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Accidental Brilliance

This chapter could just as easily be titled, “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good” – a variation on the quote often attributed to 1930’s era, Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Lefty Gomez.  In looking back over my “manuscript” (it feels cool to say that), it occurs to me that there was something monumental in our married life that has taken place in the last year that I have made no mention of until now… we moved.

Our flight to St. Thomas last May started off like most of our trips.  Sitting across from each other in opposing aisle seats (we both hate anything other than aisle seats), Diana buckled in and got connected to her headset, ready to watch whatever movie it was she was going to watch.  Me – ever the fiddler – opened my briefcase and brought out the stack of paper from my desk that I had brought with me to read, rip up and throw away.  Lighten the load… get a few things off the list.  Really important things were transferred onto an index card to make sure that the rolling “to do” list stays updated and relevant.  No rest for the wicked.  

About an hour into the flight, two things started to happen: (1) I felt tired and (2) my thoughts turned for some strange reason to moving.  We all read and heard the wild reports in the summer of 2023 with housing inventory being so tight that people were getting above asking price and selling on listing day with no inspections and - if you were lucky enough to hit the trifecta – the previously elusive cash deal.  

For the rest of the six-hour commute to St. Thomas, I ran through scenarios in my head.  The easiest thing – by far – was to just stand pat and stay where we were – a lovely four-bedroom house in Edgewood, Kentucky with a backyard oasis to die for.  We had lived there for 25+ years and our “stuff” sprawled throughout three floors, whether we needed it to or not.  After all, you take up as much room as you have.  The clincher though was that we were one of the lucky ones… we had a fixed rate mortgage locked in at 2.875% - a rate so low that I never felt the need to pay the remaining mortgage down because we could earn more than that by investing it.  

Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that maybe the time is now.  I felt good at the time, with my PSA hovering in the low teens (a luxury for me) and there was no compelling reason to move.  The thing I kept coming back to though is that I have advanced prostate cancer… the road does not get easier from here.  The thoughts of trying to pack up three floors worth of stuff, accumulated over almost 30 years, sometime in the future when I am not doing as well, suddenly had my undivided attention.

Later that evening – once we got settled into our rental condo – and quite out of the blue, I asked Diana, “what would you think about the possibility of us moving?”  One stark difference between Diana and I – and one that I am sure characterizes lots of married couples – is that Diana is constantly researching and shopping.  She shops whether she is going to buy things or not.  I acquire things when needed.  Shopping when I am not going to buy seems like a waste of time, so I get what I need when I need it (although “need” is a very subjective thing).  

Diana had been looking at houses off and on for years.  She would occasionally show homes to me, and I would give it my cursory “man look.”  So, once I mentioned the possibility of us moving, she was ready to roll.  By the time we left the island a week later, we had decided to move and had already set two goals: (1) find our new home and move in by July 1st and (2) then and only then, get our house ready to sell and list it by August 1st.  If I was going to do this, I did not want to be in a position where the house sold quickly (a good problem) and we then had to move to an apartment and then move a second time once we were ready to move into the next house.  These were non-negotiables if we were going to do this.

Shortly after returning, I found a house online that I loved, and it was a two-bedroom ranch.  Right sized for us and the thought of not climbing three flights of stairs multiple times a day was very appealing.  On May 20th, two days after we returned home from vacation, we toured the first of two houses with our realtor friend Julie Feagan.  We fell in love immediately, so much so that we debated even continuing to the second house.  We went ahead and went to the second, but we both felt like we were going through the motions.  We had found what we wanted on the first shot.  We made an offer that day that was accepted.  Financing was pre-approved.  We closed on the new home on June 23rd and moved in on July 1st, literally right on schedule.  

The next month was at a furious pace, packing up boxes, taking things to Goodwill, throwing things out, painting, repairing, buffing hardwood floors, and eating carry out food pretty much every night at the old house getting ready to list it.  Remarkably, and with no forced engineering to meet an arbitrary date, we listed the house on the morning of August 1st – the EXACT date that we originally set as our goal.  We had more than 20 showings that day with 16 bona fide offers.  That evening, with nervous anticipation, we accepted a cash offer, way above the asking price, with no inspections and closing in a week.  A week?  Seriously?  Lo and behold, we closed on the evening of August 8th, exactly one week from the date of the original listing.  The whole process was nothing short of miraculous.

On the morning of September 30th, a mere seven weeks later, I woke up in such excruciating back pain that I could not get out of bed.  It was the date of our annual Cincinnati Cancer Advisors “ASCO Direct Best of Oncology” symposium, a thought leadership event for oncology professionals.  It’s a big deal, and obligations are obligations, so I struggled to try to make it there that day to assist my colleagues.  I couldn’t answer the bell.  I was in so much back pain that it literally hurt to breathe.  Each day since then has fallen somewhere along that back pain continuum thanks to what I now know to be cancer that had metastasized to my spine.

I am very selective about things that I think are the result of divine intervention.  That is a pretty high bar in my judgment.  But I am left to wonder… what caused me on May 11th, 2023, on a flight from Cincinnati to St. Thomas, to begin thinking about moving when in fact, it did not seem to be imperative to do so at the time?  Something caused me to think of the fact that it might make sense to do that now, even though it made no financial sense to trade a 2.875% low-dollar mortgage in on a “jumbo” mortgage, temporarily carrying a mortgage on two houses at 6.25%.  How am I going to explain this to my dear friend and financial advisor, Paul McCauley (who, as it turns out, was a big supporter of the idea after all)?

I cannot bend over to pick up the dogs’ food bowls these days without pain.  I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to have to try to move now, or any time after September 28th, 2023.  At the risk of overstating the case, it is nothing short of a miracle that we moved when we did and that things came together the way they did.  As an added bonus, we could not love our new house any more than we do.  Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

Until next time,



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