Joel recently retired. This well-earned rite of passage coincided with a few life changes for me as well. After much discussion, we decided the time was right for me to enter a new job and start a rigorous degree program. Having Joel at home to walk Clementine to kindergarten, do a few repairs around the house, and importantly, do the cooking and housekeeping, would make it possible for me to achieve some personal goals.
When we made the decision, we agreed that from time to time, Joel could pick up a few small handyman jobs around town. It seemed clear though; his dotage was really the right time for him to transition away from the grueling and risky shingling work with which he had previously supplemented his teaching income. Though Joel is still spry, shingling wore him down and worried me.
The day of Joel’s retirement reception dawned beautiful and clear. It was hard to believe that this would be Joel’s last, last day of school. Joel enjoyed the accolades, the cards, and the best wishes, and returned to an eerily dark and quiet hometown that evening. We joked that it felt a little like The Twilight Zone and that maybe the universe was mourning the closing of a great career. As it turned out, it was less mourning and more flat-out kicking and screaming.
The first few minutes of hail sounded like a few pieces of gravel kicked up onto a car windshield by a semi-truck. The next 15 minutes sounded more like someone spilling jars of marbles on a granite tile floor. Following the marbles, we heard 50 minutes of high impact car accidents, complete with shattering glass. The last 20 minutes or so weren’t bad at all though. I doubt it would have sounded loud in the least if our windows would have been intact.
When we emerged from the basement to assess, I was so glad Joel had agreed to lay off shingling, because it was evident that every house in town would need a new roof. I took it as a sign that we had made the right decision.
Joel’s interpretation of the timing of the storm was a bit different than mine. Instead of ruined roofs, he saw green shingles with Benjamin Franklin’s face printed all over them. He turned to me with a huge grin and said, “I’m sure glad I didn’t sell my nail guns and ladders yet!”
We hadn’t even finished our initial appraisal of the damage to our own home when Joel’s phone started ringing. He was giddy with excitement as he pulled out his little notebook and started taking down jobs. He acted like the prospect of a summer spent carrying 80-pound bundles of shingles up a ladder in 100-degree heat was as thrilling as getting new leftover containers or something.
I guess it’s just as well. His brief foray into housekeeping didn’t go that well. On his first day, I put a note on the table as I left for work: “Please clean the guest bathroom today.”
He must not have found the time though, because when I got off work, I found that the ring was still around the bathtub and there were several suspicious-looking splotches on the seat of the toilet.
Later, Joel proudly asked, “How do you like the bathroom?”
“It’s okay, Honey. You can get to it tomorrow,” I replied.
“What? I cleaned it really good! I used pumice on the toilet bowl!” he replied petulantly.
“Oh . . . I just noticed the tub ring.”
“You didn’t tell me to clean the tub!”
“It’s okay, Honey,” I repeated. “I can do that and the toilet seat later.”
“Toilet seat? Why didn’t you say to clean the SEAT of the toilet? I used pumice on the bowl. PUMICE ON THE BOWL, I say. PUMICE ON THE BOWL!”
It’s actually fine because, with the profits from Joel’s shingling, I can hire a housekeeper. And Joel says he’s going to replace our shingles soon. He’s only got 29 more houses to go before he gets to ours. The damage from the hailstorm only caused a couple of leaks, and those are mainly in the laundry room.