Ask the Home Inspectors: Single mom hopes home helps heal wounds left by son's death
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I crouched at the far end of a tall attic, looked back toward the access ladder and noticed just the top of Arleen Weise's face, which pointed in my direction.
The 59-year-old hairdresser was curious enough to poke her stylish head into the attic but not yet certain she wanted to join me for my walk along the ceiling joists.
As a real estate inspector, I enjoy examining homes for buyers and sellers. But meeting, helping and learning from so many interesting people makes the tiptoe across 2x10s an even more worthwhile trip.
On this late January day, Weise reminded me that homes can represent new beginnings. They can serve as a comforter at the end of a long day.
She hadn't said anything about her youngest son, Adam Weise, until I climbed out of the attic. The 24-year-old was one of 11 men who died during an April 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, I stood with Weise in the kitchen of a Victoria County home - nine days after what would have been Adam's 27th birthday.
The day he died, the mother told me, was a whirlwind of phone calls and emotions. Her worst fear was that, if Adam had jumped to the water from the 320-foot-tall rig, his heavy, steel-toed boots would have pulled him under.
"The thought of that ." she said. "I couldn't stand it."
When my 2-year-old baby girl clumsily falls, my heart drops. I can't fathom the loss of a child. I can't even pretend to.
So, I found it inspiring that Weise has somehow opted to push forward despite the heavy sorrow.
She had, until recently, lived in Yorktown. She'd moved into the home previously owned by her late son.
Weise avoided the living room there, though, because of the reminders on the wall. She watched reruns of Nickelodeon comedies in bed at nights hoping for a laugh.
But that 45-minute commute each morning from Yorktown to her Victoria workplace was too long, too fused with idle time and sparse distractions. During those drives, she often cried.
Having now bought a home in Victoria County, her commute is brief. "And I'm going to have room to breathe here," she said.
Weise raised four children as a single mother and rented cramped homes for most of the last 34 years, moving often. Her new home is the first to have a garage door operator. All that mattered little, though, given her children's love.
Adam was masculine and sensitive and unafraid to show both sides. In junior high, Weise drove her son to school. One morning, he stepped out of the car amid the crowded yard, leaned back inside and kissed her.
"You know, in junior high, everyone wants to be cool," the mother said. "I was worried he'd be teased."
After school, Weise asked her son if anyone harassed him.
"Oh, yeah," Adam said. "I just told them, 'I love my momma.'"
As a young man, each time he left for work on the oil rig, he'd say, "I'm working for your retirement, Mom."
It's those sorts of memories that both warm the mother and torment her.
During my inspection, Weise stepped outside the three-bedroom home, which also has a bonus room and study. She walked toward the backyard pool. She always wanted a pool and enough room to comfortably host and house family and friends.
"Even if I don't get in the pool, it will help me to heal. I always loved water," she said. "Now, I have enough room that friends and family can stay. If I get lonely out here in the country, it's my own fault."
A new home won't bring Adam back. Weise knows that. But it's a fresh start. A place with enough room for the comforting sounds of company.
Sarah Dessen is an author. In one of her novels, she sums up perfectly the sentiment Weise invokes.
"Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map," Dessen wrote. "It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together."
Gabe Semenza is Texas licensed professional inspector No. 20326 and owner of Semenza Inspections, contact him at 361-676-1480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.