About a year ago, my husband and I began working on an endeavor that would challenge us financially, emotionally, and spiritually in many ways that we had never dreamed were possible. We felt we did the right thing, but every now again we question if it was truly worth it to save the home I grew up in. Personally, I am thankful that we didn’t give upon our mission to save what my grandfather had spent his life creating and building for our entire family. However, I must admit it was not an easy task to complete, yet we accomplished it with the help of many of our true friends who gave up their days to come help us clean up the property. We still have a long way to go before the inside it is completed, but we both have faith that we will accomplish what we have set out to do.
From the Beginning
In 1970, my grandfather bought a small house and began expanding it to fit his family’s needs over the years. Additionally, he had built a huge garage from tin and wood that was almost as big as the house is today. The property he bought is over an acre, so he built a chicken coop and had other livestock, which he raised to feed his family. As his family grew, he began his own business and did odd jobs like fixing cars to make ends meet. Soon, he began building race cars with my uncle, who drove them on a local racetrack. As he got older, he decided to move a mobile home on the back half of the property where he lived for many years with his wife of over 40 years. Later, my grandfather built a washroom behind the mobile home and a small storage room behind the garage, in order to keep the things he treasured or thought he may need in the future.
Growing up Here
My brothers and I grew up here, with my grandparents from the time we were born, until we became adults. Except when my mother married our adopted father, when I was five years old. He was in the Navy, which meant we had to around a lot with his job, but one place remained home for all of us. When my twin brother and I turned eleven, my mom decided to return home while my father traveled overseas and worked on his career. My mom announced she was getting a divorce and our life began changing drastically, because we no longer seen our father and my grandparents became constant parental figures in our life. Several times my mom would move out on her own for a few months, yet we were always welcome to move back home when she needed the extra help. I grew up into a young woman while living in this house and later married myself.
Losing our Rock
On June 7, 2007, my grandfather died after a long battle with prostate cancer and lung cancer, which had severely affected all of my family members including me. When he died, there was a lot of stuff he had collected over the years in all areas of the property. He collected things he thought he might need in the future like car parts, cars, wood, metal and PVC pipes, bricks, paint, and tools of all kinds. My brothers were feeding their addictions with the money they earned, so my grandmother went to live with my uncle after she became ill herself. I got very angry and I chose to stay away from the house for over two years, except when I came by to see my mother who was still living here. Additionally, I learned that all of my grandfather’s stuff had been sold without other family member’s consent, so I chose to walk away from the situation completely.
Taking a Stand
In June 2008, the City of Jacksonville, FL., issued three different types of citations against the property for unsafe structures, residential, and nuisance. Then, the police raided the house and arrested my little brother for his misdeeds, but the house picked up a bad label from the city because of his actions. During the time, he was feeding his addiction to drugs and the three cases against the property were being neglected and my mother had to go to court on this issue. Finally, I took a stand and I spoke with my grandmother, as well as my uncle about saving the property from being demolished by the city. My husband and I sold all we had and moved in on Oct. 31st, of 2009, in order to begin the delicate job of cleaning up the property and fixing the house. Life changed dramatically for us because my grandmother came home and my mom was already living here with us.
The Clean Up
First, we had to clean up all the junk, trash, and debris that we found in the yard in order to comply with one citation. Then, once we got that finished, we learned that we had to tear down three separate buildings that were unsafe or condemned. We tore down the garage, washroom, and mobile home with the help of some friends who helped us clear out the second citation. Next, we began repairing the house, which had an old shed attached that was considered unsafe. We rebuilt the shed and made it into a large master bedroom for us and soon the residential citation was closed as well. However, we still have a lot of work ahead of us like painting and adding flooring, but we accomplished our goal to close all three cases.
Honestly, it wasn’t easy to accomplish the goals we set, but we did it and now the house has become a home and it looks so much better than it did before we started. We never thought we would get the three citations closed, but we did and we were not given any fines by the city. Our neighbors are always complementing us on the way the house looks now and the outstanding job we did of cleaning up the property. We initially set out to save my childhood home, yet along the way I am making new memories with my husband and my children. However, no matter what happens in the future, I will always know I did do the right thing by choosing to take a stand and helping rebuild this house into our home. Therefore, my wish would be that my children and future generations are able to enjoy seeing the home that my grandfather built with his own two hands.
©2009, Crystal S. Kauffman
Previously Published/Associated Content/Yahoo Voices
Update: I am feeling blessed, because now I am buying the house, but it still needs major work. However, I am truly happy to have saved this home from being torn down by the city. I am ecstatic that I now have a chance to own it. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways!