Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Home improvements & looming heart attacks

I don’t know when kids stopped eating paint chips, but recent duties have me wishing they’d resume the practice. It would ease clean ups.

Kids have always been picky, but I seem to remember a time when children ate paint chips the way parents wish they’d eat things like broccoli.

It’s one of the things I thought about during a recent 60-hour stretch it’s taken me to re-do a bedroom that to me was perfectly suitable for every single bedroom activity a man can conceive -- and that includes acts involving conception.

Alas, I’m lacking in more visionary aspects of homemaking. That reality has been hammered home with crushing certainty.

Our 3 year old, the one who looks like Susan Boyle and talks like Joe Pesci, was doing routine destruction on our heirloom dining room table when my wife exploded: “Stop that! You’re destroying the only nice thing in this entire house!”

The insult ricochetted off the non-plussed child and scored a direct hit on me.

Gee, wasn’t I nice?

She apologized, but it’s clear the home we moved into three years ago needed improvements.

And now I’m determined to make them before I have my first heart attack, which I’m on schedule for in about 2013.

So I went right from bitching-about-snow-shoveling season to bitching-about- doing-my-taxes season to bitching-about-re-doing-a-bedroom season.

It’s the kind of bitch, bitch, bitch you’d expect to see only at a really successful dog grooming venture.

And it all goes completely against my grain.

Not the bitching, certainly. I’m talking about work.

It’s alien to my being because I had a perfectly pleasant and lazy man as a role model.

I don’t remember ever seeing my father lifting a paint brush in his life. My enduring image of him was sitting in an neutral-looking room in a blue Lazy Boy recliner, watching sports, eating chips (the potato-based kind, not paint), and drinking beer after beer after beer.

To this day, the recollection soothes me.

I asked Mom if the old man ever painted a single room in the house, which I remember being uniformly egg-shell white.

“Yes, he’d paint and do things to keep the house up,” she said.

A lot?

“More than most men, I’d say.”

More than me?

“No way! I don’t know anybody who works as hard as you!”

Because of fear it would sound scripted, I’d missed the opportunity to have her make the statement in front of my wife, who thinks the reverse is true. She thinks everyone works harder than me.

I blame Martha Stewart. Men never used “re-do” rooms. Now many wives think nothing of changing the paint scheme in a room the way they change seasonal wardrobes.

But to do it right it’s a big job. Always. There’s careful taping, furniture rearrangement, drop cloths, vent and outlet removal, sanding, etc.

I’m not exaggerating that’s taken me 60 hours, either. I had four layers of wallpaper to strip, spackle to apply, walls to sand, primer and textured coats to apply, then the final double coats of Mint Celadon green

The worst part of it is -- God help me -- I’m starting to enjoy it. I haven't golfed even once this year, but I’m recalling some aspects of the project the way I used to herald recollections of negotiating a difficult par 5 dogleg over water.

“See up in that corner? The previous owner was an adhesive-crazed bonehead whose carelessness left me no alternative but to rip a chunk of drywall off. Took me four scalpel-like swipes with a 4-inch putty knife heaped with dry vinyl spackle to repair the damage.”

Message: Me, skilled handyman; previous owner, loathsome jackass (a topic for another day).

Another bonus is that, cocooned in the bedroom, I’m enjoying a solitude and an opportunity to watch whatever I want, a rare occasion in a house with three girls.

I’ve watched “Slapshot,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” “Cool Hand Luke,” the excellent Tom Petty documentary “Running Down a Dream,” and portions of the Rolling Stones “Four Flicks” multi-DVD concert extravaganza.

I’ve watched baseball, golf, March Madness and enough aggregate Moe, Larry and Curly to equal 27 Stooges.

Touch-ups remain, but I’m mostly done.

I feel flushed with achievement and feeling flushed is a helpful state of mind for what I know is in store.

Val says the bathroom really needs re-done.

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