FEATURE — I was part of the pandemic construction craze. I didn’t mean to be.
We’d planned on redoing our master bathroom and bedroom and its baroque 1990’s tiles when we bought the house 10 years ago. But then we didn’t for all of the normal reasons: the expense, being displaced. Oh, and the expense.
A leak in the master shower finally forced our hand.
I re-configured the layout, then re-configured the reconfiguring back to the original because moving walls and windows is expensive, picked out new tiles, and ordered new cabinets and countertops.
That was two and a half years ago.
I blew out my right shoulder in a surfing accident about then. That, and a misunderstanding with the cabinet guy about my carefully orchestrated pre-surgery construction timeline, necessitated a delay.
I didn’t know then that one surgery would turn into two, along with months of rehab. And who wants power tools and their noisy offspring when you’re in so much pain you’re breaking out in hives, up at 2 a.m. from the steroids prescribed to reduce inflammation and entertaining malcontent fantasies about severing the offending body part? Not this girl.
Construction got delayed again.
Finally, we were ready. It was March 2020. So, you can guess what happened then. Delayed again.
By June, after being on pandemic home arrest without a working master shower – the smallish leak had turned into a gigantic leak – we were desperate. My husband became a one-man demo team, taking out his cooped-up hours at home on the shower, the tub surround and every inch of drywall.
I couldn’t reconcile all the dirt and debris being tracked through the house while we were still trapped in it, so he invented an ingenious removal system.
Step one: Take off the bathroom window.
Step two: Build a wood track and a small rope-pulley cart with a side that falls open when tipped to a 45-degree or more angle.
Step three: Run the cart track from the window, across 20 feet of roof line to the edge of the gutter.
Step four: Park the little red pick-up truck you might love more than your first-born child, truck bed first, under said roof/gutter edge.
Step five: Pile up debris in the handy-dandy cart, run it along the track while holding the rope in your hand until it hits the stopper … and viola – all the debris falls into the truck bed without coming through the house.
He’s a genius, I know. It even mostly worked.
Our contractor was so impressed with the set-up that when he finally got into the house in July and saw it first-hand, he took pictures.
We spent the next seven months in the basement, living like squatters with our three boys, mattresses tucked into corners and temporary wardrobes assembled out of plastic pipe and flimsily fabric to divide up the group living space.
As if consecrated by the initial delay, the rest of the remodel was dominated by international shipping delays, which spiraled into subcontractor delays, product errors and defective parts. It was the most infuriating experience.
Except for our contractor. He was wonderful.
He took off his shoes before walking upstairs so he wouldn’t track dirt on the carpet. He soothed me when barges brought the wrong tile. He hounded subs to finish their work.
He got down on one knee whenever he arrived to greet our dog, Albus, and talked softly to him when too many people were coming in and out the house.
He brought an old Army yearbook to show my oldest what military life was like when he was considering applying to some of the U.S. Service Academies. He then texted to check on the same son after his Candidate Fitness Assessment and barf-inducing mile run (needed to qualify for an appointment to one of those academies) to make sure he was OK.
Like I said, he was wonderful.
All the remodel work is finally done. I can shower again without the whole house being ruined and we are no longer squatters in our own home. That’s all pretty wonderful, too.
I sent my contractor the final check on Monday. He called me Thursday to say he got it – and to tell me one more thing.
“You know, I’ve thought it a hundred times to say how much I liked working with your family, but I never said it. So, I’m saying it now because when you feel that way, I figure you should tell people.”
I figure he’s right.
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