House now empty: Going home won’t be quite the same


Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

Last week, I toured the renovated house in North Carolina where my parents had lived since 1968. Like so many other things these days, the tour was online, but why not? That’s how we roll in 2020.

My younger sister took the house tour in person, while her good friend took a video of their visit. My sister grew up in this house, but I went off to college the same month they moved in.

It’s been one year this month since I was there last. For a week, my sister and I went through boxes of “treasures,” items whose values are more sentimental than anything. With the assistance of her two adult sons and a friend, we loaded up a rental truck with furniture and other things I wanted, and my son-in-law and I embarked on a two-day drive to Texas.

That was then. This is now.

A contractor bought the house at auction. It needed extensive work before it could be considered anything more than a fixer-upper. Some might describe the project as a “flip,” but the people at this company treated it as more than just another job. The contractor was interested in the history of the house, and understood that after 52 years in our family, the house had been a home.

After the work was completed and one day before it went on the market, the contractor invited my sister to see what they had done.

They had worked miracles. You’ve seen it happen on those home-improvement shows popular now on cable television. The kitchen and bathrooms were all new and modern. The flooring was perfect. The landscaping was inviting. The rear deck was all new.

I thought the asking price was high, but he said he had a serious inquiry even before it was listed.

For a moment or two, I wondered why my sister and I didn’t keep the house, contract the renovation work ourselves, and pocket the profit. Then I realized how big a project it would have been, and how it would have consumed our lives for the better part of a year. Neither of us has the skills, time, or temperament to do that.

My sister had the same reaction that I did long before I had a chance to see the photos and video. While watching the tour, she felt embarrassed about how often she had said “gorgeous.” She said she kept talking to help suppress her emotions.

I could easily tell which room was which, but it doesn’t look much like the house we knew. That fact makes turning it over to another family — only the third family in 55 years — much easier.

The pandemic has delayed promised trips to visit family in the Carolinas this year, and we have decided that an anticipated December visit to see a nephew receive his law degree won’t happen. There will be a ceremony, but there won’t be an audience. We will watch it all online, as so many other things are done — as previously mentioned.

Someday, a trip will take place. But when it happens, it won’t be the same.

I have no doubt that there will be a drive-by to once more look at the homeplace. The final couple of miles of that drive have always felt welcoming, especially after making the drive several times a year since 1968. It has the feeling of “going home.”

The road exits an Interstate highway and goes through a commercial area. The locale then turns residential. A four-lane thoroughfare narrows to two lanes. There’s a small lake on the left and a large wooded area on the right, resisting development for decades. After a small rise in elevation on the other side of the lake, the driver turns to the left on a side street and into a subdivision. One block later, the final turn is a right, into the cul-de-sac.

The route hasn’t changed in decades, but the familiar “road home” will never be the same.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at