I am a 55-year-old woman living my dream. Two years ago when I separated after a long marriage, I started writing parables using a Princess metaphor for myself. But for the “not so ordinary” Princess stories, I see irony and am filled with humor.
Recently, I’ve done a lot of remodeling to the coop that I own. I haven’t had great experiences with remodeling, even though when it’s over I appreciate the improvements. Many times it has simply felt like an expensive form of torture.
There was a time early in my former marriage when my ex-husband remodeled the home we were living in. He was always very enthusiastic when he began a new project, but once he was into it – well, I can’t find the words to describe the stress it caused. His mood, interspersed with the dust had me hating the entire process. We lived with unfinished drywall for several years until my parents treated us to having someone else complete the job.
The last home we lived in needed major repairs and the lack of money for it was an ongoing issue that upset my husband. I detached because at the time I was overwhelmed by problems from my children and parents.
I hoped remodeling the coop where I now lived was going to be a better experience. It was almost the same age I was and definitely needed repairs. I wondered how this process would be different by hiring other people to do the work. I had done that before and my ex-husband found fault in almost every case.
Whomever I hired could very well rip me off, but it felt like a lot less pressure than I’d had in my past.
I started with replacing floors in my dining room and kitchen. Then I decided to do my tiny bathroom. It would look great with a new floor, but from the beginning it opened up a can of worms.
My old bathroom floor first needed to have the coving on the walls pulled off. I hired the same Irish handyman I’d used before. His name was Shane and he was very enthusiastic about his work. He also knew I was pretty ignorant about most home repairs.
Shane came to remove my old bathroom floor and that was when he pointed out a big problem. He motioned me into the bathroom. “Walk over here,” he said.
I looked at him. “What am I looking for?”
He guffawed. “Do you hear that squeak? The floor is moving!”
After that, he gave me a long lecture. The wood under the floor was rotten after so many years of water damage and leaks. And there was a long visible crack at the bottom of the shower.
That night, I pictured my large 17-year-old son taking a shower and screaming as the floor broke under him. It was meant to be that I wanted a new bathroom floor and it wasn’t even cosmetic.
Shane told me that he’d replace the cracked concrete shower bottom with a fiberglass one. But most importantly, he’d repair the wood underneath. Perhaps I could have gotten another bid, but I trusted him.
For a week, he worked long hours to get the shower to done. My home was dusty and the worst part was that the toilet was often “unavailable.” My coop unit only had one bathroom.
I was reluctant to ask any neighbors so the alternative was a toilet in a storeroom near the pool area.
I remember using that old bathroom as a little girl when I was swimming or playing outside. It had a concrete floor and was dark and dingy.
Unfortunately, there were times when the key for it didn’t work. A few days before, I had struggled to open that door for ten minutes. I finally gave up and ended up waiting another hour. This situation was not great for any person, let alone a Princess!
Whenever Shane took a break he would ask me if I needed to use the bathroom. I didn’t care that the window was open and people could look in. I danced over his tarps and tools. I needed to go and certainly drinking a lot of water contributed to that urgency.
For over a week I was able to shower at the local YMCA where I swam laps. I asked my sons if they wanted to go there, but they refused. My youngest son ended up jumping in the freezing swimming pool to get “refreshed” after a week without a shower.
Thankfully, every night the bathroom was usable. I shuffled over dust and dirt. It was cold and drafty from the open rafters where the shower bottom had been.
One night a gigantic cockroach scuttled by while I was on the toilet. I prayed it would go back from where it came. It was getting harder to be patient because at that moment I had about reached my limit.
I could see that it was hard work for Shane. But he was very enthusiastic and took pride in his work. He snapped pictures as he went along to share with his brother who was a contractor.
I’d make him a sandwich for lunch every day. One day while he was munching on it I said to him, “Hey, you’ve seen this place really improve. Remember when I moved in? That was pretty tough for me.”
Aside from dealing with separation, I had undergone my third eye surgery the month before and was supposed to be careful lifting anything.
Shane shook his head and practically shouted back, “Lady, you have BALLS! Anyone who could do what you did and leave your husband – that takes balls!”
He was outspoken again the next day. It seemed that he had a pretty good picture of what was going on where I lived. He had heard me nagging my youngest son to clean up after himself in the kitchen.
As usual my son said, “Oh, I’ll do it later, mom.”
Shane’s face was dusty white as he emerged from the bathroom. He said to my son, “Hey, if I forgot to clean a frying pan when I was growing up, you know what happened? One of my eight brothers would throw it onto my bed! I would wake up with a pan over my face!”
Picturing that image was hysterical and I actually considered doing something like that to my son during one of my more desperate moments.
The shower repair led to other things. Before having the new floor installed, I purchased a new vanity and planned to re-glaze the rusty bathtub, once the dripping faucet was fixed.
Purchasing a new toilet wasn’t easy because during that time my leg was bothering me. I limped through a large home improvement warehouse. My two large sons had instructed me to get a toilet with the most powerful flush possible.
It was often hard for me to keep a straight face when my older son lectured his younger brother about “proper toilet etiquette.” He told him that cleaning a “dirty spot” on the toilet seat by moistening toilet paper with toilet bowl water was strictly forbidden.
I stood waiting for a salesman in the plumbing department for 30 minutes while my left leg was aching. I was practically in tears when someone finally showed up to help me. Then the toilet box wouldn’t fit in my Honda Civic. It took another half hour of waiting to have someone remove it from the box.
I drove home very carefully so the toilet wouldn’t go flying around my car. Unfortunately, it led to problems later on because the installation instructions were missing.
But despite everything, I was proud of how I had managed to do all these things! Soon my bathroom would be done and my apartment would be in tip-top shape. My deceased parents who had once lived there would be so proud of me.
The woman who owned the flooring company was a lovely person. I found her name to be beautiful – it was Melodye. Melodye had meticulously overseen the installation of new floors for my dining room and kitchen. She told me to call her when I was ready for her to come back to finish my bathroom.
Finally, Shane had sealed the tile grout and the shower worked. I pushed aside my dismay that cosmetically the tile didn’t look great. I called Melodye and practically shouted, “I’m ready!”
She came over and said, “The installer will remove the old toilet and you’ll have your handyman put the new one in the next day.”
With great seriousness I said, “Please tell me I’ll have my bathroom at night!” I reminded her that I had walked on the dining room floor the night after installation.
Melodye paused and said, “Oh! I forgot you only have one bathroom. Yes, the toilet can be put back on that night.” (My former residence where I lived for 18 years had 4 bathrooms.)
Finally this would all be over. The installation was scheduled.
The floor installer arrived. This man was very serious and didn’t smile.
All day long, I hid in my bedroom. The installer ran into some major problems with the “subfloor.” It entailed more work and money. The noise and dust were horrendous. But I could see the finish line approaching.
It was now dinnertime and getting dark. I had used the storeroom bathroom all day. I gingerly knocked on the bathroom door and sweetly asked this man when he might be finished.
His voice was icy when he answered. “Why? Are you leaving or something?”
I told him I had just wondered.
Two hours later he was finally finished. I was very excited to see how the new floor looked!
The floor was beautiful but I noticed gobs of white stuff oozing between the linoleum tiles. It was very different from the dining room floor installation. The installer said, “Do not walk on this floor until tomorrow! The sealant is wet and you must let it dry.”
I opened my mouth and mumbled that Melodye said it was okay. He bristled and said sharply, “No, it is not okay!”
An hour later, Shane stopped by. He looked at the oozing floor and said, “No way am I putting in the toilet tonight. You’d better listen to the floor installer. Call me tomorrow when it’s dry and I’ll come back.”
It was 9:00 p.m. and I had to pee again.
I grabbed the storeroom key and shivered. I put on a robe and figured I’d go quickly. I was foolish to go barefoot without a flashlight. As I walked across the dark patio, my toenail collided with an object. I thought, “Damn, Shane still hasn’t moved his tools or cleaned up the yard.” This was the second cracked toenail I had in a week.
I came back from the storeroom and realized it was going to be a tough night. I wished I hadn’t drunk any water that day. My eyes were hurting from the dust and my leg ached whenever I stood up.
My two sons came out from their rooms and examined the wet floor. They were upset about the bathroom, too.
My youngest son said, “Mom! Are you kidding me? We don’t have a toilet tonight?” With emphasis he said, “Well, I’m going to use a bottle!”
I rolled my eyes when he said that and didn’t answer him.
Now it was 11 p.m. It was unbelievable but I had to pee again!
On top of everything, the heater was broken and my apartment was cold. The prospect of going out to the storeroom where it was colder was just too unpleasant.
I decided to try to be resourceful.
I looked over at the bathroom wastebasket that was temporarily in my bedroom. It was made of wicker; my mother had picked it out during one of the shopping excursions she and I used to go on together. Remembering those outings gave me a smile.
Next to the wastebasket was a box of items I’d temporarily emptied from the vanity. Inside were some medium trash bags. I took one out and put it into the wastebasket.
I was desperate now. I grit my teeth and gingerly squatted down. Could that little wicker trash basket actually hold my weight? I balanced myself and with great relief I peed. I was so happy to be inside my own bedroom – I wouldn’t have to trek to the storeroom tonight!
I checked to be sure the plastic bag hadn’t leaked. No, my method had worked perfectly. I felt like I had honed some amazing survival skill and crawled into bed with relief.
I awoke at 3 a.m. needing to once again use the bathroom. But I knew I had conquered my challenge and the night was almost over.
I turned on the light and gently lowered myself onto the trash basket. I was amazed at how full the bag was!
Suddenly, there was a loud knock at my door. It was my youngest son!
I shouted, “DO NOT COME IN!” The thought of him seeing his mother sitting half-naked on a wastebasket gave me chills to the bone.
He replied, “Why can’t I come in? Your light is on – what are you doing?”
I said, ”I’m not dressed! What do you want?”
He said, “I wanted to tell you what a pain this is! I just came back from using the storeroom toilet.”
I took a deep breath. My son loved complaining to me. He could have come up with his own method but when he mentioned a bottle I had rolled my eyes, which probably discouraged him.
Now I was a traitor so I would have to keep my survival skill a secret!
The next morning, I carried a heavy bag of pee to the storeroom and carefully emptied it. I hoped no one noticed me carrying a yellow bag there at 6:00 a.m.
When my bathroom remodel was finished, I bought new rugs, towels and a new wastebasket.
I would never forget my mother’s old one, though!
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.