It was the day before April Fools 2005 when I moved into this little cabin on the lake, fresh from a divorce.
Over the next 18-plus years, just about every significant event of my life happened here.
I love this property more than most people.
So when a strange pickup rolled into the yard a few weeks ago and the driver handed me a sealed envelope with my name on it, I started to shake because I had a feeling what it contained.
And I was right. The owner, with no warning or even a hint, decided it was time for Deb and me to go. The month-to-month lease the owner and I have had for 17 of the 18 years would end on Oct. 6.
I’ll stop while you look at the calendar. “Mike, today is Oct. 6. How can you have Mike’s 65th and Bluegrass on Oct. 7 if the lease expired?”
Hang onto that thought. I’ll return to it.
I’ve written about how I came to stumble upon this little gem. And life’s experiences that followed: last stages of active alcoholism, detoxing alone at home (not recommended), experiencing sobriety on my own, showing the cabin to Deb who remarked, “It has potential.” Other events not so fun: the depression and isolation that came with covid comes to mind.
Just Wright Citrus was born in this house and it became part of its personality, especially after I started thinking of it as Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson.
Enough melancholy on the old house.
Party planning began several weeks before that stranger showed up in the yard. In fact, you may recall I mentioned recently about the Facebook invite I posted and then had to yank down 10 minutes later. This was why.
I had to decide whether to stick with Oct. 7 or move it back a week, or cancel altogether. Well, we’d already booked the bluegrass band and many other things were in motion.
I did what anyone would do in that circumstance: I called my lawyer.
Mike Kovach Jr. is more than my attorney. He’s my very good friend. We met in 2004 Leadership Citrus (best class ever) and he helped me get onto this property. He gave me my first riding mower. Mike’s a Just Wright Citrus sponsor and has supported me in this endeavor from the start. He’s always given me solid advice. I trust him.
Mike was clear: Don’t move the party date. He gave me his reasons and that was good enough for me.
At the same time, we literally had a new home lined up within days. I’m saving those details, but nothing short of God’s grace provided Deb and me with an incredible landing spot.
The move-in timing was shaky but at least we were confident something was waiting for us. So, we continued working on the party publicly and the move quietly. I reissued the Facebook invite and off we went.
Well, certain events this week led to me asking Kovach again regarding an open house on the 7th.
Mike’s normal response over the years to me begins with, “We’re off the record,” or, “Hey, don’t write this…” Instead, he said:
“Let the party go on! That’s a quote!”
Works for me.
Look. I’m seriously not trying to be a jerk about this and we’re going to vacate ASAP, believe me.
But, by golly, I want this party. In this yard. I’ve waited 17 sober years to celebrate in the same yard where I passed out on July 4, 2006, two days before I walked terrified into my first 12-step meeting. I’ve kept coming back.
You can imagine how abruptly leaving this place affected me. The first few weeks were hard emotionally, but then I could see God’s hand in all this and that made it much easier. Truth is, God brought me here. If he’s decided it’s time to move on, it’s time to move on. Can’t wait to see what he has next for Deb and me.
So, yeah, Saturday’s open house has incredible meaning. It’s a goodbye party, a farewell to one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. I will never ever forget this place.
You see, I know what happened in this house and yard that July 4. I remember every detail like it was yesterday. Every. Single. Detail.
The evil that lurked here is long gone. That my present life allows me to host a sober community event with live music in the same front yard, really goes beyond the pale. And then follow it almost immediately with a move my wife and I are thrilled with.
So, yeah, I want to celebrate.
I know I went long today, and I appreciate you sticking around.
As for our new post-party location, I’ll say one thing only: It is STILL Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson.
Just not here.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.