How I won big time by losing the sure family bet #CBF17

background image by Amin Allen Tabrizi courtesy of Flickr

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.

Are you not entertained?

God Of War
The original Super Bowl. Image by Sean Molin courtesy of Flickr
My house was ‘destroyed’ as one guest so delicately put it just before leaving on Sunday. We’d hosted a Super Bowl viewing party and toys and chips ground into a fine dust under a stampede of little feet covered the floors. My memory from the time we used to host this party before children is foggy, but at times like these, I wonder if the mess was once easier to clean up when it consisted of only left-over red plastic cups and the occasional “party-foul” carpet spots.

The following day was a struggle. Why, oh why, isn’t the Super Bowl on a Saturday? I complained to everyone and no one in particular. Silly Allie. Do you really think an organization accused of minimizing studies on the impact of concussions on its employees really cares that you have to work with a potential hangover the next day? The question you should be asking is, were you not entertained?

The party had been fun for the most part, even if the team I was rooting for lost. Snacks were warm, beverages, cold, and the chairs were full of friends and family. In fact, the only thing, shy of the loss, I hadn’t enjoyed was a string of commercials about children born nine months after the Super Bowl. Eww. Sorry, that was a song no parent should be comfortable watching their child sing, especially not in front of such a big audience.

But, my hostess duties prevented me from watching it all, and apparently others saw something in the program that I missed. Oh my gosh. Did you see what Beyoncé was wearing during the halftime show? I couldn’t believe it either. All that money and she can’t find pants that fit. No, it’s not that. I hear she hates pants. She’s so anti-pants she won’t even so much as wear a skirt. That’s how much she hates pants. Maybe she’s just really proud of her legs? If I had legs like that, I’d promote them too and why aren’t you talking about Flint? Flint, as in Michigan? What does Flint have to do with Beyoncé or her pants?

Well, since you brought it up, let’s talk about Flint. When I hear the word Flint, I don’t instantly think crisis, although the thought quickly follows. Flint, to me, is a house a short distance from an automotive plant with a basement that was once stocked with carpentry tools, a sunroom that opens to cool summer breezes as no other artificial air conditioning is needed, and an older couple who once choose to raise a family there rather than in another town just up the road. The same couple who now stubbornly refuse to come south no matter how much my mom begs.

I started to pay attention to the water crisis when I learned that my brother-in-law arranged for bottled water to be sent from states away to my grandparents’ home before he would bring his daughters to visit. He wasn’t the last either. A cousin sounded the alarm, well before the current media storm, across all her social media. Her friends, anxious to do anything at all to help, but at a loss as to exactly how, sent bottles upon bottles more. It is a truly sweet gesture, and I for one appreciate the thought as well as their generosity, but just as the decision to switch Flint’s water from Detroit was likely made with best intentions (but not enough homework), the quick solution wound up creating a different sort of problem. Water is heavy, and once delivered, is difficult for my grandparents to move to where it can actually be used. So the bottles sit.

Now it is winter again, bringing its weather with it. A few years ago, homes near my grandparents lost their roofs under the weight of the unrelenting snow. My grandfather bought a snowthrower, only to have it stolen away. Flint is not new to problems. It is only the scale of the public’s attention that has changed. And yet for all its problems, there are those who continue to call it home for any number of reasons. People like my grandparents who refuse to give up and leave. People like my grandparents’ neighbor who shovels snow-covered sidewalks well beyond his own property line for nothing more than thanks. People who remember the Flint that was and people who still dream of the Flint that could be. People who simply want to drink a glass of water unafraid.

So no. This isn’t a story about pants, or football, or even my house (that rest assured is no longer in ruins). It is a story about people. No matter what team we root for or whether we wear trousers, kilt, or body suit straight out of the nineties, it is good to remember we are all made of water. So let’s try to keep it clean.

And no, in this, I am not entertained.