I recall doing the front side of the house 20 years ago. I tossed bundles of shingles on my shoulder and trundled up the ladder. Ya, they were heavy, but it was just annoying, not impossible. I recall hanging onto safety ropes with my teeth, while propping singles with one knee, and hammering away. I remember hanging upside down, with my toes over the peak, as I nailed in shingles. I recall going up first thing in the morning, and working 'till dark. I was tired, and needed some ibuprofen, but hell, it was a productive day!
I remember those things all in the "How the hell did I DO that?!?" sense of the word "remember".
I was working yesterday, putting rows of shingles across the back of the house. These were shingles that Jules and I got up there by breaking open the packages, and passing up the ladder a little at a time, because I don't think my back would allow me to take a whole bundle up any more. As the sweat ran down my face and arms in rivers, I recalled that I it was hotter the last time I did this. I don't recall the shingles burning my skin they way they did this time.
I'm using roof jacks and platforms this time, because I no longer have the strength in my arms and legs to support myself on the steep roof, holding onto safety ropes the whole time. As I neared the peak, I was well above the platforms, and sitting with my legs bunched under me, to keep from sliding. I kept one hand on the rope, or the peak. I was shocked at how the effort of holding myself from sliding was beating up my body. I was in pain, as my knees, hips, and back were not happy with my contortionist efforts to stay balanced.
I was frustrated with my slow progress, and the huge effort of it all. I was about to take a precarious shuffle sideways, when I noticed that I was about to step across my safety rope, and could have slipped on it. I caught myself mumbling "Slow down. Better done in August, than half-done in traction." Where is this voice coming from? Who was that?!? That's not my style!
I continued to work, musing about the sweat running down my forehead, and the fact that my shirt and pants were sweat clean through.. I always sweat profusely when I do physical things. I flashed on a memory or two of working on a project around the house with Dad. I know where my sweat glands come from! As I lined up another row of shingles, and noted it was just right, I smiled and before I even realized it, I muttered "Perfek!", just the way Dad would have done.
My Dad and I were totally different people. He had an 8th grade education, whereas I went to college. He worked blue collar jobs all his life, and I'm a computer jockey. He was quietly religious, but deeply faithful. I'm quietly spiritual, but have no faith whatsoever. We were not close, but yet somehow, we could spend an hour in each other's presence with barely a word said, and part feeling a deep sense of satisfaction.
Oddly, as I get older, I find my hands drawn to wrench, screwdriver and hammer. I'm finding pleasure, where I never expected it - like in the alignment of a neat row of shingles, and the aches of an honest day's work.
Three hours after I began, I climbed down the ladder, frustrated that my body was no longer up to the tasks of a twenty year old. My blood sugar was bottomed out. I was dehydrated, and my back was telling me it would be a long night. Still, I smiled as I realized that with age comes wisdom. I hadn't taken as many risks this time, and came down the ladder safely, and able to continue the job another day. I think I know the source of that voice in my head. We never spoke much when he was alive. We never had much to say. But then, like now, I think of him every day. As I get older, I think we weren't so different after all.
I miss you Dad.
Current Mood: contemplative