“Hey, what are you doing? For pete sakes put down your cell phone!”
It was a Saturday morning and I was helping Old Man’s daughter, Carol, with a couple of house repairs on her parent’s home. We had fixed the leak on the back porch and were now re-attaching one of the front gutters that the wind had blown down.
Since there was not a ladder long enough to reach the gutter, from the front side of the house, I decided to place the ladder on the back deck and climb up on the roof. Once I was on the roof I felt that I could reach and repair the gutter if I were to lay down and hang, about a foot of my upper body, over the edge of the roof. All I needed was for my neighbor’s daughter to reinforce herself in such a way that she could hold my ankles and keep me from falling off the edge. In theory it seemed like a good idea. Practically though, not so much.
All was going well. As I was preparing the area, by gathering all the tools I would need, Carol was puttering on the roof completing other chores her dad had asked her to complete. To be honest I was not watching her nor watching what she was doing. I had a single task in mind and anyone that knows me knows once I am embroiled in something I tend to get tunnel vision.
I laid down on the roof and began to attach the gutter bracket. Next I needed to slide the gutter back into the brackets. I was feeling pretty safe at the point, but just that fast the safety I was feeling was gone. Her cell phone rang. She let go of my ankles and I began to slowly shift forwards. I was falling off roof and we were 20 feet or more in the air! I panicked and started yelling, though I would rather not repeat all that I yelled.
“Dang it, put down that cell phone and grab my ankles! What is wrong with you?”
Old Man was sitting in the Man Cave when he heard the commotion. He came around the corner looked up at us both, saw me dangling precariously over the edge and yelled at his daughter. She dropped her cell phone, grabbed my ankles, and pulled me back while simultaneously laughing. At this point I did not see any humor.
Within a couple of minutes the gutter was reattached and I was away from the edge. I went and sat down. All I wanted was to catch my breath when she looked at me and asked,
“Why are you mad? It was my husband, I needed to talk to him.”
It took a few seconds before I responded with,
“You were my safety net. Your job was simple. All you needed to do was to hold my ankles so I could fix the gutter and feel safe while doing it. This was a team effort and we needed the entire team.”
I thought using a sports analogy, since she was an avid softball player, would help her to understand the importance of her job in this situation, but it didn’t. She looked at me and said,
“Don’t you think you are overreacting? You didn’t fall. I just don’t get it. In fact, I really don’t like this side of you. I thought you would find this funny. Your attitude is a real disappointment. you know?”
I didn’t respond. I knew enough to know that my response would not have benefited anyone. Instead I decided to go home.
I went to stand up and realized this situation was getting worse by the moment. Unknown to me she had spread some roofing tar where I was sitting. Maybe spread is the wrong word. She had slopped about a half-gallon of roofing tar around an air vent, under the composite roofing, which is never encouraged by most roofer’s I know, without telling me. As I sat down the tar squeezed out and around the tile and I sat in it. By now I was livid. Not only were my nerves shot, but also my backside was covered in tar. And to add insult to injury I had half a square of three-tab roofing embedded in the tar on my pants. It was attached to my butt!
I stood up, looked at my back side, saw the tar and the partial roofing tile, and sighed. I decided not to remove the tile. Instead I gathered up all my tools, exited the ladder and began the humiliating walk home. Old Man heard me come off the ladder. He came to the back door to say good-by but started laughing. I guess my butt looked pretty funny with all the smeared tar and half a composite roofing square still attached to it.
I would like to say that my response to his laughter was mature, thoughtful and constructive, but it was not. It was more like a small child throwing a temper tantrum as they go running home to mommy crying about how mean everyone was. Not one of my finer moments, but then life is full of unflattering moments isn’t it?
Eventually, once I calmed down, I was able to talk with Old Man about the situation. Actually I was still sniveling like a small child when he spoke these words to me. They were simple yet profound.
“Kid, you took the laughter thing way too personal. Stop and think about it. If it had been anyone else would you have seen the humor? Give it time Kid, give it time. It really was funny.”
He was right and I knew it. I did take the situation personally, and this was not a personal thing. Within a couple of days I saw the humor. It just took a bit of time, correction and encouragement from Old Man.
Today I am thankful. Thankful for that memory, but more than that, I am thankful for the lesson I learned through it. Though to be honest I never worked with roofing tar again after that day. Some jobs need to be saved for the professionals!