Chance to change

Chance to change….

I was having a conversation with my Opa (grandpa) while I was doing the interview for man behind the motto part two. Opa shared with me how he got into building. My whole life Opa has been building or dreaming of building something. If he hasn’t already built it then you can find the plans of what he wants to build on his desk. He is always pitching the next great building idea. His imagination runs wild. You can see his passion when he talks about building.

My childhood home was an old school house he flipped into a lovely family home. Growing up it was a mansion to me. It had everything you could dream of. It had the most beautiful windows in the back facing the creek. It was the perfect childhood family home on a quiet street in a small town. I lived in this house for seventeen years and I was utterly heartbroken when we left. I can still remember my entire address and phone number despite having moved many times since then.

Opa didn’t build the house I live in today but he helped me find it and purchase it. I trusted his expert advice that it was a great home. He hasn’t been wrong. My son and I love this house. It’s on an even quieter street than the one I grew up on and the lake is just steps away. My son has informed me he is never moving out. It’s our slice of paradise. Thank you Opa.

At the time of his first house flipping project Opa was living in Pickering Ontario on the shores of Lake Ontario. He was working at Johns Manville plant which manufactured asbestos cement pipes for the construction industry. He worked at this plant for ten years, which later was the beginning of investigation of the dangers of asbestos to the health of workers. Most workers became ill or died due to asbestosis or meseothelioma. While working at the asbestos plant Opa’s mother and brother in Germany sold a property and he received five thousand dollars, which he says forever changed his life. He described it as big money at the time. Opa used that five thousand dollars as a down payment to purchase what he described as a” mansion” in Whitby Ontario. He flipped this house by renovating it into a four plex which he later sold and made a profit. Being that it was some forty plus years ago he doesn’t remember exactly how much money he made. This is what started his building career. He’s gone on to build so many houses and apartment buildings I have lost track of them all.

When I asked if he remembered what the mansion looked like, he went on to paint me a picture of a big red brick house with a steeple like top. He couldn’t remember the exact street address. He didn’t have a picture. He could tell me it was located on a street by the lawn bowling center and a senior’s retirement home. He described the things he remembered from the street and where the house was situated. The hill you had to climb and that the house was on the corner on the right hand side.

Mission accepted. I wanted to find this mansion. I wanted to see the house that started it all. I got a cup of coffee and turned to google street view and quickly got to work. Street view is an amazing tool, you can take a trip down memory lane. I started with locating the area he described and then I went up and down the streets in search of this house. I am happy to say I found it. I am now trying to figure out the history of what it’s selling price has been. It seems that houses in the area go for upwards of 600,000. It’s a rental property and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s worth well over a million.

I was talking to my mom about this house story, asking her what she remembered from this time. She would have been nearing her teen years. She often talks about her childhood home in Pickering as being the most beautiful home. It was on Lake Ontario and had a pool. We drove there once, the house is no longer there but the view was spectacular.

While I was talking about how five thousand dollars changed Opa’s life my mom shared with me how she received five thousand dollars from her grandpa (her mom’s dad) when he passed away that forever changed her life. She used that money for her divorce and as a down payment to put herself through nursing school. I still to this day do not know how my mom went to nursing school with two small children. You go girl.

I found it interesting that both my Opa and my mother would say that five thousand dollars forever changed their lives.
I don’t have a great five thousand dollar story to end this blog. I have always been blessed with help from my wonderful family. I have always had a job that’s provided me with enough money to afford my life. I am grateful for all the help I have received along the way and I try to pay it forward whenever I can. I always joke about winning the lotto but the truth is my life is so beautiful, my heart is so full no amount of money could possibly make it better.

I find it very interesting that when Opa began to realize the potential hazards of his job at Johns-Manville when he saw the men around him dying and getting sick, he suddenly had a chance to change his life with that $5000. When my mom’s marriage was crumbling and no real profession to support her and her children on her own, she suddenly had a chance to change her life with that $5000. So I guess I can all I can conclude is that if things look bad be ready to make your life change when the opportunity comes along.

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