I started a new job on Monday that, in my mind, was supposed to be simple and I would be finished by Friday; rip out bad sheetrock tape from several joints in a ceiling that had had a leak last year, retape the joints, hammer the nail pops, spackle, sand, spackle, sand, and paint. Yesterday, I had to cut out a two foot rectangle of rotten crumbled sheetrock, remove all the old rusty screws from the joists, and then tediously cut a patch which, if all the measurements were correct, I am going to install today. Taping sheetrock in a ceiling is messy, the spackle, due obviously to gravity, often falls onto your head or face as you are preparing the joint for taping. The tape also often gets a bubble under it, and then you have to start over. It is messy and frequently annoying and puts me in something of a foul mood. I still love the gratification when this type of job is done, to look up and NOT be able to see the repair, but to get THERE is hours and hours of work away.
Where I am working this week is next door to one of my customers who died, a man who left this earth almost two years ago, who I never called anything but “Doc.” When I am on my ladder in this living room, I look through the window to the west side of his house, where I built a deck several years ago under his ever so attentive and watchful eyes. He was long retired by the time I met him, but had made a beautiful life for his family with his work as a dentist and oral surgeon, and had been my Dad’s customer for many years before he became mine as well. He loved to look north, out through his wall of glass at this shore house, at the bay and his hundreds of square feet of multi-leveled cedar decking and say, “isn’t this view wonderful? and to think I was going to be a priest before I decided to be a dentist!”
He was, to me, Doctor Feel Good. He greeted me with the same two hellos for years, “There she is, Miss America!” or “Good Morning beautiful.” He never just said, “hi.” He would say these words despite my appearance. One morning many years ago, while I was wearing orange foul weather gear, dripping wet, and splattered with mildew and moss from pressure washing his decks, he greeted me and made me feel positively lovely when I was ANYTHING but. Over many years, if I was working on his block and he saw my truck, he always walked over in the afternoon to ask me if I’d like a cup of coffee, “come have a break, we made coffee.” He paid his bills on time and never griped about the price. Whenever he’d have me paint he’d remind me that he loved any color, “as long as it’s blue.”
Yesterday when I was covered in dust and crumbly bits of rotten stinky sheetrock debris, and feeling pretty low, that this “little” job had turned into a bigger job than I anticipated, all I wanted was to hear his voice. A smile and an invitation for coffee from Doc always improved my mood. He gave really big bear hugs, and ALWAYS had a smile. I could have used a visit with Doctor Feel Good yesterday, but just remembering how good he made me feel over all those years, turned out to be enough.