To the man buying my house

Dear Ben,

In September of 2000, I was 26 years old and had been married only three months. Scoop, a 13-pound dog that bit people for sport, was 18 months old and could jump from a sitting position high enough to grab a treat out of my mouth. I had no children. I earned $27,500 per year as a television news reporter and thought I was lucky to have it. Finding local real estate agents such as Reali along with others and finally buying this house was the single most responsible thing I’d done in my life to that point, and I didn’t think more than a few minutes about the family that had lived here before me. I expect you will feel much the same way. The idea of looking into new homes can be quite stressful, but it doesn’t have to be if you take your time to find the house you have always wanted. It’s a big commitment for anyone, but it will be worth it in the end. Applying for a mortgage is always a difficult part of the process, but its good to know you can refinance your mortgage if necessary later on. Visit if you would like to learn more about this.

I don’t fault you for that, but I don’t think I can lock up this place without making sure you know a few things that weren’t in the seller’s disclosure.

The back doorknob sometimes has to be jiggled if you want to open the door.

There is a small creak in the floor in front of the coat closet.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I overslept in the room where you will now go to bed. At 27 years old, I woke up to my mom’s voice on the phone. What she told me changed me forever.

My children built their first snowmen in the front yard.

There’s a woodpecker. He loves the house. He cannot be trapped. He cannot be killed. Learn to love him.

The scar on my chin is the product of orthostatic hypotension and the landing at the top of the stairs. My wife found me face down in my own blood and dragged me into what you will probably call the guest room. That’s what we called it at the time, too. The hardwoods in your new master bedroom were being installed and we were sleeping on a futon in that guest room. That room has since become my older son’s bedroom. I’ve slept in his bed with him. I’ve slept on his floor next to his bed. I read “The Night Before Christmas” to him in the same room. My entire family slept there for warmth during the great ice storm of December 2005. A few months ago, around Halloween, we built a fort and ate Three Musketeers bars on the carpet. In January, I yelled at my boy for mishandling the puppy, only to learn later that the trainer had taught him to do exactly what I had scolded him for. Through tears, my son said, “You weren’t here, Daddy. You were on a trip.” I became a different person that night–a better one I hope.

There used to be a stain on the carpet about three feet from the creak in the floor. My friend Chris was dog-sitting for us and knocked a plant off a table. The potting soil stained the floor – something you at home can remedy with homemade carpet stain removers. He worked for three days to get it clean. He only stopped when he’d done all he could. Chris died five years ago next month. Our dog died last summer. The carpet is new, but I still remember the stain, how hard Chris worked to clean it up, and how well he took care of a dog few people liked, but I loved with all my heart.

The wall in the kitchen is a little warped. It used to look a lot worse. Several years ago, a guest got drunk on tequila, fell into the bottom half of the sheetrock, and pretended to birth a child. We were all younger then. Between 2000 and 2005, this place hosted more parties than just about any house I know. They were raucous, irresponsible, epic affairs. People climbed trees like monkeys, threw up in the front yard, and had wrestling matches in the back. On any given weekend night, the street would be lined with cars and people. In 2005, we hosted Bradoween V. It was an orgy of food, drink, and insanity that ended with the realization that the partying days on Mt. Willis had run their course. Five years later, I’m still finding evidence of those parties around the house. I suspect you will, too. I’m sorry, and you’re welcome.

The back yard might seem a tad small to you, but you should know it was big enough to teach my boy to throw a perfect spiral. That basketball hoop in the driveway is where he learned to shoot a fadeaway. The living room is a gridiron, and the front and back doors are the end zones for Sunday in-house football games. Use them appropriately. And narrate your own play-by-play if you want to do it right.

The fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom have both been inspected by a professional. We used the one in the living room as late as last Christmas eve. We drank hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows. It was probably the happiest day of my life and it happened in your new living room. Oddly enough, we never burned a fire in the master bedroom fireplace. I’m not bragging, but it’s fair to say we never needed one.

There is small spot I had to patch in the upstairs bathroom tub. Both of my boys have been taking baths in there for some time now. I sometimes put the lid down on the toilet, sit, and watch them play in the water together. It was on that toilet I found my older boy a few years ago after he’d chugged nearly an entire bottle of children’s Tylenol. I don’t remember how much the hospital bill cost, but I can still see the boy sitting on the toilet. He was holding the two-tablespoon-sized cup like a shot glass, and his mouth was covered in pink liquid. It was one of the top-five most scared moments of my life.

The deck off the back of the house is two years old and is the most expensive improvement we made the to the house. A week after it was finished, my wife gave birth to our second son. His first picture at his new house was taken on that deck. He’s since used it as a pirate ship, baseball field, and construction site. As far as he knows, every child has a deck that is so awesome.

As you walk around the house, you might not realize that all four of us have laughed, cried, bled, and healed inside these walls. My wife and I moved in here as carefree, childless idealists. We leave as careful, pride-filled parents of two amazing boys who we’re teaching to be as carefree as they can be. We’re moving because we want more room for them to play and grow. Though it might have increased the value of the home, we could not leave the memories behind.

I can only leave advice.

The sweetgum tree in the front yard will be beautiful in the fall. Roll in the leaves with someone you love.

The deck at 8pm on a summer night is a great place to read a book.

Ask Ms. Merry for a sip from her good bottle around Christmastime.

Chat with Ms. Delores when she walks by the fence-line at dusk with her two dogs. She is from Mississippi and moved here after Hurricane Katrina.

Yes, the lady who lives behind you has a Christmas tree on her sun porch. It’s been there–lights and all–for ten years.

The guy who lives across the street is a Jayhawks fan. Don’t hold it against him.

There is a boy who lives up on the hill named Christopher. I’ve watched him grow from a child into a teenager. He’ll wave back if you wave first.

When you’re married, sit up with your wife late at night, share a six pack in the back yard, and make a plan to conquer the world.

You’re young and don’t have a great many responsibilities yet. I wish you the best of luck in the place we called Mt. Willis. This house is not my life, but it has been home base for nearly every important moment since the year 2000,

Good luck. May your time in this house offer you as much love, happiness, luck, and prosperity as it did us.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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35 Responses

  1. G-Rob says:

    Well done.

  2. BWoP says:

    This is the best, most uplifting, heartfelt thing I’ve read in the past three days. I really needed something like this.

    Thank you.

    Sending you and yours all the best in your new home and life endeavors.

  3. Wendy says:

    Damn, We need to give you a code (like the NSFW one) so you can give us a heads up when your post maybe a tear jerker. 🙂 Congrats on the move!

  4. Shelly says:

    Beautiful. May your blessings and adventures continue in the next place you call home 🙂

  5. Tammie says:

    Beautiful memories that I’m sure will be cherished forever – and now you move on to make new memories.

  6. Lacey says:

    Loved this

  7. Kat says:

    You are too awesome.

  8. Su says:

    Glad I was able to be a part of one of those “raucous, irresponsible, epic affairs” that was Bradoween. Best wishes to you, Chelle, and the boys in your new home. There are many new memories to be made in the next chapter of your life.
    Love you guys!

  9. Special K says:

    Awesome job. Sitting so far from my home (Afghanistan), this one really touched me. I had to stop half way through to get something out of my eye. Thanks.

  10. BAM-BAM says:

    And so with my move to Regina, Saskatchewan from my only actual home, another post goes in the trash. As I could never do it the justice it deserves, after reading this.

  11. gracie says:

    I’m thankful and honored to have spent just few moments with you during your time spent on Mt. Willis during that last Bradoween. Wishing you the best in your new home, especially after this most unexpected and unsettling weekend. Your talent will take you far above and beyond your wildest dreams. Believe it or not.

  12. The Wife says:

    Damn you – you owe me a box of Kleenexes for this one.

  13. Maudie says:

    There are tears on my pillow…

  14. Jim says:

    This is a very nice post and a beautiful slide show of your family at the end. I hope you enjoy your new house as much as you did this one and that it generates many more nice memories for you.

  15. KenP says:

    So… Otis… What’s new?

  16. Drizztdj says:

    Cheers my friend, to you and your family on the next stage in life.

    I’m thinking more hot chocolate will be in order this year.

  17. Kevin says:

    Well said Brad. Glad I was able to experience Mt. Willis, thanks for sharing. We just bought our first house and I hope we can create lasting, loving memories like those.

  18. Jennifer McKelvey says:

    I’ve been trying to be strong during the scariest 3 weeks of my life; almost losing your spouse is traumatic. I’ve had my moments where I was alone and the tears flowed and wouldn’t stop, but I know my husband and kids don’t need to see the one taking care of everyone to break down. I have been holding in a good cry for days that was long overdue.

    This blog post opened the flood gates and boy do I feel better! Hubby walked into the computer room, saw me crying, and said, “About time”. He read the blog, started bawling, and I said to him, “About time”. Good luck with your move, Willis family. We were so sad to move from the home that was full of so many amazing memories. I cried for days before the move. We did find that the new memories we have made here at our new home are just as sweet.

  19. otis says:

    Wow, Jennifer. Just wow. Thanks for letting me know that.

    We’ve been thinking about you guys a lot here. Each time we start to feel overwhelmed, we actually talk about what you had to go through.

    Way to be strong…and way to let go. And again, let us know if you need anything.

  20. Jen says:

    Beautiful my friend. I never had a chance to visit Mt. Willis but I’ve heard stories along the way and almost remember every one of those pictures from your Flickr stream. Congrats on the new home. I’m so glad you could document the memories of your old home in so many ways.

  21. A nice welcoming gift for Ben, and a wonderful souvenir for your family (and us) to take. Brilliant.

  22. Kelly Just says:

    Another masterpiece. Didn’t need the pictures to tell the tale but always appreciate the visuals. I’m sure you and Michelle will make the new place just as memorable.

  23. Lee says:

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But I have a whole movie in my head of an ordinary, and yet extrarodinary family in an ordinary, and yet extraordinary house. Thank you for the tour through the rooms and the years.

  24. Dr. Chako says:

    So looking forward to tossing back a scotch or 4 with you in a few days.


  25. Jen Moran says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your first home. As someone who spent much time there during 2000-2005 I have fond memories of Mt. Willis. Thanks to you and Michelle for some of the funniest memories! I wish you even more happiness in your new home.

  26. Golden says:

    Your a great writer. Better than you know.

  27. Julie Horton says:

    Brad, you paint a more vivid picture with your words than anybody else I know. I liken it to the extraordinary talent of Pat Conroy, whom I absolutely adore.

    I shed a tear over Mt. Willis, and I’ve never even been there. Your writing is powerful, my friend. Wishing you, your lovely wife (tell her I said hello!), and the boys the best in your new, larger abode!

  28. MandyB says:

    I don’t really know you, but I know you from Pauly, who I don’t know. ha ha. Introductions aside, I’ve enjoyed both of your writing for years. Briefly, I’m a semi-former Vegas chick who has settled happily down into family life in Arizona. Work, responsibility, mortages, dogs, private schools, etc have dominated but, there is still the alure of Vegas…. thats why I think I click on your page every couple of days. I can relate. Anyway, this post is the best thing I’ve read in, I dont know how long. You’ve captured so many years and so many experiences and shared them in so few words. And in such a beautiful way. I’m sure that everyone told you, just as they told me, that your life was gonna change once you had your 1st precious child. And you thought yeah, right, but I’ll still be the same guy. And you are, only to the power of 19 (don’t worry, you’ll get to that when he hits 5th grade!!) Anyway, thanks. Just thanks, and if you watch your stat counter and wonder who is following me in Surprise, AZ, it’s me. 🙂 Good luck in your new house, I mean, home. ~~ mandy

  29. Da Goddess says:

    Bravo! Another one hit waaay out of the park.

    I’ve had the great honor of watching you and your family grow in this home via the internet. It’s been nine years (can you believe that?) and I remember the Bradoween posts (doll head on a stick, was it? photo still sits firmly in my mind) and wishing I 1) lived closer and 2) were younger so I could join in. But then came the kids and I was so immensely thrilled for you! I knew as much fun as Bradoween and all the parties were that you were embarking on something so incredible and infinitely more fun that you’d look back with fondness but no regrets. And here you are! A wonderful father with an amazing wife with two kids – moving to a new place where you’ll create a million new memories and where you’ll feel safe and warm each night.

    Here’s to new beginnings and carrying forth the love and laughter that made your old house a home.

    (please forgive typos and such…cellphone keypads are way too small for my gigantic thumbs)

  30. Jillene says:

    Brad… Damn, we’ll miss you 4 as neighbors. It’s been wonderful having people you enjoy/trust/like just across the street. Thanks for not holding that Jayhawk thing against us… as we didn’t hold the Tiger thing against you. 🙂 Can’t wait to visit your new HOME…

  31. lightning36 says:

    A classic! Best thing I have read in weeks.

  32. Aunt Evie says:

    This was absolutely beautiful.
    Sniffles… many above, good luck in your new home and your future

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