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Little Spouse On The Prairie: The Covideck

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In the first weeks of what I assumed would be a month-long shut-down, I was determined to be one of those “use-the-pandemic-to-enrich-my-life types.”

In the first weeks of what I assumed would be a month-long shut-down, I was determined to be one of those “use-the-pandemic-to-enrich-my-life types.” I firmly committed to transfer all of my teaching to an engaging online platform, write the best essays ever in my PhD program classes, read meaningful books to expand my horizons, build unforgettable family experiences (and document those experiences in a colorful scrapbook), and do some household projects that we had been putting off.

From prior experience, I knew that it usually takes 3.7 years for Joel to start a project, and we had been needing to rebuild our damaged deck since a hailstorm had destroyed it two summers ago. So, I was certainly hedging a bit when I started nibbling at the edges of Joel’s resistance only a couple of years in. But hey, my prior experience had never included a pandemic shut-down either, so I was game for giving it a try. I am fully aware that Joel needs to go through the stages of grief when approaching a new project. The first stage is denial.

“Gosh. Since we can’t really go anywhere, maybe this would be a good time to start in on that darn ol’ deck repair,” I said one afternoon in April.

“What deck repair?” asked Joel, a blank look on his face.

“Oh, you know, the one attached to our house? The one with all the holes in it? I showed you example photos on Pinterest the day after the hailstorm hit, and I’ve shown you those same photos once a week for just over two years now, but I’d be glad to show you again, Sweetie!”

The second stage is anger. Whereas I express anger through words – lots and lots of them – Joel expresses anger through silence (minus the sound of slamming doors). He also disappears for a period of time. The amount of time is directly proportional to the level of anger. When I brought up the deck project, he was gone for 12 hours. I still have no idea where he was during what I have come to refer to as “the lost day of quarantine.”

Once he reappeared, he had fully transitioned to the bargaining stage. “Honey, what if I detail the cars this week? Aren’t there some lightbulbs needing changed? The grass needs mowed, honey. Don’t you need time to do your online teaching? I’ll watch a movie with Clementine so you are not interrupted.”

Despite the intense bargaining, I always have something in my back pocket: Calling another contractor for an estimate is guaranteed to work. “You’re right, my darling,” I simply say. “You are much too busy to redo the deck. I’ll call around and get some estimates from other contractors!” I say this knowing full well that virtually every contractor for miles is backed up for three years and all of them would charge too much anyway.

That’s when the depression stage hits poor ol’ Joel. If all goes well, this stage lasts only a few days. He mopes around, and with his best Eeyore voice, says things like, “I measured the area for the deck this morning,” and “I ordered the materials for the deck this afternoon.” Once Joel starts sulking, he’s well on his way to acceptance, the final stage! And if I know my husband, his version of acceptance is always truly above and beyond.

This time is no different. As the shut-down lengthened, so did what we have been referring to as the Covideck. We started out wanting to build a small area to grill, roast s’mores, and lounge. Joel built that version first, and then said, “Why not add another level?” After completing that level, he ended up adding two more. The Covideck is massive! He filled the entire space on the north side of the house with deck! We don’t even have to mow that side of the yard anymore.

I think my favorite thing is seeing the look of satisfaction on Joel’s face as we sit outdoors enjoying this space more than we ever did before. He is rightfully proud of his hard work. I love it. I actually let him enjoy it for nearly a week before I brought up that we really do need to finish the garage project that we started 3.7 years ago.