I was showing a friend pictures from our demolition. The friend’s friend had an op-ed she needed to share. One that bit.
“So, if you hate your house so much, why don’t you just buy a new one?”
Ouch! That throw away comment from a grinning stranger really did burn. It freezes, too.
I, in my shock at that unthinkable thought, objected. Too much, in retrospect, methinks. Too much because her unwelcome comment was based on her observation. Of the evidence. That I provided.
Looking at the photos of the bare and picked over bones of the edifice I had sworn to protect I thought, “What hath I wrought?”
The next day, I hesitated as I stepped onto the porch as part of my daily construction inspection. I gingerly inserted my key. I slowly opened the door. There was almost no floor to speak of–just a bunch of planks that forced me to leap from one to the next at the risk of falling through to the basement below.
And I’ve been stuck here. Right here. For two weeks I haven’t been able to move this post forward. Not able to skip past it. Because I can’t skip it. It has to be dealt with. I have to deal with it.
Usually, I have posts and pieces of posts trolling through my head–all of the time. I sit down and tap them out and hit publish. That’s how it works. Sure, there’s a bit more than that, but not the writer’s black hole I’ve had.
Usually, the hardest ones come out the fastest. Usually.
I’ve been stuck in the unusual.
I’ve reopened this page again and again. I’ve tweaked some words, moved a comma about and walked away. I’ve sat down with a brew in hand and a strict self-imposed deadline to put a bow on it. Three beers later, I successfully avoid any accomplishment. I’ll do it tomorrow. I don’t.
I’d walk into the house and take more photos. I’d look at the skeleton of the house, and see that the specimen is incomplete. Some of the bones are missing. No floor, not just exposed joists, but an entirely missing kitchen floor. No stairway to the second floor, the ladder carefully balanced over the canyon of the basement stairs.
The radiators were all piled up in the former toy room, like the mountains of blocks, legos and Hot Wheels from a recent past.
This week the siding was torn off. The chipped paint along the thin wooden boards were stacked in dumpster number six. Or are we up to seven boxcars of the house toted away? What could be left?
I didn’t know what gutting the house really meant.
GUT: to clean out. strip. decimate. ravage. ransack. disembowel. eviscerate. empty.
That was it. Empty.
I haven’t been able to come to terms with what I’m doing to the house. I started counting what was staying.
- The roof. (Which we replaced 8 years ago).
- The foundation. (Which is getting parged to shore it up.)
- Most of the original sheathing that was diagonally hung, keeping out the elements. (It’s being covered with some kind of new-fangled water impervious wood and then foam insulation and then new man-made siding.)
- Most of the original posts and joists. Many of which are being sistered with new, man-made materials.
- All of the woodwork and trim in the living and dining rooms. The fake fireplace mantels are STAYING!
- I saved the floors in the first two bedrooms, now known as the den and the office. (Over objections of some/one. I can’t let them all go.)
I’m looking at this list and the house that I swore to protect that I can’t recognize and I start hearing Obi-Wan telling Luke that Luke’s father is now more machine than man.
And then I get to thinking. And I feel better. Because in the end, Darth Vader was alright. He kept his soul.