Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Blisters In The Sun

The next two days of work provided the morale boost that was so sorely needed after Day One. Day Two's work was done for Ray and Ellen, an eighty-odd year-old couple, with the guidance and assistance of their son Garland. As old as Ray was, he worked alongside us throughout the day, both thanking us profusely for our work, as well as showing us what odd pieces of once-soaked wood he wanted saved (as he planned to return his garage to it's previous status as his woodworking shop). Ray and Ellen weren'’t quite sure whether they'’d return to their home, as the task of reconstructing seemed almost without a point for them. But Ray's insistence on pulling out wood from our debris pile and returning it to the garage hinted that a return was probable.

My team is a great group of individuals whom I'’m afraid to name for fear that I'd leave off a single name. They know who they are. Each and every one gives absolutely everything they have each day, and the proof is in the fiberglass in their pores and their clothing, mud and sweat-soaked, top to bottom.

Days 3, 4 & 5 proved to be almost as rewarding as day two. The work seemed easier, both because my stamina built steadily and I'’ve learned how to best pace myself. As you guys and girls back home know, it has been five years since I was personally gutted and renovated, and it is a huge step for me personally to go from needing so much help to being able to provide it for others, though not without some amount of discomfort (putting it mildly).

All our work is voluntary, however we are only expected to work Monday through Friday. Regardless, I worked a half-day on Saturday and volunteered to lead a gutting team on Sunday. Though it turned out to be the longest, hardest day I've worked so far, it also was the most rewarding, by far.

My team of four arrived at the site expecting to find a house 80% gutted, as we had been told, but instead found a house with enough work needed to keep a team of ten scrambling for the better part of the day. Soon after arriving at the site, Wally and Mildred, the 75 and 73 year-old owners, showed up to spend time with us. Incredibly sweet and almost excessively grateful, Wally and Mildred explained how Wally had built the house with his own hands, as well as all the cabinetry and fixtures. They had been trying to get the house gutted for a year to that point, falling prey to shifty contractors and unkept promises. They continued to explain that their house had been contaminated by the Murphy's Oil spill and that they couldn't get a damage assessment nor compensation from Murphy'’s until the house had been fully gutted. They again expressed their dismay and frustration over the prior year. After consulting with my other teammates, I promised them that we wouldn'’t leave until the job was complete. Wally and Mildred stopped in two other times that day to check our progress, and both they and the gutting team were surprised by how large our debris pile was becoming. We were clearly short-handed, even moreso because Wally was the consummate handyman, constructing cabinets and countertops that even our mightiest sledgehammer blows failed to weaken. Time flew by with progress coming slowly, but steadily. In all, we ended up finishing at 7 p.m., an 11 hour day. We received one additional team member halfway through the day, and had we not, I fear we would have failed to keep our promise.

At the end of the day, Wally and Mildred offered us hugs and a thousand thank yous. I told Wally that I'm keeping a list of the addresses of all the houses I’m working on, and that I'd stop in in five years'’ time to see what had become of each of them. Wally assured me that he and Milly would be there, and Milly promised me a home-cooked meal, an open door, and a place to sleep when I arrived. I told Wally I'd pick up the beers, and he replied, "Those'll be the best damn beers ever".” As those words came from a Korean War veteran, I left humbled, thoroughly exhausted, and more than anything else, assured that I am where I’m supposed to be, doing what I'’m supposed to be doing.


At 3:51 PM, Blogger googlefritz said...

post more!
and update ye EDITME links in yon sidebar.


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