories and I will look forward to what is yet to come. I will look forward to turning another house into a home.