Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Da roof.

As many of you may know, I had a minor run-in with a metal extension ladder last summer resulting in a rather dramatic injury in which my left arm stuck out the right side of my head. With surgery and therapy and recovery largely behind me I find one lasting effect most frustrating. No one...NO ONE....wants to let me climb a ladder anymore. I've even had friends take my arm to walk me up a landing of stairs like a little old lady with 2 bum hips and wobbly knees. In my defense, may I just say that the ground was super wet and sloggy when my ladder lost its grip on the earth and sent me skydiving? I wasn't monkeying around or foolishly stretching to reach something beyond a safe range. I didn't say "Hey guys! Look what I can do!" before attempting some foolish Cirque Du Soleil-esque acrobatics. I climbed a stable ladder to paint the trim on my lovely little local pub and gravity, nature, and one evil ladder conspired against me. That's all.
As I mentioned in my previous post, dad won't let me on the roof much because of my perceived issues with low-atmosphere flight. For a couple of long weeks, I tried to help him put the wood sheeting up for the metal roof to lay on top of. As you may well imagine, it's not easy to help roof from the ground and dad quickly became an "expert" at working alone. I felt useless but not enormously bothered as The Professor's methods of getting things done often left much to be desired in the safety department. Many are the sheets of wood that went sailing through the sky and down the hill to lay dejectedly among the pine straw because dad lost his grip  or tried to drag too many pieces up at once. A few peaceful afternoons were probably shattered for people in neighboring counties as the sound of boards clattering combined with dad's shouts of a rather colorful nature echoed through the woods. 
He finally completed the foundation for the roof right before I was set to leave for Scotland for a couple weeks. It looked great and set the stage for a gorgeous rustic red metal I chose for my roof. Having finished the "hard part" of roofing, I left for my trip happy in the knowledge that I would return to a roofed house, an exciting and mind-relieving prospect in rainy, wet Mississippi. 
I wasn't in Scotland more than a day or two when I called my mom to check in only to hear the pre-emptive warning we had so often greeted her with, "Now, don't worry. Everything is okay but...." 
Seriously, my mom heard these words enough times that it's a miracle she didn't develop some kind of nervous disorder as they always proceeded a bleeding child zombie-walking up the driveway or a flattened car being towed into the yard or the question which every parent loves to hear, "Can they sew ears back on?" Honestly. 
My heart rate increased when she said those words. "Don't worry...." My son, after all, was in her care and can be something of a daredevil himself. No, she told me, The Kiddo is a-o-k. My dad had been placing sheet metal and took a fall. Rather than plummet from the roof to the world below, he grabbed at the tin roof. He probably saved himself a world of hurt and maybe even his life. He did, however, make a good start at chopping a finger off. 
Bleeding and sweaty, he had presented the gore to my mom, God bless her, and they had discovered together that his finger would not be coerced into moving at his command. He had severed tendons in his finger which, if not repaired, would have left him with a permanently straight middle finger. You can imagine the trouble that may cause a man when raising an otherwise clenched fist. Perpetually flipping people off is not the best idea in our society. So...surgery was scheduled while I was still snuggled into a crisp Scottish world away from lumber and nailguns and toolbelts and 100 degree mornings. 
By the time I made my return crossing over the Atlantic Ocean dad was in recovery and almost ready to begin physical therapy on his poor wounded paw and a crew of builders was hired to finish the roof that apparently neither of us was up to. 
I would never celebrate the injury of a loved one or revel in the vindication that comes from someone struggling with the very thing they judged you for. I will admit, though, that I have rather savored the occasional chance to take a jab at my dad for trying out a similarly graceless and dramatic skydive to my own accident. No one tells me I can't climb a ladder anymore, for fear that Gravity will hear and get them back in my defense. 
What it comes to, in the end, is a house...with a roof and a man who doesn't have to flip the bird for the rest of his life. Although....this post may tempt him to show his youngest, dear daughter his injured finger just for good measure. Sorry, doc. Turnabout is, afterall, fair play. 

Glad I chose a dark red roof. Hides the bloodstains. :) 

The trusses.

My dad won't let me use a chainsaw, he won't let me on a roof with a pitch any steeper than an Iowa prairie, and he won't let me drive the big tractor in its highest gear. He will, however, tell me to stand on a 6 inch wide wall, 8 feet in the air, and fly 300 pound, 30 foot wide trusses at me with a forklift, with the shouted admonition, "CATCH!".
The day we began putting up the trusses on the house was one of the most nerve wracking of my life. It seemed, beforehand, like it would be the most important day since pouring the foundation, the day the house went from being a squatty little set of single story walls to being a towering giant with a distinctly house-shape. I could hardly sleep the night before. Once the trusses were delivered and in lovely neat stacks around the job site I was ready to see them float gently into place and be nailed and braced calmly and serenely by dad and I.
The reality, as it turned out, was not nearly such a smooth, delightful step in our journey.
We had rented a forklift that could fly something roughly the size of a C-130 to roughly the height of the Sears Tower. Or...that's how it seemed to me on the ground when it was extended all the way up with one of my beautiful trusses swaying precariously from the forks high above me among my stand of lanky pine trees. I have never had a fear of heights when I am the object above the earth. Watching things hover overhead from a great height is a different story. I spent that first day envisioning myself squashed like Wile E. Coyote beneath the Acme anvil of Roadrunner's wrath.
What we imagined would take us 3 or 4 days took us nearly 2 and a half weeks and repeated calls to the rental store begging an additional day or two with the forklift. I began to suspect that dad was just becoming attached to such great heavy machinery and was stalling so he could keep it. Ultimately, that was a rather expensive little love affair but one that saved us from having to call the Amish community in north Mississippi to beg for help in raising the rafters. Just as well. I think my tattoos and divorcee status combined with dad's proclivity toward salty language and my brother's tendency to be shirtless and sporting a plumber's butt may have thrown a few Amishpeople into a crisis of faith. Who would want to be responsible for that? Not I.
Willing helpers did drift in and out of those weeks and made my survival and the preservation of dad's mental health possible, not to mention the fact that, after all was said and done, I had a house-shaped structure on a hill, ready for roofing.
If I had to do over, I would hire a crew and hide under my bed until the trusses were in place. Hopefully...HOPEFULLY...I won't ever have to place another truss as long as I live. To borrow one of my mom's favorite expressions: "Lord willing and the creek don't rise..."
Here's a few pics of before, during and after:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Random photos to accompany stories. Haven't figured out how to get them in the right places. SORRY!

Sister, mom, me. Under the finished trusses. Finally!

Seamus. The sweet pup we lost.

Stairs to replace the wobbly ladder as route to 2nd floor.

Hot pink lumber. 

Back porch with finished roof.

Front porch with finished roof and beginnings of porch floor.