By August 2014, we had a year of renovations under our belt and it had cost us a lot. Not only financially, but we had done very little relaxing, socializing, skiing, or much of anything BUT renovations. We were exhausted and began to enjoy a teeny weeny bit of time off. Gary was busy with (paying!) work and I was planning the wedding and getting used to coming home from the office and putting my feet up, rather than picking up a tool for another work shift. We might have even enjoyed a little more time off had one of our rental apartments not suddenly become available.
One of our tenants, Madame L, was pushing 95 when we bought the place. She was inspiringly independent for her age and she had her brother/next door neighbour/best friend to lend a helping hand if need be. Unfortunately, her health was slipping and she was easily confused. One day, I went upstairs to deliver a letter and she asked me if I had come over by bicycle. From en bas!? I replied ‘non, I took the stairs’ and she gave me a sort of ‘that’s nice dear’ reply. I suspect she forgot I lived below her apartment.
Back in the day, she was a midwife in Vermont and she was just sweet as pie. The first time she was taken into the hospital we sent her a get-well-soon card and she sent us a thank-you card back. Cute! Unfortunately, her visits to the hospital became longer stays and she was soon home less and less. Just before Christmas 2014, their family threw an emergency meeting and decided to move her into a nursing home. Monsieur L was not d’accord. He was outraged, insisting the best thing for her at her age was to be comfortable in her own home. He went to visit her every day and complained to us about the hostage-like move by the rest of their family. It was heartbreaking. Though the chances of her moving back home seemed slim, since things were a bit touchy, we didn’t press to see how long he wanted to hang onto her apartment. In any event, we were hardly ready to embark on a new renovation project back in December, so as long as they wanted, both apartments were theirs.
Months passed and then one day in May, Monsieur came home flustered, grabbed a few things, and then quickly screeched off in his car again. The following day, brother and sister were out on the back deck upstairs, enjoying a little sunshine just like old times…..Ummmm…what was she doing home? Mr. L later proudly explained to Gary that he had kidnapped his sister from the hospital. She was there for an appointment and was supposed to wait several hours for a ride back to her nursing home in an ambulance. He saw an opportunity, and made his move. He was manic, describing the event like a prison break!
We were obviously concerned, but reassured ourselves that someone would be by to get her as soon they realized she was missing. Days went by, then weeks, and things strangely seemed to go back to ‘normal’. No one came. Wasn’t the home looking for this woman? What if she had medication she wasn’t taking? I would feel responsible if something happened, and WHAT IF something happened!?! I finally decided to call their nephew. I didn’t want to double cross our jailbreaking tenant, but I was worried. I apologized for interfering and asked if he knew that Madame had moved back home. He did not, and thanked me for my concern. Following that call, nurses came by the house regularly to check in with her. Sadly, her blood circulation quickly deteriorated and she could no longer get around on her own. Not an easy situation in the best of times, let alone for her 80-something-year-old brother/caregiver in a second floor apartment. A few weeks later, she left in an ambulance and moved back into the nursing home for good. This time Monsieur L accepted that her care was best left to the professionals.
Through the summer months, Monsieur popped back and forth between the two units, living in both apartments. In fact, he seemed to be making himself quite comfortable up there. Unbeknownst to us, he was also sneakily moving his things into her apartment (I mean big furniture items, and all on his own! I swear he has superhuman strength). Since we had always assumed her apartment would become available first, it was hers we had planned to fix up. And anyway, it was in better shape, had more windows and could yield us more rent. Well, Mr. L had other plans. We suppose that acquiring that apartment might have been a kind of rite of passage. The kids (there were 11 brothers and sisters in all) grew up in the house downstairs and as they got older, they moved upstairs into the apartments. They moved out when they got married and settled down. Well our brother and sister duo never wed. She had probably once lived in his apartment and then earned her place in the brighter once. It was finally his turn to take it over.
He seemed shocked and flustered when we mentioned it was her apartment we wanted to renovate. We said it was worth more to us and he replied that he had already moved many of his things into her place, which of course by now we had noticed. He is a good tenant but we couldn’t just let him move into the nicer of the two apartments without discussion. The rent was REALLY affordable and he would obviously also want to hang onto the garage where he parks his car, and one storage unit in le Frankenshed. We asked whether he would be willing to pay more rent to take her place and he agreed without flinching. We should have asked him for double. Oh well, it was settled. Once he had finished clearing out his apartment by the end of September, it was his place we would be renovating.
Despite all the things he had already dragged next door, his apartment was still surprisingly cluttered and hers was now packed to the gills. Where he planned to put the rest was a mystery. We offered to help, but he refused. We could sympathize with the fact that he did not want to purge his sister’s things, she was still alive after all, but he had effectively just halved his living space and doubled his possessions. Something had to give, and we hoped it wasn’t going to be the floor structure. We should have doubled the joists when we had the chance. Tant pis! We had bigger fish to fry. We had a renovation to start…and all just in time for our honeymoon: a few months of romantic evenings and weekend getaways upstairs chez Le Money Pit.