This is likely the state one passes thru on the way to being marginalized, i.e. put out on the curb. It is the young who geezerize the elders. Sympathy is the first sign, a youngster is trying to care for an old codger, me - the incipient elder. His sympathy sits quite fresh in the mind of the helpful youth; he exerts a deal of energy in attempting to make one senior's descent down the spiral staircase of life, aka 'the drain', less trying. He is a good lad, palpably concerned. He hasn't yet discovered how I drool, fart and limp my way into senescence; the hair growing out of my ears has yet to offend. It isn't apparent to him that I forget words midsentence, mumbling facilely to attempt continuity. Or maybe I just remind him of his dad, a favorite uncle, or his Boy Scout training has kicked in of a sudden and I have become the day's good deed. Some impulse to care for me has overcome him. I am seen as frail, slightly incapable, only a stiff breeze from flat on my back. I obviously need his consideration. He is there for me. He doesn't understand how I can literally feel myself becoming less beneath his ministrations. I am being saved from simply being who I am. Gutted by goodness. The 'youth' is anyone under 50 at this time, but the age cutofff will no doubt be raised in the future.
This happened last week; it was damned eerie. As his words spooled loose I kept thinking how to play it - odd wording, I know, sociopath phrasing. But I was, at moment, not me, not the other guy either - it was as if it were all pretend, a make-believe group harmony event at a long-past conference on workplace unity; what dreadful scenarios those were! Each attentive employee forced to play-act having strengths, or needs, that were not inside, attributes possibly not even fathomable, and then required to respond to the other playactors in a helpful, teambuilding, manner. Proactive all. Only those who had the star of advancement stuck like a shard of glass in their eye participated willingly. The rest of us longed for more coffee and donuts and muttered our lines. Walking in someone else's shoes was a lumpy road. We built Maginot Lines of resentment on furrowed brows. But I digress - this guy really wanted to help me out. He wasn't there to make me a better or more efficient this-or-that; he sought only to ease my aching bones and offer me the grace of kinder days. This was different, and I didn't know how to act. Angry? Acquiescent? Outraged? I was flummoxed, said little, and watched him. What was in it for either of us?
So, it was like this: my personal floor covering specialist, recommended by my personal plumber, came by the house to assess the damage to the soaked wood around my leaking upstairs toilet. I liked him right off. He could have been Lancelot at the table with King A. It wasn't just his size or his steely eyes, the guy had a presence. I don't know how to explain that. Someone comes along and despite anything else about them they simply demand to be noticed, and you pay attention to them: they are paying attention to you, and that can be a rare feeling. Is it an overflow of self-confidence that leaks out from the seams in their joints and around the eyes? Are they individuals truly caught in the moment, so absolutely present you cannot ignore them? It doesn't mean they can't make mistakes. Even charisma can go wrong.
He showed me, with many thumps and pokes, that my wood was solid; it didn't need to be ripped out. No, what it needed was a half inch of nearly-cosmetic subflooring laid atop its uneven surface, 70+ year old planks and subsequent plywood patches, and then a bright and gleaming vinyl product applied over that. He said if I laid the subfloor he could do the vinyl at a good price. My own thoughts had been the reverse: he would put down the subfloor and I would lay some vinyl tiles, those cheesy self-stick squares. Not, the best solution, he insisted; if I laid the subfloor it would reduce the expense of the job greatly and he already had all the mastics, fillers, caulk, grout and goop necessary to lay a fine-looking floor. Stuff I would need to purchase separately to do the job right. Stuff that would surely confuse me. His words were oil on the water. He had looked into my eyes and seen Pat coming in at the back door of my head watching for the half-assed fixes that have occasionally plagued our time together.
Still, I hesitated; I explained that I didn't even have a circular saw to cut the ply - those tools were in Maine. He patted me on the arm and said he would loan me a saw, one with a new blade. I hesitated further and each time he responded with sympathy and made some further offer: if I just got the plywood down he would bring a nail gun and finish the job. If I made mistakes he would fix them, filling gaps and straightening it all out. It was like my kindergarten teacher talking me thru my first time on the slide. His concern for me was touching. Touching but unsettling.
I next confessed that I had no way to haul the plywood. Don't you have a son with a truck? He asked, tears in his eyes. Yes, I said, in San Francisco. Off we went to haul the ply to my house in the company van. He did everything but pay for it. He removed the ply from the van at my garage doors and then braced me up with another squeeze of my arm. We are going to get thru this, aren't we? He looked me in the eye. I replied that we would. Unsure of me he gave me his home number and said I should call him anytime I had need and he would come over and help.
Never has someone I have hired to do a job treated me with such solicitude. I doubt that I have begun to cover the depth of his concern in these few paragraphs; it was simply unnerving. Did I suddenly look enfeebled? Why was this man running alongside me as I rocked side to side against my training wheels? Was I about to fall and couldn't even tell? As soon as I get the ply laid I am to call him to come and do the vinyl. We will meet again.
Today was quite edgy. Just after dawn a swarthy crew muttering in foreign tongues rang the front door bell and announced they were there for the rip-off. Turned out it was the tear-off that they planned. The day promised little rain and the boss-roofer had decided to tear the roof off the back half of the house. All day horrid noises came down thru the ceiling as they peeled loose the one layer of shingles and 3 of composition. Rotted boards were replaced. New flashing and vents installed, the sublayer put up and the felt put down. They tore the center chimney, the old kitchen one no longer in use, down to below roof level and sheeted over it. We were so glad when they left. It was like being shelled. Tomorrow they do the front. Rain is coming on the morrow, but my roofer assures me they roof in the wet, just a bit slower. I look forward to having all this hoopla done and finished. The boss-roofer has begun to squeeze my arm when we talk. It has to be something in the water. He wears a black hat and his dog is named Garth.
Men squeezing my body parts I know about. When I was a peaches-and-cream complected 14, a boyish grin on long legs hitchhiking all about, every gay guy in the L.A. Basin hit on me at least once. This is different. I am being seduced not from my Levis but from the grave's edge, or so it feels. Is some strange new charm layered onto the old frame? I have the charm of survivorship; I know of no other.
Belowdecks I am getting my workspace arranged. All the boxes are unpacked and I have one room ready to use. It is 11x12' but has over 150ft2 of shelving built in and a decent workbench. The garage is far more problematic. I can see how I would like to lay out my machines, but there is so much rough oak on the floor, hauled from Maine, I find it hard to move stuff around. Having 12' long red oak boards is nice when it comes time you need them, but...
Tacoma continues to impress and please. Especially Pat. Whether it is an exotic herb from deepest Cambodia or a rare spice from a little-known oasis in the far Gobi the Metro Market seems to have it. And we mustn't forget Trader Joe's and Whole Foods; she hasn't had culinary resources like this since she left Berkeley 30 years ago.
Most evenings I walk the neighborhoods with Rose; Pat does the same mornings. A decent dogpark does not seem to exist. We are a block outside the limits of the North Slope Historic District, a block of almost a thousand residences zoned for preservation. Too many grand old bungalows and Victorians torn down for crap apartment houses; now limits have been placed on what can be done to these old dears. It's a fine area to walk. Not all the houses are tarded up, but enough to hint at its heyday. The North Slope descends to Puget Sound; for perhaps an extra hundred K$ you might score a sideways view of the water from one upstairs room. Everyone tells me that the good life here is a whole lot cheaper than the same life in Seattle.
Only a block the other way and you are into the low rent post war housing vacuum where quality got sucked into the maelstrom of progress. A few nice houses down there, but a lot of ratty rentals on streets with no sidewalks and junkyard dogs behind the fences. That's the south side. A rough gem, Tacoma.
The floor guy has come and gone. I did good. He did good. Pat is happy. We are flush with success. Tomorrow I return to Maine. I will post this off as I really don't know how long I will be gone. Not something I am looking forward to. Who wants to sleep on the floor in an empty house and work all the day long patching holes in walls, scrubbing a house to a shine, picking up detritus and hauling it off to the dump? Not I, but it is my given task, and off I go. I will return as soon as possible; this is home now.
Hope all of you are as well as are we. don and pat and all.