As I sit here tonight, looking at the amount of work that has been accomplished in such a short amount of time, I am amazed. Even though there is still work to be done, knowing that by mid-week next week it will be completed and that I will have begun the process of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, I think about just how this has come to pass.
First of all, the push to action came only with Dad’s last illness, leaving him so weak that he couldn’t walk for more than a few steps at all, even with assistance, needing me or Kay to bathe him, dress him, feed him. The long-needed updates just never would have happened otherwise. That’s a hell of a reason for renovating, but it’s true. Without Dad’s illness, he never would have allowed all of this work. Now, he just says (partly joking, but not completely), “it’s only money.” I’ll go to the bank tomorrow to transfer some more money to the checking account so that I can pay for what’s left and have the cushion he likes to have.
Next, he actually had to be out of the house before work of this magnitude could be done. I joke that I’m living in a construction zone but the truth is that I really am living in one. Most people don’t have to, I think, but I’ve needed to be here. Just how chaotic could it be, just how crammed could it be, you might wonder.
At times, I have had to go across the street to Charles’s house so that I could use a toilet while the contractor and his dad and the plumbers were here, working in the bathrooms. At one point I had a toilet in one bath that worked, and a shower in the other. Now one is fully functional and the other will be soon. There’s no point in trying to dust anything. That would be pointless given the daily opening and closing of doors and the wind blowing in dust from the gravel drives. Dust seems to appear hourly. I no longer really care. I could write in it — something multi-volume, I suspect.
And every room is simply a holding area as I pack and move boxes or bags out of one room to another. Dad’s old bedroom contains both of his dressers, Mother’s cedar chest, a rocker, several dining room chairs (each holding other items, usually bagged), a desk, and the headboard of a bed (I’m going to repurpose it somehow). And of course, the boxes of books and things. Tomorrow the two big bookcases from my bedroom will end up there. The living room has boxes and baskets, my chest of drawers, two small bookcases and a larger metal one, a library table, a folding table, the stereo cabinet, and the computer.
Kay’s room has stuff piled on her bed, and more boxes. The one closet in her bedroom is now shallower, having been used for depth in the newly remodeled bathroom — and the new, walk-in shower with a bench. When Tim finishes with it, it will have shelves, giving us usable storage that can be organized and convenient. And labeled properly.
My room has the only usable bed in the entire house, in fact, at least at this point. That means that Kay and I really are tag-teaming it: only one of us can stay here at a time. That bed has to be dismantled tomorrow, at least temporarily, for the new flooring to be put in place. The old bedframe will go to the trashbin; I’m getting a new one that I’ll have to assemble and stain (thanks to Amazon and its offering of an Ikea double-bed frame). So tomorrow night, I think the mattress will lie on the floor and I’ll think I’m back in the days of hippie chic.
At times, I sit here and stay out of the way while work goes on around me. Sometimes I sit at the computer and read and surf the net. But always I think about how short a period has actually passed since this began, and what an evolutionary process renovation really is. Some of the work we planned for, but not all of it.
The first actual project, building a porch and ramp, went so quickly and beautifully that I was spoiled. The second project, new flooring in three rooms plus the bathrooms, went pretty smoothly. It was the unexpected need to rewire the entire house that has been frustrating to Tim and his dad.
They have battled for three days in the attic and with four (yes, four) separate breaker boxes, with 1946 wiring and with newer wiring. They have sweated and crawled and discovered that even the newer wiring presented major conundrums and problems. Wiring that was hot, that was jumped from another room, that led to nowhere, that wasn’t working. . . you name it, they found it. Firewalls so dense that they broke drill bits. Today they completed the rewiring. Tim told me that they’d used “25 feet short of 1000 feet” of wire in the house. His dad chimed in “And probably pulled 2000.” I think he was joking, but I’m not sure!
Three days ago, a gas odor led to the discovery that the ancient gas dryer had to be replaced. How old? Well, it has an actual pilot light. That’s what has rusted and that’s the source of the leak. The new dryer will be delivered on Saturday, but the deliveryman can’t hook it up. It’s a gas dryer. That means I have to call the gas company to hook it up and approve it with a little red tag.
We knew some of the plumbing was a problem. We are replacing all of it. The plumbers already shut off and eliminated old gas lines to capped off gas hookups in bedrooms; the wall heater over the old bathtub was also gas, and it has been removed. The gas line will be rerouted so that it doesn’t go under the slab; that line will be cut off and a new one run instead.
This house is, I have come to believe, the proverbial house that Jack built. But Jack didn’t know jack, I have also come to believe. I am amazed at the discoveries I’m making — the person who wired the addition was an electrician who worked with Dad. He should never have been near electrical wires. The plumbing in the addition had four different kinds of pipes, much of it salvaged from oil field surplus.
Everywhere we looked, something that had been pieced together no longer worked. Galvanized pipes had holes in them. Wires hooked at breaker boxes just ended in the walls, tied to nothing, doing nothing. I could be frustrated at this, but I’m not. After all, this house wasn’t a recent construction.
In the few weeks of this project, I have relied on the contractors (new acquaintances, Egan residents, and now I think to be categorized as friends), on long-time neighbors and friends, on family. The two closest friends are people I’ve known most of my life, both also part of the Sun Oil family, as I think of it, who lived in the Egan camp. One is a widow whose late husband worked for the company. In fact, when I think about it, she has yet other ties to our family, because her aunt lived next door to my grandmother in Beaumont many years ago, and the two women were friends; indeed, they even shared the same name, as I remember. The other is someone whose late father also worked for it; he and I are 6 months apart in age, went to school from first grade through high school graduation together, and he is also now retired, living again in Egan and caring for a parent. They are family too, a family bound together by shared experiences that go back decades.
We know so much about each other, share so much, and provide support for each other in so many ways. When blood relatives might be willing to help but can’t because they live elsewhere, the Sun family I am still part of can and does help out.
We laugh a lot; we tease each other without mercy. Our comfort level is clear in the ways we can and do tease each other. There’s a shorthand of sorts that comes with such long-term friendships, as there is in any family. Shared memories and experiences tie us together in wonderful ways.
So without Charles and Billie, I simply don’t know what I would have done. I can whine or worry. And I can laugh, always.
Other long-term friends offer verbal support and drop by to check in or call to see how Dad is and how I am. They are also part of the network here that is so strong and so comforting.
My sister and I text constantly and talk nightly. My cousins call or email every few days.
Tonight’s blog is perhaps a bit shorter than usual, but then I’ve got to work some more tonight before Tim and his dad come back tomorrow to put in vinyl flooring in my bedroom and carpeting in the old living room that will be Dad’s bedroom as well as in Kay’s room. Yet more books have to be boxed and stashed somewhere. And I’ve got to move the printers and computer to the new computer area in the office, somehow making room among the various pieces of furniture and boxes of things that are parked there for now, during the renovation. Already there are plans on the docket — one more room in the house to clear out and to recarpet, window air conditioners to be replaced by a new central air system (and for the 1946 metal ductwork to be replaced also).
Tonight I am alone, but can hear and see the other visitors I’m still dealing with, ones that I don’t want. When you live in the country (even in a small town like Egan that is really a village), there are fields. And where there are fields, there are mice. And when the weather has been as cool as it has here, those mice don’t want to be in the fields. No, they want to be in the house, where it’s warmer. Now I can hear them and if I turn around, see them scamper across floors, around boxes. Nothing can be left on the counter that isn’t in a plastic, boxed container — the mice haven’t figured out how to nibble through anything like that. Yet.
Which is why, when all this is completed, I will bring in another resident — one of my cats, possibly two. Maybe they’ll discourage those particular, unwanted visitors.
Damn. There goes another one, jumping off the counter onto the floor. I think I have a mouse circus. At least for now.