When Bob texted me in March, 2010 to see if I knew of any houses for lease, I didn’t think we’d end up living together. We’d been acquaintances for a few years, but he was just a man I knew. I was aware of a few things about him: he had kids near my son’s age, he worked at a company that builds offshore drilling rigs, he drove a small pickup, he wore board shorts and had bare feet 362 days out of the year. That first text started a text conversation that extended over a few months until we had a dinner out which sparked a connection between the two of us.
That wasn’t an inevitable outcome. I am older than dirt and had been on my own, relationship wise, for 12 years. Bob’s slightly-in geological terms-younger than dirt. I started going to meetings in a 12 step recovery programs 2 months after my husband died. At first, I yearned for someone to love, a man whom I could take care of, who would take care of me. Somebody to share the burden of daily life. I got nada.
In my newly sober mind, relationships with men and God were more in the realm of commodities exchanges. I knew how to hold men for ransom; I did not know how to just be a friend and how to establish a long-term association that didn’t involve my hooker thinking. It took a few years before I realized that friendships with men greatly reduced expectations and were more stable than the marriages that I’d had.
My fear that “things” wouldn’t work out with Bob extended for nearly 3 years. I kept my house, fully stocked and electrified, just in case. Over the past year, we talked about moving out of Bob’s house when his kids left home. After his son moved out in February, inertia kept us holding on to both homes until his landlady raised the rent and increased the deposit. Nothing changes if nothing changes and that was the change we needed.
We started a kitchen and bath remodel last week. I knew that there was a small leak in the kitchen drain pipe. When Bob ripped out cabinets to permit repair, we uncovered a long term leak in the cold water supply line. The plywood underlayment was saturated and rotten; the sheetrock smelled like a wet spaniel.
We hadn’t planned on calling in the insurance company, but the extent of damage caused me to attempt a claim filing. (I’m sorry. In the state of Texas, insurance only covers sudden and accidental emergence of water. Would you like me to fax over Paragraph 14 of your policy?) After calling 3 difference insurance agencies to repudiate my insurance agent, I discovered that there was no point in wasting time on a claim with the 98% certainty of denial. We moved on to solution thinking.
Bob started ripping out the flooring, scraping it down to the concrete. In 1950 contractors building my little house nailed plywood to 2 x 4’s bedded in a tar-like mastic. It took considerable scraping to uncover a beautiful concrete slab. No cracks. 63 year of curing time.
The wet mooshy plywood harbored a plague of water bugs. We pest fogged the house overnight and came back to a nightmare carpet of bugs. I startled awake for the next few nights dreaming of creepy cockroach feet on my neck.
A rainout gave Bob most of a day off and got us laborers from Max’s pipe crew. Bob and company tore out the sheetrock and removed the bathroom fixtures. Bob had time to make a Home Depot run for flooring replacement lumber.
Huge piles of rotten lumber, cabinets, and fixtures cover the backyard. A master race of cockroaches is breeding on the concrete slab under the decomposing plywood and we need to dispose of the debris before our neighborhood is overcome. Discovering that San Patricio County maintains a residential dump site near the Aransas Pass airport for just such a contingency was a relief.
I was thinking that if Bob and I can survive these renovations, we might stay together forever. My experience tells me that relationships aren’t tested during hard times, but in the tedious work that goes into daily living. Sobriety has taught me that forever is inconceivable for my human mind to endure. A day at a time works for renovations and demolition and boredom as well as love and sobriety.