I passed by a house today that is falling apart. It is literally falling apart. One side of it was slumped over like an old man with years on his frame, about to drop from exhaustion. The other side was pretty much held up by baling wire, but the front of the place still looked like it probably had about 10 years ago when someone was still living there.
I didn’t see the back, but it was probably a combination of the two extremes. I know I wouldn’t want to go inside it for fear a gust of wind would knock the place over and turn it into my burial shroud.
But it got me to thinking, as I drove past on my way to someplace that didn’t look quite as bad, about the word “disrepair.” I can completely get its usage when talking about places that have some yard work to be done, or a trick step that could hobble anyone who forgets about it. I can even understand disrepair to mean some rust underneath the sink, a floorboard that squeaks, or a garage door that is stuck open.
For all of those things there is still hope. It can be repaired with a minimum of effort, some money, and a little elbow grease (I still don’t quite understand that term, though). Sure, it might take some work, and some serious initiative, but these aren’t issues that will usually bring down the house or the value of the neighborhood around it.
However, when a house is like the one I mentioned earlier (and it was roped off with what seemed to be retired police tape from 1995) it’s time to call it something a little more than “in disrepair.” Let’s call a spade a spade, and this one isn’t an Ace or a King. It’s condemned. Absolutely no one will be able to live in this house again — ever.
And it’s time we admitted it to ourselves so that admission can bleed out into the community around, so that no one anywhere will look at it and think “This can be repaired.” No, it can’t. Stop trying. Let it collapse and its pieces blend back into the dirt from which they all came at some point or other. Or raze it. Get a bulldozer in there, a wrecking ball, Miley Cyrus, something.
Call it a wrap. Give it a much delayed eulogy. Stop allowing it to be an eyesore on my journey to and from places that are actually in disrepair, that I can polish so they look like jewels again.
That’s not to say I don’t feel sad for the current state of the house. I imagine it was probably stunning in its heyday, welcoming to everyone and everything that entered into its sanctuary. I imagine there was a family who lived there, quite wealthy at some point, who had a large chandelier in the front hall, twin girls who wore taffeta dresses all day long, and a dog named Rudy.
There was probably a maid there who washed the draperies, who ironed the underwear, and who had her own room in the attic. I can see the room doubling as a sewing room. I can envision an attached garage that has since been demolished, only bare grass testament to its ever having existed at all, that and the memories of children long since grown and moved away, who have forgotten all about that house and its contents.
Now the house is condemned, or it should be condemned, or it has been condemned and someone has forgotten to tell the house itself, which is still struggling to stand, to fight against the elements, against Mother Nature herself, but it is losing. It has lost. It cannot be repaired. So stop saying it can.