The dust hasn’t yet settled on the work, but in the middle of recent events I had some really good memories come to the surface.
The last couple of weeks have the makings of stories that will be told for years to come: when the hot water heater, water softener and clothes dryer all quit at the same time. At least we should be able to remember the year it happened!
The most important part of it was that the water heater and softener were both original to the house when we built it, and had lasted for more than 34 years.
In late March of 1985 I got engaged to a guy my dad had set me up with on a blind date. I’m not going to tell the whole story here, but it was definitely a God thing that we got together.
The important part for this story is that I had hit rock bottom, knew I was lousy at picking guys to get involved with, and asked God to show me “in so clear a way that I can’t deny it’s you picking and not me” if his will was for me to get married.
And he used my dad to show me.
Because I had not been talking to my dad about anything of substance for months. A romantic relationship had ended, I had gone through a time of depression (though no one named it back then), and I realize now I was ashamed and feeling unworthy of my dad’s love and care.
So obviously I took it out on him, put up my defenses so I didn’t have to face my feelings.
Then he suggested fixing me up with someone. And knowing my dad and the variety of people he knew, I was sure he would name someone I would just hate.
So when he said the name of a man God had been bringing to my mind for about ten years, I was unable to speak.
God had done it. Made it clear that this was his choice. He had my dad name the only guy I had any secret desire to know better.
Since my fiance was in the construction industry he had already picked a basic starter house he was planning to have built that spring anyway. Over the previous couple years he had bought land, put in a driveway, had a well dug, put in a septic system, and built a pole barn. The house was the next step.
And the wife.
We spent our date nights touring homes under construction by our builder, tweaked the design to add a family room, second bath, and a big closet, and prayed the bank would approve our plans.
Everything went through seamlessly, and on my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary, June 6, 1985, we broke ground on the house.
And based on the estimate for construction time, we set the wedding date: September 28, 1985.
What a summer that was! We both worked at least five days a week, and spent most of those evenings cooking something simple on one of those tiny hibachi grills at the house. We took note of every change from day to day, documenting it with pictures. I hammered a nail into about every stud in the place, just so I could say I “helped” build the house.
The structure wouldn’t be huge, but it would be cozy. And of all the rooms in the house, the coziest was the laundry room.
It was small, but how much room could a washer and dryer take up? Then the furnace went in. And the water heater. In their own little alcove. Then the water softener and the big salt tank went in next to it, right in the middle of one wall.
Once the washer and dryer were in place against the other usable wall, there was almost no floor space, only enough for the door to open into the room, and a corner to lean a broom and mop.
But it was ours.
I remember the excitement when the drywall was up! Finally came the day to start painting.
So the memories returned last Saturday, after the old water heater and softener were gone, leaving holes in the room that had been occupied for 34 years. And dust that had been unreachable until last weekend.
I had a new dryer coming that morning, so I was up early scraping and scrubbing through the dirt on the floor, washing down the walls that we hadn’t seen so much of in decades.
And as clear as anything I could see my dad on those days we were painting. I think he was there every time, as he liked doing it and was always willing to pitch in when there was work to be done.
In fact, Dad was probably the hardest-working person I’ve ever known. He took on way too many projects he had no business doing – like painting the roof of our three-story farmhouse electric neon green – and pitched in to help anyone doing any kind of fix-up, no matter if he had any expertise or not.
We didn’t hire jobs done around our house. Dad tackled them all. And if he couldn’t fix it, he’d ask a neighbor who knew more to come help him get things back on track. He fixed plumbing and cars and lawn mowers. He had a boiler engineer’s license when he left the Air Force and worked in that field for many years while also preaching.
And he acted like it gave him license to fix anything he wanted to give a try. Of course he usually commandeered us kids to help, and we all knew what it was to work hard.
On those painting days I was glad for his help, but more thankful for the time we spent doing the work. I can’t remember what we said, but we talked, maybe the longest since I’d met my soon-to-be husband.
Sometimes healing comes to a relationship when I least expect it. Not because I am trying to fix things, but because the life I’ve been blessed with puts things into perspective, and suddenly whatever the issues I had with them are not as important as the person.
As I washed down the walls I was amazed that the paint was still holding, that I could still remove the grime and see the color I had picked all those years ago.
And I was full of joy that as the years have gone by I’ve also been able to let go of old hurts between my dad and I, that even though he’s been gone over 26 years, I’m finally able to face my past and let my mind focus on all the ways my dad loved me, even when I didn’t think I wanted him to.