I spent the past weekend executing a remodeling project for a senior pal who lives alone in her own house, yet wants to remain in the home in which she has lived for the past 50 years. It was also a weekend of competing events — DC Gay Pride and an annual fundraiser for a police charity. The weather was unusually hot and sticky for mid-June (95F/35C actual air temp with 75F/24C dew point). Man, I was a sweaty and sticky busy guy…
At 0630 Saturday morning, I met my buddies whose pickup trucks were stocked with building supplies. We went to my senior pal’s house where she greeted us with coffee (me with orange juice since I don’t drink coffee) and homemade warm cinnamon cake. Yum!
Other volunteers and my pal’s three sons, grandsons, and granddaughters met us by the stated 0700 start time. I went over the plans, explaining what had to be done, starting with demolition followed by construction.
Everyone got to work. However, when I donned safety glasses, put on a pair of work gloves, and grabbed a heavy hammer, a big guy came up to me, took the hammer out of my hands, and shouted so that everyone else could hear: “Remember, this guy injured his back — make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid like try to lift anything heavy or bend in awkward positions!”
Throughout the day, no one would let me close to doing anything that would potentially injure my back. While I felt frustrated somewhat, because I have always helped with the physical labor for such remodeling jobs, I realize that my friends “have my back” so-to-speak and do not want me to re-injure it.
I remained in “GC” mode all day. Directing, advising, consulting plans, making sure that everyone was keeping hydrated (it was blasted HOT and humid!), and that all supplies were where they needed to be. I also tried to resolve problems — and there were a lot of them.
Without going into boring detail, this house was built in 1948. It had been renovated by unskilled people over the years on certain systems, like the plumbing and electrical. The electrical system was a mess. I really wonder why the house had not burned down already. We pretty much ended up replacing all of the wiring, outlets and switches in the entire house.
The plumbing was equally bad. There were fragile pipes that once exposed and just by looking at them, they began to leak. We had to replace a number of pipe joints that we did not expect to be in such bad condition.
Fortunately, my senior pal was a great sport. She smiled all the time, and brought everyone water, food, water, snacks, water, and more water throughout the day. I am glad that we had the foresight to get 10 bags of ice in the morning. We had to restock the ice by early afternoon. And while I am not a fan of the waste created by bottled water, I cannot describe how good it felt to gulp down a whole bottle of cold water at least every hour throughout the long day.
22 pizzas, 14 cases of water, and twelve hours later, all of us stopped to assess the project. We realized that there was more work involved than we had planned. Everyone agreed to return on Sunday to continue the project and we called it a night. I had to go to the building supplies store to get more stuff, as well.
I arrived home by 1930, dead beat and tired. My spouse had already eaten dinner. I took a cold shower and then had a long soak in our hot tub with the spouse and recounted the day’s events and problems with him. He is a great listener.
I was in bed by 2030, dead to the world in seconds.
I was up by 0500 the next morning, because I had a vision come to me overnight about how to resolve a vexing issue. My senior pal is very short — only 4′ 8″ (142cm). She cannot reach things stored in kitchen cabinets above the counter without using a step stool or ladder — both of which are dangerous for older people. In a vivid dream I had that night, my mother suggested that I find an extracting shelf device that pulls out of cabinets and lowers to the counter.
My local building supplies retailer does not have anything like that, so I had to find an on-line dealer that had such devices. I found a reputable source, and wrote down information about what I thought would be required. I brought that list with me to meet everyone by our 0700 start time.
I gave the list to one of my senior pal’s sons who said that he would order what was needed. The rest of us got to work. Demolition had been done, and now it was time to: expand the bath and install a walk-in tub; build a ramp at the front entry so that steps are not an issue any more; build kitchen counters that are lower and easier to reach; replumb the bath and kitchen; install new, up-to-date electrical wiring, outlets, switches, and lighting as needed. And lots more.
We were done by 1900 after another 22 pizzas and countless cases of water and bags of ice. Nothing was nicer than being able to re-energize the house and turn the air conditioning back on! I will return with a couple friends to install the extracting shelf devices for the kitchen cabinets when they come in. But for the most part, all else was done. My senior pal was crying with joy as she bid us farewell. I was happy with a job well-done.
What, no photos? Too busy to remember my camera. My pal’s sons took photos with their phones and promised to email them to me. None have arrived yet.
What else was going on this past weekend? Oh yeah, the 40th DC Gay Pride festival. My spouse and I are so over those things … we are already out, married, and are proud every day. We don’t need to go into downtown DC on an extremely hot day to sweat with other gay people. It’s a fine event for those who enjoy those things. My spouse, ever the recluse, hates crowds, and I do not like the hassle of getting into DC. (They were doing emergency construction on the Metro system and single-tracking, causing hours of delays. No way….)
Also, the usual every second-Sunday in June police escorted charity motorcycle ride was being held. I have participated in that event for the past six years. However, my priorities had to remain with completing this remodeling job. Had we been able to complete the work in one day as planned, I would have gone on the ride. Alas, such was not the case.
BTW, how was I booted? Timberland work boots on Saturday, Justin work boots on Sunday. Jeans, t-shirts, socks — the usual. I do have to admit that some of the guys volunteering for me this past weekend looked great shirtless. But I digress… (giggle.) They’re straight; I’m married. No problem watching, though. (My spouse thought my stories about the day and the attire [or lack thereof] was quite amusing.)
Life is short: do what drives your heart.