Garage Installation

I wasn’t going to write more about my garage until it was actually being built, but I couldn’t pass on using the title of this piece, which is a perfect title because work on the garage is temporarily stalled. (In – stall – ation. Cute, huh?)

The contractor has a few obligations — contract deadlines he needs to take care of now, so that when he starts building the garage, he can do the whole thing without delays. (Oh, wait!! Contracts. Contractor. Now I get it! Sheesh. I sure am firing on all cylinders today.)

Meantime, he and his workers took time from their weekends to finish the part of the side fence that was hidden behind the old garage. (Though they made sure they were done by noon. Something about the Kansas City Chiefs.)

Breaks in a fence seem to attract the very people I don’t want to attract, so it’s good to have the fence finished. I do feel bad, though — the back fence will have to be redone after the garage is built, and it seems a shame that their hard work is going to waste.

But they don’t seem to mind. At least that’s what they tell me. Who knows what they say amongst themselves.

Meantime, I am completely fenced in. I always liked that song “Don’t Fence Me In,” but now that I’m alone in an ever-scarier world, I like fences. I still don’t like other people fencing me in, except, of course, for the workers who actually did fence me in.

The thing about fences is that they have gates, so I’m not truly fenced in, either psychologically or physically. I can always open the gate and leave. Doors are the same way. After Jeff died, people told me, “God never closes a door without opening a window,” which completely ignores the nature of a door — it closes and it opens.

But I’m getting off track.

In the photo above, you can see the recently installed fence on the right, the fence in the back that will have to be redone, and the place where the new garage will go — left of the trench where the sidewalk used to be, but close to the back fence. (You can see where the garage used to be to the right of the trench. The concrete slab used to be in front of the garage.) The lilac bushes along the back fence will have to be moved, but it should be easy for the men to do so using the excavator they will get to dig the foundation for the garage. (Any extra dirt will go to fill in area where the garage used to be.)

Well, now you know more than you ever wanted to know about both the installation and the in-stall-ation of my garage.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Living on the Wild Side

In National Velvet, Edwina Brown, played by Anne Revere (who quietly stole the movie), told her daughter, “I, too, believe that everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly once in his life.” I was taken by that line when I heard it, and have often thought about it during the past years. Such a wonderful thing — to have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly.

Though not breathtaking by any means — certainly not like winning the Grand National or swimming the English channel or even thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (as I had once hoped to do) — building a garage (or rather, having it built) is truly a folly when you consider that I’m depleting my savings to house an ancient car with a dubious lifespan.

That VW Beetle has already lasted forty-eight years, and though it runs well, there are parts that show its venerable age, such as a cracked dashboard that would cost a fortune in labor to replace, a horn that is taped in place, and a heater that doesn’t work well. (Of course, the heater never worked well, so that’s not exactly a big surprise.)

I suppose it’s possible that the garage will add to the value of this property, even considering the depressed property values here, but since that I plan to live out my days in this house, whatever extra money the garage would bring to the sale of the property would not accrue to me. So yes, definitely a folly.

And yet . . .

Why not? Why not indulge in this bit of foolishness? I’ve always been frugal, so it worries me that in later years I might pay for my folly by being forced into a punishingly strict budget, but for now, why not live on the wild side?

Oddly, I never even knew I wanted a “dream garage.” Though perhaps I should have been forewarned. My parents bought a house that was too big for them in a place they didn’t particularly like because my father fell in love with the immense garage attached to the house. Even though the cavernous space could easily house six or seven VW bugs with room left over, they kept nothing in that garage but a single car. No storage. Nothing. (Well, maybe off in the corner were a few replacement tiles, and the water heater was there, but other than that, nothing.)

After he totaled his car (he passed out because of an undiagnosed heart condition) that garage was completely empty until I brought my stuff to store when I moved in to take care of him. Despite all that, he still found joy in the immense space.

My garage will not be anywhere near as big as his was — because of sewer pipes and gas lines, the widest it can be is fourteen feet — but it will certainly be large enough for my car, storage, the tools I am accumulating, and perhaps a workbench.

In an age where “decluttering” is the thing to do, and at an age where so many others are downsizing even to the point of getting rid of their house (and mortgage), I am upsizing. Cluttering my life with a house and furniture — things I never before had any desire to own.

And now a garage. A garage of my own! Makes me smile to think of it.

That joy alone is worth the price.

So maybe . . . not such a folly after all?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Fund Me Too

The original concept of crowdfunding was to get people to fund artistic ventures like movies, and not, as it has become, a way to get others to help with the expense of everyday choices like moving.

To my surprise, when I wrote about being appalled by this high-tech panhandling — getting others to fund things we choose to do — many people agreed. In fact, some readers went one step further and included Facebook’s fundraising platform as an example of this egregious exploitation, and I have to admit, those readers have a point. Like them, I don’t understand the reasoning behind setting up a fundraiser for one’s birthday (it sounds too much like asking for a gift), but considering the number of such fundraisers that end up in my FB feed, many people don’t find the practice objectionable.

What I didn’t realize was that one could use the FB fundraising platform to try to get money for anything. All you have to do is set it up in a few easy stages. Just what I need — more people asking for money I don’t have.

In a wonderful show of irony, Facebook flagged my article about crowdfunding with a note suggesting I ask my community for support with a fundraiser on FB, which shows that their bots pick up words in articles but not necessarily intent. Below is the screenshot of this note above my fundraising post:

 

Needless to say — or rather, “needful to say” since I’m saying it — I won’t be taking FB up on their kind offer.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Shedding Light on Old Fears

Last night I again suffered a bout of fear over growing old alone. I haven’t had such feelings for a long time, partly because I have been living alone and am getting used to it, but mostly because I’ve been keeping my mind away from the inevitable decrepitude of old age, and away from thoughts of being that old lady whose house is falling down around her because she doesn’t have the funds to shore the thing up.

For now, the decrepitude is advancing very slowly, just a matter of knees that don’t bend as well as they did, not being able to walk as far as I once did, and not being able to easily climb up steep stairs without dragging myself along. But bodies do tend to break down, and one day . . .

Yeah, better not think of that day.

It’s odd, though, that the fear last night was of growing old alone rather than the fear of being broke because of all the extra expenses I didn’t expect when I bought this place, such as having to build a new garage. The old one might have lasted for years, maybe even the rest of my life (or the rest of my car’s life) but even though it seemed solid and well built, the shed-like garage had been built on shaky ground. (Probably above an old septic system, which, combined with a high-water table, made the area rather damp.)

The other things that I have had done to the house and property, such as putting in a new foundation for the enclosed porch and replacing the old porch floor, removing diseased trees, and putting up a fence, didn’t really change things that much. It just felt as if I were cleaning up the place.

But a garage is a whole other matter. Erecting a building from scratch seems so much like growing deep roots, as if I were no longer just playing house, but living here for real.

I realize I’ve been here for almost a year, setting down tender and tentative new roots, but building a garage seems like the beginning of a massive root system. Makes settling down — and settling down alone — even more real than it had been. (Besides, all the talk of security that came with planning the garage, such as lights and locks and security cameras, as well as having to be aware of the seedy characters that walk the alley, is enough to feed anyone’s fears of being old and alone.)

Luckily, I’ve made friends, and luckily, the contractor is aware of and considerate of my need to fix things now to make my old age easier, but fears aren’t logical. Or maybe they are logical, and I do have something to fear.

But I won’t — can’t — let myself be afraid.

Today is a new day, and though the sun isn’t shining and the temperature rather cool, it’s bright enough to shed light on that old fear and make it scurry from sight.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Going, Going, Gone

Another exciting day watching the deconstruction of my garage.

Since I’d never used the video on my phone, I didn’t have time to learn how to take a video before the building came down, so all I have are still photos, which is okay. It was fun being in the moment and seeing the rickety old building go down. At first, inch by careful inch.

A fast scurry as the deconstruction workers got out of the way.

And then . . .

I was surprised by how quickly the old concrete foundation was removed — not only was that foundation barely buried, the ground was sodden. (The only place in the entire yard where there was any moisture of any kind.)

I love this stuff!

At one time (and maybe still today for all I know) lonely women of a certain age would frequent doctors to have facelifts and various other surgeries simply for the drama and attention. If I were rich, I’d be one of those women, though it wouldn’t be myself I’d be constantly reconstructing, it would be my house and property — there is something truly satisfying about watching people giving my place a facelift.

Luckily, good sense, a modicum of taste, and a lack of funds will keep me from creating a monstrosity like the Winchester mansion. And just as luckily, there will be plenty of work to be done for some time to come.

The only problem right now is that the “murder house” — the white building behind the tree on the right of the last photo — is in full view. (Supposedly, right before I got here, two drug addicts got in a fight, and one ended up dead.) The new garage, which will be moved to the left of where the old one was won’t do anything to block the infamous view, but planting a good-size tree would do the trick.

And that means more work for the guys to do! Yay!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Unbuilding a Garage

I had such an exciting day today watching the fellows unbuilding my garage. They started ripping off the roof early in the morning,

spent most of the day tearing into that old building,

And left the beautiful skeleton of the garage when they went home for the night.

All that work in a single day, as well as making a couple of trips to the dump — amazing.

Tomorrow, even the skeleton will be gone. I’m glad I have this photo of the great little building in the setting sun, though I’m sure once my more functional and very stable new garage is built, I’ll spend little time regretting the deconstruction of this old garage.

As an side — way off to the side! — I used the term “fellow,” meaning “man,” at the beginning of this post because it seems a bit friendlier than “guy” and less formal than “man.” In Britain, however, “fellow” connotes a person of little or no worth, so I’ve been trying to stay away from the word to keep from offending people in other countries. But I like the word, and it is no insult because the people working here today had great worth!

I’m looking forward to seeing what the morrow will bring.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Someday

I need to drive my car approximately once a week to keep it running and to prevent the cheap modern gas from destroying the hoses, which works out well since I use the weekly drive to get groceries that are too heavy to carry on foot.

Today, however, I didn’t need anything so, out of curiosity, I drove the route I usually walk to find out my mileage, and I was shocked to see that I’d been walking less than two miles. (It felt much longer.) I drove around for a while, trying to find a way to extend the walk without having to retrace my steps, but somehow the new way turned to be not much longer — exactly two miles. Which is fine, if that’s all I wanted to walk.

Three miles should be easy and doable except in the winter and summer, and in this area, it seems as if it’s almost always winter or summer. Still, regardless of weather, three miles is not a hard walk. At least, it wasn’t. I sure hope I’m not already declining to such an extent that three miles is beyond me.

The easiest thing, of course, would be to do the mile and a half course twice. That course takes me by the high school, so I suppose I could do laps, but that would be even more boring than retracing my steps.

I like the walk I’ve been doing, despite the short distance. It skirts the town, so I have houses on one side of me and fields on the other, and it’s relatively quiet and dog free. It’s amazing how many people in this town have vicious dogs, and how many fences seem too low to keep the dogs inside. Some people don’t even have fences and merely put the dogs out on long leashes, and I fear even the chain link leashes won’t hold up to the strain those pit bulls put on them. The dogs have, in fact, broken the chains, just not when I was around. (Whew!) The problem is, the chains are very long, allowing the dogs to get fierce running starts, so I try to avoid those houses, as well as many others.

There is another walk I can take that goes out into the country, and I think it’s relatively dog free, so maybe next time I drive, I’ll check to see where my turnaround would be.

All this talk of walking reminds me of my hikes in the desert.

I do miss living within walking distance of a wilderness area, even a tame one like my desert. I miss the freedom of the open spaces and following trails wherever they lead, but I suppose it’s not a bad thing, now that I’m growing older, not to have to navigate rocky paths and to stick to paved roads.

Mostly I miss the dream of an epic hike. Miss preparing to live on the trail for weeks or months. Miss the thought of going and going and going. The dream turned out to be truly impossible, and It seems as if when that dream dried, it took the joy of walking with it.

Someday, maybe, the love will come back and walking won’t be just a way of exercising or a means of getting from one place to another.

Someday.

Maybe.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Further Adventures of a Homeowner

Nothing has gone easy when it comes to fixing things on this property. For example, the foundation of the enclosed porch was basically nonexistent, and after the contractor and his helper put in a new foundation and installed the subflooring, we discovered that the sewer pipe under the house needed to be replaced. So out came the floor, and many more days of hard work were added to the toll.

Months ago, they’d straightened the listing garage and fixed the crack in the floor, but after a couple of weeks, that crack grew and grew and grew. One of the problems was that, like the porch, the foundation was mostly nonexistent. So more recently, they got a jackhammer, and pulled out the concrete floor. Yesterday they finally returned to dig out the foundation in preparation to putting in a new foundation and floor.

Remember what I said about nothing around here being easy? Well, every time I looked out the window, I could see the guys poking at that dirt floor and talking. Now, these are not people who stand around and chit-chat. They work. So I was not surprised when they came and told me the bad news.

Water.

The deeper they dug, the wetter the soil got. I realize this is the middle of winter when generally there is moisture, but we’ve had very little precipitation in this corner of Colorado, and the rest of the yard is dry and rock hard. We wondered if there could be a nearby water leak, but then remembered that the water pipe comes in the front of the house.

Further digging in the middle of the garage floor, where no water should ever be, showed the same thing they found around the periphery of the building. Powdery soil and damp ground. And ancient sewer pipes. Putting those clues together with the hole they’d found under the porch several months ago, we figured someone had built the garage over an old septic system of some sort. No wonder the garage, though exceptionally well built with hard woods, is slowing sliding into oblivion.

We’re going to have to help speed up the destruction and tear out the whole thing because there is no way to fix that garage or even to build a new one in the same spot. (I say “we” but I have nothing to do with construction, though I did primer that old garage. It makes me glad I didn’t waste good paint or any more of my time painting a garage that will soon be defunct. I am disappointed, though, that the fake window I created will be destroyed, too.)

They’re scheduled to be here all next week, so who knows how far they will get, especially since now they will have to deal with permits and building codes and inspectors. They wanted to know if they should start some of the inside work, like redoing the bathroom ceiling and walls where the paint is peeling from the antique plaster, and I said, “Not way, not now!” With so many projects already started and unfinished, I can’t deal with one more long-term mess. Because even though the bathroom project seems simple, I know it won’t be because . . .

Yep, you guessed it . . . because nothing is simple when it comes to working on this house.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Envied

A friend whose life was recently disrupted told me she almost envied me. The “almost” was because of how I got to this place in my life. The death of my life mate/soul mate and other family members, the years of not knowing where to go or what to do, and the need to start over are all the unenviable things that pushed me in this direction.

Her comment made me realize that if I weren’t me, I’d almost envy me too. I seem to have reached a balance in my life. No great emotional swings, just a quiet contentment punctuated by a brief sad spell now and again. I still tend to occasionally get caught in a mind trap (you know — when a disgruntlement gets stuck in your head, and it keeps going around and around and around, and doesn’t seem to be able to find its way out). And I do have small infirmities that slow me down (such as knees that don’t work as well as they once did). And sometimes I get restless from being so settled down.

But balancing all of that is . . . a place for me. Not just a room of my own, but a whole house of my own. A place to be me. A place where I get to set the rules (or to set no rules). A place I can count on being for years to come.

And not just a house, but a community.

I don’t count the cost of how I got here since it wasn’t a choice, trading a life mate for a house. It was simply that he died, and years later, I unexpectedly ended up with a house. (Oddly, the other day, I found myself wandering through the house wondering where we’d put his office and all his things, as if his living here were a possibility. But it was just an idle sort of “what if.” Not a grief thing.)

I never expected to love a house. It makes me feel good, owning this house, like wrapping a great warm blanket around my life.

So far, I feel safe inside the house, though certain neighbors make me leery, which is why I fenced the property. There is still a part of the back fence that isn’t finished since it will pass close to the as yet unremodeled garage (though the contractor is here at the moment working, and he plans to be here all next week. Yay!). I used a large board to block off the space between the fence and garage to keep people and dogs away, and someone stole the big board and left a smaller board in its place. Huh? Still mystifies me. But it does show me I was correct to have a fence installed, and once it’s completed, and the gates locked at night, I’m sure I’ll feel even safer.

So yes, though I never considered myself someone to be envied, I am envied, if only by me.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.