Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Up On The Rooftop

It was a hot July day several years ago
that my husband decided it was
time to roof the house.
A remodeling job had left
the entire family exhausted-
from mixing mortar
to stuffing insulation up in the rafters-
to fetching beer and sandwiches
between strict potty breaks.

I know the kids were relieved
that they could finally sit inside the cool comfort
of the house and watch cartoons
while Mom and Dad hammered
away on the roof.

The big ladder was propped up
and my husband scaled it
like a monkey after a banana.

"You want me up there?" I asked,
hoping that my job consisted of
some type of ground work.

"Hell, yes, I want you up here!"
he shouted with a short fuse burning,
"And grab that other hammer on your way."

I gripped the metal ladder
and stepped up.
One step.
Two steps.

"I can't!" I shivered, looking up to see
his face in a contorted mess of red
bulging veins -
which I knew quite well
was his signal for anger.

"Get up here!" he yelled,
holding out a hand over the edge
of the roof-
as if that was going to reach
ten foot down and pull me into
the safety of a soft cloud or something.

Three steps.

My entire body pulsed
as though an electric current
shivered through me.
The ladder rattled.
My feet turned to rubber.
The earth seemed to disappear
beneath me.

Six and seven.
Soon I was at the roof line
and my husband helped me over
with a smug grin on his face.

"Over here", he motioned,
walking quickly upright to the front of the house-
while I crawled like a little baby
on my hands and knees.

The whole time I handed him shingles,
I was in a reclining position-
hoping my long fingernails
or big toes might save me in a fall.
Yet, still considering what possible pain
might be inflicted if I simply
rolled off the edge.

About a half hour into the
shingle, hammer, shingle, hammer rhythm
we had going,
I looked out over the countryside
and saw how beautiful everything looked
from my new vantage point.

There were horses in the pasture,
a big red barn next door,
a little pond beyond the trees,
and patterns in the hay field.
There was-

"Quit your daydreaming and hand me
a shingle!" I suddenly heard, waking me
from my trance.

By noon I was assuming the gorilla stance-
not quite walking upright,
but hunched over with a definite swagger,
still watching each foot as I set it in place.

It took two days to finish that roof.
We were sunburned
and sore
and perhaps more deeply bonded together
in some sick, freaky way.

I doubt that I will ever roof again.

But that experience taught me
to face my fears
and that real team work can be
refreshing and satisfying in the end.

"Can we go back up there now and then,
just to look over the fields?" I asked,
missing the great view I had.

"Are you crazy?" he spit.

There went those bulging veins again.