WEDNESDAY was a day that my fellow empty nester and I will remember.
We celebrated our wedding anniversary, but not in our usual low-key way.
We walked across town together and paid off our death contract.
That, according to an online history, is the literal meaning of the word "mortgage."
Business writer Gareth Marples says on a website called thehistoryof.net that "mort" is from the Latin word for death and "gage" means a pledge to forfeit something of value if a debt is not repaid.
We always knew we stood to forfeit if we didn't come up with those payments month after month, year after year. We just didn't think of it as a life-or-death deal.
Closings, those meetings where you sign your name several hundred times and walk away with a set of keys and a fat payment book, are scary enough already.
Now that we can feed our book through the shedder, I realize our "death contract" actually led us to a better life.
It let us raise our family in space that met our needs long before we had the cash to pay for it.
That's not to say it was a great financial investment.
When we were looking for our first house, a real estate agent handed us a computer analysis showing how the value of our purchase would rise over time.
She was not happy when I calculated what we would end up with if we simply saved and invested the payment money. After 30 years, we would have tucked away far more than the house she was pushing would be worth.
Still, we eventually bought a house, realizing it was a lifestyle choice.
It turned out my husband was pretty good at cleaning gutters and caulking bathtubs. I lacked such skills but proved adept at spotting problems and pointing them out. It takes two.
One night I heard a sound and awoke him. "It sounds like drops of water hitting a metal surface," I said of the steady ping, ping, ping.
That's exactly what it was. A valve on a toilet had failed.
The small bathroom floor had filled with water, which now was dripping through some unsealed spot and hitting the hidden metal ductwork. Then the water was landing on the drywall ceiling below, resulting in both a stain and a crack.
Oh, the memories.
We shivered when the furnace quit and sweated when the Freon wafted into the neighborhood. If you know what a thermocouple is, you might be a homeowner.