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It takes a village, and maybe power tools | Chuck's World


Last updated 11/19/2020 at 8:12pm

The first noise was the worst, although I was asleep. This raises a sort of empirical question: If a horrific, tearing, crashing sound occurs outside your window and you’re unconscious, was it really a sound?

The second noise was confirmatory, which was my neighbor banging on my door the next morning.

He was just being neighborly, which we appreciated.

“Did you guys know the back of your house fell off last night?”

And so we threw empiricism out the window, although it’s possible the window is no longer there. Things tend to be crumbling lately.

We’re in a good mood about all of this, actually, although that could just be the fact that the election is over and we all seem to be fairly healthy. This feels like something to keep in mind while it rains inside my bedroom.

OK. I’m making some jokes here. Everyone take a deep breath.

I own a house approximately the same age as the Flintstones, as the film “Psycho,” as the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It is the same age as the Etch A Sketch, which is to say it is approximately as old as I am.

I live in a relic of the New Frontier because I bought it when I was 29 and really couldn’t afford much more. We liked the area, the schools were good, and my neighbors all seemed nice, which is handy since they have to look at my house.

And I want to be perfectly honest – I resisted buying this house because I thought I had no business being a homeowner. My wife was the mature one, knowing we had a small child and jobs in the general area, and commutes are bad and so on. Equity and investments are always worth consideration, even if I remain unsure exactly how they work.

I’m not totally incompetent. I can mow grass and pull weeds. I can hammer and nail, although sometimes I get those two mixed up. I own multiple power tools and a vague idea of how to use them, although the last time I tried to put together a piece of Ikea furniture my wife stepped in.

“Just back away slowly,” she said quietly but firmly. “Leave the drill. I want to see your hands at all times.”

Like that.

I also lack certain measuring skills. I’ve carefully cut holes in drywall for electrical outlets and discovered afterwards that the outlet is often several feet away from the hole, and sometimes in another room. It’s a mystery, but everybody knows about me.

I can, however, write checks to the mortgage company, so I continue to live in this house, fairly comfortably if you don’t mind indoor puddles.

There are many reasons we’ve lived in this house so long, although I don’t need to explain. It’s sometimes nice to stay in one place. It’s fun to grow older with people on the same block, to watch kids waiting for the school bus where my kids once waited, many years ago. And we all need a roof over our heads.

Although we could talk about that roof.

But suffice to say, a piece of vinyl siding slipped off the side of the house, which was bad but not the end of the world. Those neighbors I spoke of? They stepped in and helped me temporarily control the damage, while the contractors consulted their schedules and murmured about next May.

All of this will be fine, if a little expensive. None of my home woes are the point. I’m fortunate to own a home. It wasn’t a bad idea at all to live in one house for all of these years, as certain realtors have recently pointed out. The rain makes the flowers grow, and buckets and mops are useful.

Gratitude is the point, which conveniently is sort of always the point this time of year. I helped produce an online fundraiser a few weeks ago, for example, trying to drum up funds to help people battling homelessness and food insecurity.

It’s an easy way to grasp good fortune, and the privilege of having fewer bad things happen to us than to some other folks.

But I’m also grateful to those neighbors with their own power tools. I’m grateful to those friends who responded immediately to my panic with calm advice and instructions on what to do next. I’m grateful to professionals who responded quickly and efficiently to get the problem fixed.

And I’m grateful that I managed to parent two children who understand my shortcomings and neuroses, and general lack of competence in many, many things. They were a comfort, the way children are supposed to be, particularly when your house falls down.

I’m grateful for other people, in other words, and as isolated and removed from community as we all are at the moment, community is still there. This wasn’t a disaster by any means, just a fairly normal and inevitable result of various choices and then just time. It could have been worse, and it is worse for many, many people.

I know people struggling with loss. I know of entire families infected with COVID-19, some of whom have died.

I know people to whom a leaky roof would be a blessing, because it’s a roof.

And I know people who will help me, and who would help anybody. I’m so grateful for them, and for all of you.

And for mops and buckets, always.


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