The Big Mistake

Sure, maybe someday it'll look like this.

Sure, maybe someday it’ll look like this.

Since I don’t do holidays anymore,  to my parents’ horror, I readily accepted Der’s timely invite which arrived FedEx and contained a RT ticket to Vancouver and a card that read “Fancy a dirty weekend?” Now I know what you’re thinking, and I was thinking that too, which is why I packed accordingly.

One Weds I checked in my suitcase full of frilly things. I was filled with joy because Canadians had their Thanksgiving in October. It would be a totally turkey-free guilt-free weekend. Then, just as I was about to board the plane, he sent a text “I think I have made a big mistake. I must talk to you.”

Not really the text I was hoping for, especially as they were calling my row called. I could have replied, but I turned off my phone instead.  All through the flight I wondered, was the big mistake inviting me?  Maybe it was choosing Vancouver. Maybe it was the business. Maybe the location of new offices. His recently hired a personal assistant. The car he’d just leased. The house he’d purchased. His immigration status. . . . .

When I arrived, he seemed very happy to see me. He didn’t say anything about the text. Maybe it had been sent to me by  mistake?

The moustache wasn’t a mistake, it was for Movember. He’d leased a new sedan, or so I’d thought till I saw the lime green Ford pick up. Maybe he’d had an accident? No, the truck was temporary rental for work.

We went to his office building in a place called Gastown. I don’t know much about Vancouver, but he assured me it was a great place. So we went up to his office, which had been completed on time and under budget and looked great.

I  dropped my bags, and he had to take some calls, so I met Morgan before we went to lunch. The new PA definitely wasn’t a big mistake. We went to lunch and afterwards he  took me over to a spa. I had a lovely relaxing afternoon, while he worked. Then I went back to his office and we went home to his place.

It’s what they call a Heritage House, which means it’s old. In this case 1912-ish, so a Craftsmen-type house. Housing in Vancouver is expensive, which he knew going in, but I never asked the final price he’d paid. He always said he’d paid rock bottom for it. But Morgan confided he’d purchased in Vancouver’s “most exclusive neighborhood.” So I assumed, something in the lower 7 figures.

He’d told me he was very pleased with the house. But when we reached the door, he set down the bags and looked at me. Silence. “It’s not quite finished. I had some unexepected expenses after I began renovations.” “Oh? Such as?” “Once they opened up the kitchen,  . . . .”

Long story, shortened, what started out as a simple kitchen remodel turned into replacing plumbing, electrical, hvac, windows, a support beam, insulation, and weeping tiles, with mold and abestos removal, and chimney repair.

Then he opened the door and walked in  and turned on the hall lamps. “Nice wood floors.” I said, And they were. “Mmm, they are. But they need refinishing.” There was not much else to comment upon as the house was backed to the studs, except where there was spray insulation. “Very toasty.” “It is now.”

The kitchen was a fridge, a gerry-rigged farm sink, and a table with 2 chairs. “Great fridge.” “Yes, it was on mark down.” There was no other furniture downstairs. Upstairs, there was a futon bed, a floor lamp, and a very nice amoir his parents had sent as a house warming present.

I won’t tell you about the “master bath,” in this supposedly 6 bed, 5 bath house. Suffice it to say, I could see all the bathrooms from the hall, through all the bedroom. I didn’t see anything functional. He looked at me sheepishly and confessed to having been showering at his gym and using a toilet in the basement that hadn’t been gutted, yet.

“So, what’s the big mistake?” I asked, sitting down on the futon. But I had a good idea I knew it was was. He’d bought a house that needed a once in a century renovation.

“There’s note enough to finish the house,” he admitted. “And my family is coming for Christmas. They’ve already bought tickets.”

“What buget have you left?” I asked. And he told me. He was right.

My dad used to flip houses in his youth, before flipping was a word. We all used to help. I can tile, install plumbing, hang drywall. I’m no expert, but I know that to reno large historic house with a great deal of “must be preserved” character takes months.

There’s a lot you can do on a shoe string, but I was out of my depth and told him so. We ordered take away and spent the evening going through his pre-disaster reno plans, redoing his budget (numerous times, leaving out unnecessary parts of the house), and finally discussing the inevitability of a mortgage (he’d bought the house outright, so that was an option). We ended by go to the gym.

We rose early in the morning and spent Thanksgiving  at hardware stores,  lumber yards, and building supply shops. In the afternoon, I taught him how to hang drywall. Dirty weekend indeed. But still not my worst  Thanksgiving ever and we were together, doing something interesting, so it was fun.

About 3 pm, Morgan called. He had to go into work, so I just kept at hanging. About 5 pm, there’s a knock on the door. It’s my parents. Der had called my father, from the gym, the previous evening. He’d asked him to come up to “see the damage.” Da was pretty impressed. He’d not seen a home so ruined since his last trip to Wales. I believe mum used the word “desperate” repeatedly.

When Der returned, we went out to dinner. We went over the budget and the plans again. My father agreed it would be “spectacular” when complete and it’d probably take less than 10% of the purchase price. My mother shook her head and went out to peruse the terrace view. On Black Friday Der applied for a home improvement loan and we went over the border to buy more (cheaper) building supplies.

In the end, by Sunday, with some help from a few of his friends, we had a lot of the drywall up (though now where near finished), and one could see an end in sight. The kitchen, several baths, and all the items finishing a house required were on order. If things stay on track, per my mother’s excel sheet, the house could be finished Christmas Eve.

Realistically, a Christmas finish would be a miracle, even with my folks promise to help. Knowing my da though, that promise means Der’s uncle will be getting a call. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Der’s family suddenly decided on landing in Vancouver only to travel to Banff for skiing without ever seeing the big mistake. At least until Easter.

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