Friday, October 12, 2007

the curse of the dead spouse

Some people enjoy building things or enjoy the feeling of satisfaction after building something (it feels so good when it stops). I enjoy neither when I don’t know how to do what I’m trying to do—like building a chicken pen. Outdoor work on a sunny fall day, working up a mild sweat, preferably without injury, these are great; but standing there staring at a wooden play structure and trying to figure out how I’m going to incorporate it into a secure fence with a top is almost panic-inducing. Putting together the particle board bookshelves that wanted to fall on me and the rabbit hutch trying to pass itself off as a chicken hutch were a cinch by comparison. The hutch kit, by the way, was missing a few bolts and wing nuts. Everybody knows that a building project requires three trips to the hardware store but I was naively appalled that an “all inclusive” kit required the same.

My one shot at learning construction was a long time ago. I enrolled in shop class the summer I took drivers’ training but had to drop out because the dust made me sneeze so much that I couldn’t see what I was doing. They were probably glad to see me go. In those days, girls didn’t take shop class.

When you work with words, you can figure out what you’re doing as you go along. You can change and delete. Doesn’t work that way with wood and wire. You’re supposed to plan in advance. Problem is, you have to know how to plan in advance or be able to figure out what you want to plan.

This is why, every time I have to do one of these projects, I curse my dead husband mightily. He used to do the building and, while I’d help, I didn’t have to be in charge. He had done the Boy Scout projects, the shop classes, the tool-using and cursing afternoons with Dad. He knew how to plan and build chicken coops and fences. Not to mention that, being bigger and stronger, he could wrestle the fence wire into the place where it needed to be and move the bookshelf without knocking a dent in the wall. It’s logical to be mad at him for checking out before at least showing me the way.

I was never one of those spouses who’d bring a long list of past grievances into an argument. I didn’t hold grudges when he was alive. But I do now.

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