By 1993, Milton and I had lived together on Waller Street for 12 years. We loved it there but had talked about buying a home for years. We had looked at homes as far away as Sacramento. We didn’t really have much for a down payment and knew we probably couldn’t afford to stay in San Francisco. The North Bay, Marin, San Rafael, and other cities along the 101 corridor north of the Golden Gate Bridge were over our budget, too as was anything South of San Francisco to San Jose on 101 or 280.
Before my mom had died, she had been very involved in Darlene’s life and making sure she had a home for her kids, Chris and Misty. She had helped Darlene buy houses several times at that point, in Seattle with Chuck and then in Spokane years later. She gave Roger a piece of land outside Spokane, too, and gave me an empty lot in a run down part of Spokane.
When my mom died, George brought forth an old will she had written many years previously when Darlene still lived in Spokane and Chris and Misty were still little kids. At that time, mom was going to have gall bladder surgery and her concerns about that prompted her to write a will at that time that divided her estate between her four kids, Jim, Darlene, Roger and I and her grandkids, Chris and Misty. Before she had died, she had written another will by hand that she thought was valid because it was all in her handwriting with her signature that divided her estate between just her own kids, Jim, Darlene, Roger and I. For whatever reason, George or an attorney didn’t think the handwritten will was valid. The estate was divided between her kids and two grandkids.
Jim Tarbert had a fit about mom’s will and shamefully misconstrued and twisted what had happened, implying that my Mother somehow cared more about Darlene’s kids than his kids, Kathy and Deanna. Jim had always seemed to dislike my mom and would often make disparaging remarks about her. It was never clear why he had so much animosity toward her- maybe because she divorced his dad? Jim was always very opinionated and on the fringe of the far right of the Republican party and seemed to dislike anyone that wouldn’t agree with everything he said.
Of course, mom loved Kathy and Deanna but the real reason for them not being in the old will from her gallbladder surgery was simply because Kathy and Deanna had secure futures. Chris and Misty did not. Mom knew that Jim and Danise would provide well for their two children. Darlene, up to the time of the gallbladder surgery, had been on government assistance at times and was always barely scraping by. There were times that she could not even handle her own kids and they lived with George and Mom for a time and Chris even ended up living with Milton and I for a couple of years. Jim knew all this but he lied to his own daughters and led them to believe that mom just didn’t care about them as much as Chris and Misty.
Regardless, when all was said and done, I eventually sold the lot in Spokane and with the few thousand from my mom’s estate, Milton and I now had enough money for a possible down payment on a house. I was determined not to make the same mistake I had made with my dad’s estate, burning through about $10,000 on a one minute movie project. I was determined to buy a house.
During this time, I was still working as the “admission’s nurse,” which utilized my computer program, MacNursing, at Western Psychiatric Center in Saint Francis Hospital. Milton and I had gone out to Hercules, which is about twenty miles outside of San Francisco on interstate 80, to look at a two bedroom condo we could afford. It was like a small apartment with a detached, single car garage. It was the best thing for the money that we had seen at that point but Milton was not that enthusiastic about it and I wanted to get another opinion before we jumped in.
Marni was one of the unit secretaries on the psych unit and a good friend. She was married to Brett, who was in the navy. She lived with her husband, Brett, and two of her kids with Brett, on Treasure Island in military housing there. She and I made plans to go out to Hercules so she could give me her opinion about the condo we were considering.
Marni did not seem impressed with the condo. It was tiny and in a large complex that had the potential for being pretty awful if a lot of families with kids moved in. There was only a tiny, concrete patio area outside with enough space for a couple chairs. If it were raining, one would definitely get wet, running from the detached garage into the house.
Since we were already in Hercules, and I knew of another condo development in Vallejo I wanted to look at, Marni and I drove across the Carquinez Bridge. The condo development I wanted to see was located, overlooking the Carquinez Straights. We found it easily and took a look. It was really not very impressive. The quality of the construction obviously left much to be desired even though it was brand new. There was no actual view from the units that were available. The units were about the same size as the units in Hercules.
As we were leaving the condo, there were signs along the way pointing to other developments. It was still fairly early in the day and I asked Marni if she wanted to look at any of the others. We followed some signs pointing to a new development called “Clearpointe.” As we drove up Outrigger Street, we could see the homes come into view. At first, I thought they appeared very large and I thought there was no way that Milton and I would be able to afford such a large home but then we realized that each building was actually two homes. They were townhouses. Marni and I took a look.
There were three different floor plans. All had two car garages. The smallest unit was three bedrooms with 2.5 baths and about 1500 square feet. The next step up was a three bedrooms with an upstairs loft area. The largest unit was four bedrooms. Marni and I focused on the least expensive three bedroom.
The models were beautifully done. The quality of the construction was much better than the two condos we had seen earlier. The floor plans were sensible and made good use of space. The price was slightly over the budge that Milton and I had thought we could afford. Instead of just a small patio area, each of these townhouses came with it’s own lot with a back yard and a front yard.
Marni and I talked about how nice the Clearpointe development was as we drove back towards Treasure Island and San Francisco. At that time, Marni had not really said much about buying a place herself. She had just come with me to give me her opinion about the condos I have looked at previously. I was shocked the next day at work when she came into the admissions office where I was working and asked, “Guess what Brett and I did this morning.” She had taken Brett out to look at the Clearpointe homes and they had taken advantage of an offer of a dollar down for military families!! They had bought a home!!
It was very exciting for me to hear about Marni and Brett getting such a great deal. I wondered if Milton and I could use his military service to get a similar deal. That was not going to be the case, though. To get a Veterans Administration loan, it would have required that we were married and at that time, there was no where in the country that gay men could marry. We looked into other possibilities and using the money I had received from selling the lot in Spokane and the money from my mom’s estate, we could scrape together enough for a down payment. I don’t know if it was because we were gay or because of our low downpayment or because of our income or just because it was all they had left, but the lot the real estate developer told us we could afford, was at the bottom of a hill with another home above it. It was not ideal in many ways but it was still the best home we had seen for what we could afford and so we signed the papers.
After signing the papers, I had nightmares about the house we were going to be moving to. I dreamed of the hillside sliding down onto the house and burying us in mud. It was a very stressful time from when we signed the papers to when we actually got the keys to move in which took a few months. Straight people could just put a dollar down and move in and soon as they could get a moving truck. Gay people needed to jump through many more hoops.
Periodically, we would drive out to Vallejo and see what stage of construction they were in. We watched the foundation go in. We watched the walls go up. We got to pick out countertops and carpet, although we could only afford the cheapest options at that time. Eventually we would replace the countertops with granite and replace the linoleum with tile and replace the carpet with maple but that was some years off. We were just so excited to have our first home!!!