Every day, coming home from grandparent camp, the dogs want to sniff every nook and cranny--which is a reminder, if I needed it, that other humans have been here, in our space. Also, if I want, I can see them on the security system, which lets me know when a door or window has been opened and sends me short video clips of people getting into and out of trucks at the curb.
On Tuesdays, I stop by after work to change clothes, and I find the men sitting on the back step eating sandwiches or listening to music on the patio. It’s their lunch time, and I tiptoe around. My instinct is not to disturb them, although that seems silly. Don’t mind me! I’m sorry if I’m in your way!
Later, there are obvious signs that people have been in our house--the drywall down, the gas line moved, new tubes and wires--and more subtle ones, too. A box of nails sits next to the French doors. A Doctor Pepper can, crumpled, in my recycling bin.
But mostly, these men are like ghosts, flitting in and out of my peripheral vision. It’s strange to think that by now, they know more about me than I do about them.
Today is marked “Rough Electrical,” the second of three days with the same designation on the schedule taped to our front door. My dad, probably annoyed by my daily appearance in his home, wonders out loud what’s taking so long. I remind him that it’s a ten-week project, and we’re only in the second week.
“You should be there keeping an eye on them,” he tells me, and it’s hard to tell if this is out of concern that I’m being ripped off, or whether he would rather not have my dogs vying for cuddle position on his lap. How exactly would I keep an eye on them? Stand in the corner with a hard hat, pretending I know what the heck is going on?
I remind him that I’m in daily contact with the project manager, that we have a schedule, that things seem to be moving right along, but he seems unimpressed.
I tell my husband about this conversation later, expecting him to be as exasperated as I am, but instead he’s sympathetic. “Your dad probably wishes he could be there, working,” he says. “Those days are behind him.”
This is confusing, because in the eighteen years I’ve lived with this horrible kitchen, no one in my life has ever offered to do practical things like knock down walls or rewire electrical for me, and while my dad is decidedly handy, I’ve never known him to do things like this in his own home, either.
“It’s not about the exact work,” my husband insists, when I raise these finer points. “It’s about being able to work.”
Yesterday, I stand in the doorway and realize that all the furniture--the sofa table, the modular sectional, the trunk that holds DVDs I have no idea why we own--seems askew, as if it has all been shifted a few inches to the right. It’s only at that point that I look up and see that six holes for can lights have been cut into the ceiling, that they’re wired for action. I imagine the electricians heaving the bulky pieces of the sectional out of the way, stepping around throw pillows and the basket of dog toys, wondering (as I often do) why someone needs three remotes, and then putting everything back, more or less the same, at the end.
It’s not a huge leap of metaphor to say that all of life feels like this for me right now--similar but different, slanted, off-kilter.
And dusty. So effing dusty.
Paula Treick DeBoard