In 1956, my parents bought the 2 1/2 acres on which their house was built for $2,000. My dad was laid off so they had time to look at property. But they were taking a chance because $2000 was all of the money they had. They were investing in their future. In 1965, they built a house on it for $20,000. My mom told the builders that they couldn’t cut down any more trees then were necessary to build the foundation for the house. Despite the fact that she had four children and was pregnant with me, she visited the construction site and pointed to the different stands of trees, little islands of forest still standing in the front of their house. “You can’t cut that down, it’s a Douglas fir! You can’t cut this down! It’s a Western Hemlock”.
I grew up in this house in what was unincorporated King County, about 12 miles from Seattle. Even when I was in high school my friends’ parents would say, “You live out in the Boonies.” We had three close neighbors who had horses. One even had a training arena. Another family had a horse who was the national and Canadian champion (English riding style) for a couple of years running. There were also cows, goats, woodlands, and wetlands.
As Seattle has grown, more and more people have moved to the suburbs. Seattle has become a very expensive city in which to live. I actually live in the city proper. My neighborhood is not fancy. I live in a two story ranch style house from the 50’s. Nonetheless, I spotted two houses this summer valued at a million dollars each. I’m sure there are more.
The house and the surrounding woods are my parents’ home. It was my home for many years. It is also a quite valuable piece of real estate. When my dad was retiring, he and my mom visited an attorney to discuss their estate. I remember my dad coming home from that meeting, pretty happy. He and my mom had also made conservative but consistent investments in bonds and CD’s over the years. My dad was happy because he felt that he and my mom were secure financially for retirement.
My mom turns 80 on Saturday. My dad turns 82 exactly one month from Saturday. They live in the same house. For the last several months, there has been a huge “Notice of Development” sign right next to their driveway. The neighbors asked, “Did you sell your property?” They did not. However, my dad, who makes sure he attends the development meetings and looks at specifics noted that the map of the proposed development included a road that went RIGHT THROUGH THEIR PROPERTY.
Although the design was later modified, the developers still have a problem. Without a road through my parents’ property, the development would be located on a dead end street. My dad attended another meeting this week. The fire department was not happy with the idea of a housing development being located on a dead end street. That’s not very safe. What if they have to get somewhere and the street is blocked? The developers argued, pointing to my parents’ property on the map, “That property is going to be sold really soon.” And they even kept talking about my dad by name, not knowing who he was or that he was at the meeting.
I went shopping with my dad a few weeks ago to pick out an anniversary present for my mom. My parents are practical, no-nonsense people. My dad was getting ready to spend money so it was only natural that money was on his mind. He was also thinking back to the 60 years he’s been married to my mom and the family they created. He said to me, “I got a lot of money. Dead.”
I knew what he meant but I don’t really like to talk about my parents dying with my parents. So I said, “Yes, you have a lot of non-liquid assets. Your house and property are worth a lot of money.”
According to my mom’s blog, which she posted today, the developers were thinking that my parents were worth a lot dead, too. And he’d decided that they were elderly and that would either sell and move or just die. And they also assumed that in the event of their death, all six of us kids would sell to them.
These assumptions could bear out to be true; nobody knows the future. I hate that my parents are being treated like they are a foregone conclusion and that my parents’ end with be the solution to their dead end. I hate that the beautiful woods that has been there for a long long time is being planned for dissection and demolition. I would say that it feels like vultures circling but vultures can’t really help themselves. People can.
I don’t worry as much as I might about my parents. At the end of the meeting, my dad approached the lawyer for the city of Renton, who had actually argued with the developer saying, “For all we know, Joe MacKenzie is 26 years-old!”
Dad said, “”I’m 82 and may not live that much longer but I’m married to a long living Italian, whose Aunt lived to be 106!”