Open House

In a couple of my blogs I’ve written about story ideas. Sometimes, I get the inspiration from paintings, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, but mostly I get ideas from real life experiences. There is one event that, although I have not used it yet, continues to stick with me. It is one of those experiences we all have that remains lurking in the back of our minds for months or even years. In this case, it was an open house I conducted just last year.

An open house is when a home seller, either through a realtor or by themselves, opens up their home for an afternoon for prospective buyers to parade through and give it a look-over. I’m sure you have all seen an “open house” sign in front of a home at some point. Anyway, as a real estate investor, I occasionally use this exercise when placing a property on the market. Actually, it has proven to be a rather effective tool by consolidating at least several individual showings into just a few hours.

One of the drawbacks to conducting an open house, however, is that anybody in the neighborhood or off the street may stop in, whether they are a serious buyer or not. Sometimes, neighbor families of up to four or five will stop in just out of sheer curiosity. This is what I like to cynically call, “real estate tourism.” Of course, these are not true prospects and, in a practical sense, a waste of time for sellers when the bottom line of the real estate business is all about “the numbers.”

With the cold, hard numbers in mind, one open house showing I specifically remember was early last summer when an elderly woman, perhaps in her 70s or 80s, stopped in with a friend. The woman, Edie, was interested only in seeing the house since we had cleaned it up. And actually, she and I talked mostly about everything but the house. She talked about her family and about when she was young, during World War Two.

Yes, when thinking about “the numbers,” as I mentioned, she was wasting our time. But, aside from being so friendly and kind-hearted, she actually was interesting.

However, what sticks in mind the most about Edie was her Alzheimer’s disease, which had her repeating her stories three or four times. In the beginning, it seemed rather sweet, but to this day, even a year later, I wonder how she handles it and hope, as I get older, that I don’t have to find out firsthand what it is like to forget that I already told “that story.” I wonder if she ever figures out that she tells the same stories and does the same things two, three or four times over again. At the time, she didn’t seem to grasp that she was repeating her stories, but what I still wonder most is if she gets frustrated by it all.

Then, a week or two later, as you might have expected, Edie stopped by to tour the house again. She was so curious and enthusiastic about seeing the home “for the first time” since we had cleaned it up.

It really hit my heart both times to watch Edie go through this. Her friend seemed to take it all in stride, though, probably because Alzheimer’s is a fact of life that, thus far, is out of our mortal control.

While this experience may or may not influence any of my stories or other fictional writings, it is obvious it has had an effect and, having written this, probably something I’ll remember for quite a while.


5 responses to “Open House

  1. I like hearing about your different adventures. Last week journalism, this week real estate, it’s all very interesting. Meeting so many different types of people and personalities must help with writing. But poor Edie’s story broke my heart.

  2. How terribly difficult it must be to lose yourself to Altzheimer’s. I saw the reviews for Still Alice and thought looked to be so well done, I just didn’t know that I could watch someone deteriorate like that. Too scary. Thanks for sharing

  3. I used to work at a Beauty College. Well, most customers are either poor or elderly, with elderly being the larges share. I had a couple of clients that had advanced Alzheimer’s. One fellow would come in with his wife, and while she was getting her toes done, I would cut his hair. I did it slowly, so that she could spend the most time getting her toes done, (she couldn’t leave him at home). He would tell me the same 4 or 5 stories each time. I would just ask him the same questions or give the same exclamations, and it made him happy. I was sad when she came in alone after a long break to find he had passed. But, she was both sad and relieved, and I can understand that. It easy to be kind to someone for 1/2 an hour, its harder when it repeats day after day. I told her that I admired her for sticking with it and not just sending him to a home.

    • Yes, I can imagine how it would be more difficult to watch over a longer time, watching the person digress. In fact, I wonder if it is more difficult for others to watch or for the person with the Altzheimer’s, since with Altzheimer’s they may not even realize what they’re going through. In a way, that’s even sadder.

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