To get caught up on the sections, you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
I have no pictures of this two week period because life sucked.
Joe pulled up that day in a little red truck. He was an older guy, maybe early 60's, that you could tell was intelligent and lived way below his means. I had been on the phone with Nancy and Chris all afternoon since the County inspector left.
I was trying to bring myself to terms with the fact that we had just enough money to repair this wall and that was about it. There was not enough money to swing paying back the tax credit, additional repairs, closing costs, and lease for our new place. At one point, we were going to have to admit that it would be financially smarter to stay.
Once before I had an estimate on the retaining wall and the total was going to be about $15k. This retaining wall went down a hill and across most of the house in the back. In addition, it supported a concrete patio that walked out from the family room. If you were standing on top of the concrete patio, you could walk down the stairs, also made of railroad ties, into the backyard.
When Joe walked down the bottom of the hill to see the retaining wall in all of its glory, I was barely holding it together. I wasn't trying to play the pity-me-I'm-poor card, but I think it was obvious. That's when he assured me that he could have this wall fixed. Meeting our closing date might be a problem if there are hidden issues behind the wall, but we would cross those roads later.
Joe's bid came in around $8,500 after he promised me that he would not be making a profit from this job. Overall, this brought our total to about $24,000 to walk away from the house... not including the car that I just sold.
When Chris came home that night, we had a long talk. At this point we were in a binding contract with a closing date. We had made too many promises and we had uncovered too many problems. I remember my eyes burning from being so dry, I couldn't produce a tear anymore. We weren't sleeping. We felt like failures. We felt like such fools. We were in our mid twenties and this house controlled our life.
I remember calling my best friend and her being upset for me. She thought that maybe we could email HGTV and the Yard Crashers would show up and do the wall, while we all smiled and wore matching shirts. I laughed, it wasn't a bad idea. We ended the call talking about her bachelorette party that was coming up that weekend. The four bridesmaids and her were all going to Chicago and staying at the Peninsula. Her parent's financial adviser was able to get us a discounted room and we were leaving Friday afternoon for the weekend.
I was really looking forward to Chicago. I had been for months. Even though I had just found out I was pregnant two weeks prior, I was feeling good, and ready to escape the daunting reality back home. I wanted to go all out for her weekend. I went and bought a new dress, bought her some lingerie from Nordstrom, and found some fun decorations and games.
On Friday, we gave Joe the OK to move forward with the wall. We would decide after the weekend whether we would just fix it and stay or sell ourselves into debt in order to leave. Regardless, it had to be fixed to avoid the County taking us to court.
I don't know what I want to say about the bachelorette weekend besides it made me change the way that I saw my best friend. I know a lot of people change when they are planning a big wedding, but that weekend I saw her worst colors. With everything going on back home and knowing that I was pregnant, I still wanted to have fun... for her. In reality, I wanted to be in my bed, crying and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to go huff and puff and blow that retaining wall away into dust. I remember staring at her and thinking, This wedding was a fucking joke. These people are a joke.
Sunday morning was a long drive home. I spent the five hours in the backseat, watching the mile markers on I-55 South get smaller and smaller. I was counting my losses with the foundation repairs, the tax credit, the windows, and the wall.... I was also counting the loss of my best friend.
When I arrived home on Sunday, Chris and I had a long talk about selling the house. Joe was going to the County that week to apply for a permit and I knew we were going to have to give him half down to start the wall. While we knew we were spending too much money to leave the house, we also knew that we had a pretty good offer. If we waited another year, with home values continuing to decrease, it might be costing us the same loss next year. The only difference was that we wouldn't have to pay back the tax credit.
On Tuesday, Joe called. The County wasn't approving his plans for the retaining wall. He was going to have to back fill the wall with a ton of limestone, about a $1000 more. He would draw up new plans and take them back to the County in a few days. Time was closing in on us. The buyer was getting special financing and while they let us push back the closing date once to repair the wall, her bank was adamant about this date or no deal.
This weekend was Easter. We were going out of town to Chris's family's house to celebrate. On Friday before leaving work, I printed out some of my 401k papers. I had been there for three year and putting away 10% of my salary in an investment plan with my employer matching most of my contribution. I was only 25 years old and had a good chunk invested. I saw where if you could show hardship, then you could withdraw the funds. I would be taxed on the withdraw, penalized for not putting it an IRA, and then taxed again on the income. But I thought this could be our way to leave the house and pay for everything. I was only 25... I had decades in front of me to still save for retirement. I printed out the papers and thought I would write up the story on the way to my in-laws that weekend.
Chris didn't tell his family much about the problems. They knew about the wall, but I don't think they knew the hole that we had dug for ourselves, all of the promises that we made, and all of the financial issues we were facing. They did know that I was pregnant and they felt bad that we were going through all of this. Most of the reason why Chris never said anything was because his grandma Betty was paying for his Master's. He only had a few weeks until graduation and had already lined up a summer school job. On Sunday of that weekend, while we were at Betty's with Chris's parents, Chris skimmed on some of the problems. I think Betty knew there was more going on than what Chris was letting on.
As we were leaving, Betty handed Chris a folded check. She said, "I want ya's to have this. Take it." It was made out for the amount to cover the retaining wall.
(to be continued...)