Stopping short of tearing down the house there weren’t a lot of options. Ms. D couldn’t stay living in that house without a sink and water, not even considering the unlivable condition of the house. Although it was only a part of the problem, we needed to get the plumbing fixed and fast. Over time, the floor had rotted away from the slow but steady leak. Besides, this all was a moot point considering no plumber would even enter that house in the condition it was.
In as non judgmental way as I could be, I was simply straightforward with Ms. D. I informed her that we needed to get this cleaned up as soon as possible following which I would call a plumber. “We will help you as we promised,” I told her. She nodded affirmatively. She seemed embarrassed, ashamed, was withdrawn and very humbled. I could tell this was very stressful on her.
I ordered a twenty cubic yard dumpster. It was to be delivered later that morning. This was only the beginning.
After four of these dumpsters and several arguments, we started to make progress. We hadn’t even started on the upstairs. It was so hard for Ms. D to let us throw anything away. She wanted to hold onto everything. It occurred to me that she had never properly grieved the loss of mother, her best and only friend. It seemed she had saved everything as if it was all that she had left. She didn’t want to let go of anything. This was very understandable but not healthy. I simply had to ignore the pleas to keep everything. Although not easy, but had to be done.
It was then that we decided to do some much-needed remodeling of the house in which she had lived for over sixty years. It was twenty-five years since it had last been painted. The paint was so faded and brown-looking, I couldn’t tell what color it was suppose to be. She told me that the carpet was nearly thirty years old. The kitchen appliances were not even in working order and so old that they couldn’t be repaired.
We agreed that we would paint the interior of the house. We also decided to replace the kitchen cupboards, sink, and appliances, take up the old carpet and refinish the hardwood floors. Her house is rather small only eleven hundred square feet. It was built in the early 1940’s. It was a typical story and a half. The house consisted of one bathroom and three bedrooms on the main level, and one bedroom upstairs. There was very little kitchen space and limited cupboards. The kitchen only measured eight by twelve feet. A wall separated the kitchen from the dining room. It was hard to fit even a table and four chairs in because the room was only eight by ten feet.
The walls were the old plaster and lath construction and most were cracked with some of the plaster falling off. I talked Ms. D into taking the wall out between the kitchen and dining-room which would open up the area to let in more light and give the appearance of more space. This would also allow her more freedom of movement with her cane and the walker that she used sometimes. I knew that, over time, her knee and hip would not get better. More than likely, she would end up only using the walker and would require that additional space.
I suggested we open up the wall in the dining room and install a large new door with a side panel or a patio door. This not only would give her some much needed natural light, it would enable us to build her an easily accessible deck, right outside. The time was perfect to do this because we had to clean up the mess and strip cupboards and plaster anyway. At first she was resistant to this but with patience and gentle persuasion, she resigned to the idea.
My final suggestion was a deck. I knew that she loved the outdoors. She cherished the time she was able to sit out on her cement patio that we had built for her when we cleaned up the yard. The reason I built this was so she didn’t have to sit in the tall grass with all the mosquitoes and bugs. She enjoyed cooking out every night but has to sit and wait for the charcoal to get white and ready to cook on. Not only was this time consuming, she got a lot of nasty bug bites. This would also be good for her to upgrade to a modern gas grill that could sit next to her on the deck. I told her that I felt this would be a huge improvement in convenience.
She just felt overwhelmed and was afraid of change. I assured her we would be with her every step of the way and that the change would be very good for her.
I remember thinking, what am I getting into?
I had no idea, but was about to find out.
Because of the urgent nature of the plumbing problem and fact that the house really wasn’t fit for living the way it was, it added to the pressure. I needed to find a plumber that, first off, would agree to come in the house under these conditions and, secondly, would be reliable and not judgmental. It also had to be someone whom I and Ms. D could trust. My friend David who rode my bus, the master plumber and electrician, was the first to come to mind.
He had previously given me a business card and told me to call him if I ever needed help.
Boy, did I need help!
I called him. I was honest and upfront about what I was facing and that I could sure use his help. If he didn’t want to get involved I understood and wondered if he knew anyone that I could call to do the plumbing.
He cheerfully replied, “Dusty I would love to help you, but I have to first go to church. My wife Barbara is working today and I can’t drive.”
He explained that he had had seizures and a small stroke a few years ago and that the state wouldn’t allow him to drive. He also informed me that he couldn’t lift much and would need some help. He could do the layout, soldering and light work and if I could help he could show me how to do everything while he supervised.
Perfect, I thought, I always wanted to learn plumbing.
He said that if this would work I was to pick him up after church. Giving me his address, he said, “Be at my house at 12 noon.”
I had a very warm feeling in my gut. An angel had been delivered.
With my pickup, I arrived in the alley behind David’s house a few minutes early. As I turned and drove down the alley I noticed someone sitting on a box in the alley surrounded by tool boxes. It was David. I stopped he greeted me with a hard hand shake and a hug asking me, “How you doing, Brother?”
David appeared excited. We loaded all of his tools and got going. During the drive back to Ms. D’s, David explained what happened regarding his stroke and seizure. He was out of work for over a year and was only allowed to work as a supervisor in his trades. I could see the sadness and hear in his voice how much he missed his fellow tradesmen and being out in the field. He told me a number of times how grateful he was that I would help him and give him a chance to work again doing what he loved. He said I maybe not fast anymore but I’m very good at what I do. I assured him that I was the one who was grateful that he would not only do the work, but was willing to teach me. I remember telling him that we made quite a combination. We laughed at the fact that I had only one good hand and he had his medical problems. This didn’t seem to deter us the least bit. He suggested we start our own business and call it, “The Odd Couple Plumbers”. We had a good laugh.
We got to Ms D. house and I introduced David to her and they seemed to hit it off right away. One thing that I think really helped was that both of them were close to same age and David confided in her about his stroke and seizures. She was immediately relaxed with him.
David looked over the whole mess and told me what needed to be done. It was extensive. He explained that on the first day his goal was simply to get the leak stopped and the drain unplugged in the basement.
We went right to work. He would point out what needed to be done and hand me the tools he had brought to do the work. He watched me like a hawk. Encouraging me and giving me tips on how to complete the tasks at hand. We worked for almost 5 hours but got the drain unplugged and water back on. I took him home. He was so happy and thankful I had asked him to help. He gave me a materials list and told me to pick him up at 6 am next Saturday morning. We had a long day ahead of us.
I couldn’t wait.
I could tell, neither could he.
I remember thinking all the time I was working was how thankful I was to have him here.
An angel had been sent and arrived.
I was so grateful.
It seemed everything was falling in place.
But, how quickly things can change.
copy write all rights reserved D. Jerzak 03-10-07