I went to lunch with my grandpa. No, it wasn’t his birthday. Nor was it a holiday. I went because I could. Something I wouldn’t have been able to do a year ago and something I’d bet I would never be able to do without days or weeks of planning.
I mean that quite literally. But before I get into the bet, I should explain. My grandpa, now in his nineties, has lived his entire adult life in Flint, Michigan, and though he occasionally suggested he might be willing to leave the great white north, he would change his mind in dramatic fashion the minute my mom ever made the mistake of taking him seriously.
Then one day quite out of the blue, my grandpa announced he was ready. Not ready to move down south, oh no, no, no, but at least ready to move to a place down the road where we didn’t have to worry quite so much about his roof collapsing under the weight of snow or someone breaking into his shed. My mom and her siblings did not waste any time, appearing as if by magic, to help move his essentials and clean out the family home before any second thoughts got the better of him.
His new living arrangements weren’t perfect, but it gave us a sliver more peace of mind. Still, the family home remained off the market, though it remained unoccupied.
We worried it would remain that way for some time. We also worried that it wouldn’t, at least, not legally anyway.
You see, in addition to being ranked among America’s most dangerous cities, Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, which began in 2014, though it took another year to be recognized for what it is, has still not been resolved. At least not fully. While the water in 57% of homes tested in December of 2016 contained no evidence of lead, it took until March 2017, for a judge to approve a deal to improve the water lines for an additional 18,000 homes – improvements which do not have to be complete until the year 2020. (source AP: A Timeline of the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan, US News.)
The lead in the water was only a piece of it. 91 residents of Flint and Genesee County, which includes Flint, contracted Legionnaires’ Disease. 12 died. Children born after the crisis began had an average birth weight 5% less than those born before with a higher than average risk of developing irreversible neurological conditions, and fetal deaths spiked by 58% (source Flint Had a Lead Crisis in Its Water. Now It Has a Fertility Crisis, Mother Jones).
Is it any wonder then that Flint might not have the nation’s hottest housing market?
You might then be asking why my grandpa was so unwilling to move. We openly wondered about that on more than one occasion too. I can only assume I get some of
my stubborn refusal to accepts facts as presented grit from him.
Back to the bet. As the summer neared its end, my mom eagerly told us that grandpa had changed his mind yet once more. This time it was different. He would brave the change. He was ready to pick family over the familiar. She asked me if I would mind sparing my hubby for a few days to help with the heavy lifting.
Of course, I didn’t believe it for a second. I bet her she was wrong. I told her if and only if he still wanted to go through with it when the time came, I’d be happy to solo parent for a couple of days. It was an easy gamble.
A week passed. The story from my grandpa didn’t change. My mom, stepdad, and my husband booked a truck. I bet them he’d send them back the first day. They spent the day packing, finishing up a day earlier than expected. I bet them they would make it as far as Ohio before grandpa asked to turn the truck around. The truck stopped in North Carolina at a nice retirement complex ten minutes from my home.
I bet them they would make it as far as Ohio before grandpa asked to turn the truck around. The truck stopped in North Carolina at a nice retirement complex ten minutes from my home.
So instead of being right, I sat to Grandpa’s left as we enjoyed a lightly seasoned piece of baked fish. We met Irwin, another 93-year-old transplant from the north with a sharp wit and love of terrible puns rivaling my own. We met Paula a self-professed trouble-maker with an eye for cleanliness and efficiency in the German tradition who came to the US from Bavaria with the intention of staying two years only to stay sixty-five. We met soft-spoken John who was just as welcoming. I heard my grandfather laugh and for dessert, they served apple pie.
Losing a bet was never more delicious and I am happy to report, my grandpa’s house sold.
With an upside like this, it’s enough to make you wonder why, for so many of us, it takes so long to brave the risk of a little change.
The hashtag, #CBF17 in this post’s title, is in reference to the Cherished Blogfest, an annual event in which bloggers share something they cherish. Special thanks to Ally Bean over at the Spectacled Bean for sharing the details about this event as well as her own cherish story.