Rusty and the power lines!
This is my husband.
This is my husband on a couple of ladders, pulling off and replacing boards, right next to some power lines. He is doing this because we need the money.
This is my A-number-1 reason for simplifying: I don’t want us to have to do jobs that are unpleasant, miserable, or downright dangerous.
I don’t ever want to see my husband in that kind of position again.
The power lines were really the least of the problems with this house. It was old and in serious need of maintenance. But the maintenance it needed was frightening: first, a pillar supporting the roof to the sunporch was rotten. The pillar had to be cut away while the roof was jacked (to keep it from crashing down on us,) and all the work had to be done with extraordinary care to keep the floor-to-ceiling glass panels from falling on us in a rain of shards.
Then the gutters needed replacing. The yard was a mass of plantings run wild, overlaid with a wash of fallen leaves. It was a hilly lot in the best of circumstances, but the wild bushes and groundcover and leaves obscured upright bricks lining pathways, holes, slippery mud, and shrubs trimmed diagonally leaving upright spikes to impale the unwary.
It was the obstacle course of the doomed.
We tiptoed around the hazards, blew leaves so we could see a little of the ground we were working on, cut down some of the spikes that threatened to impale us, and prayed for the best.
Then there were the gargoyles.
No, really, there were gargoyles. As in plural. Multiple gargoyle statues with grim faces that stared at us as we worked on all sides of the house.
Ah yes, and after the gutters, the fascia needed replacing. So my husband was ripping off boards where the ladders SHOULD have rested, using a rig to keep his ladder away from his work.
Here’s the clincher: I am afraid of heights, to the point where it is ridiculous for me to even try to be on a ladder. I can get 4-6 feet off the ground, then my imagination kicks in and I visualize all the ways I am likely to be injured if I fall, (which will surely happen because I am too clumsy to walk across a carpeted floor without falling,) and I start to shake uncontrollably.
So I’m the gofer, grabbit, hand it person, while my patient husband is the climb-and-do-it person.
It sounds as though I could stand at the bottom of the ladder and do my nails while he does the hard work, but in fact I am usually very busy.
But I also feel very guilty, because I am worrying about him falling. Then, (hyper-imagination time again,) I’m envisioning his hospital stay and me nursing him back to health. Or that he falls on me and we are both injured. I play through all the scenarios: broken leg, broken hip, broken back, fractured skull, the frantic 911 call, the trip to the hospital, getting in touch with Rusty’s relatives, the long convalescence…
All of it.
Our last strip of fascia and gutter replacement was on the back end of the house, a scary area we had nearly managed to forget: an odd little offset on the back end of the sunroom.
The ground was extraordinarily uneven there, and someone had attempted to correct that by making steps directly into the earth. The area was so covered by leaves we really couldn’t see what was going on, so we blew them away.
There was no way to adequately photograph it. There were odds and ends shoved into the hillside to form makeshift steps, held in place by bits of rebar. Nothing was uniform, or steady, or secure in any way. It was almost more frightening to see how this was done than it was to scale the mess blindly under a mass of leaves.
Then, high above the strangely uneven ground was the wall of the glass sunroom, with the biggest gargoyle of all staring down at us, glowering, arms crossed. It really looked like the area was under a madman’s spell. And my beloved hub was going to have to find a way up there and make that job happen if we wanted to get paid.
More guilt, in waves, and with it the visions: of ambulances lighting up the dusk, the wail of sirens and the preternaturally calm voices of professional EMTs assessing the damage, the puffs of sphygmomanometer and the rustle of sterile packaging, the smells of alcohol and medication and sheets so clean they squeak.
Darkness came in quickly, and we worked fast, growing a little frantic. The sunroom, of course, was a wall of glass panels, and any slip of the ladder would hit glass…all of it old, and likely untempered. The uneven ground made placing the ladders tricky. The sight of my husband high above the ground in front of a wall of glass yanking away at an ancient board was a little overwhelming.
But he survived.
We pulled down the ladders long after the sun had dropped behind the horizon, while the last, weak rays of light barely illuminated our feet. We finished loading the truck and trailer by flashlight.
My husband’s life and my sanity are worth more than that.
We drove the truck into the night, our worries melting into a kind of grim euphoria. We left the gargoyles behind…and the spectres that haunt my waking dreams.
I want to leave them behind forever, to have the luxury of choosing only jobs that feel safe and fit our schedule. My biggest motive for simplifying is to keep my little family intact so we can focus on goals that make us both happy, together.
A life without gargoyles.