When you begin to know how much you don’t know

We are fixing the deck. That is the simplest way to explain what in tarnation is going on in our backyard right now. If you looked beyond the slider this morning you would probably have seen a mess, littered with pieces of wood and debris strewn every which way and sawdust sprinkled all over all of it like a far less glamourous version of confetti. It was been hard work and tearful and frankly, hella enlightening.

My husband does the brunt of the physical labor around here. Gender roles, stereotypes, yada, yada, yada…I am not going to pretend that handing him a tool or plugging in an extension cord counts toward this labor, but I have mostly been, at the very least, nearby while he has been working, if for nothing other than keeping a cold drink nearby or being ready with paper towels when there is blood…I have thought that I really “got it”, the effort put into big projects, as I have always been involved in the planning and the budgeting, but, like so many other things in life I had no idea what I didn’t know about builds like this one.

Take for example the wood. We needed to replace some deck planks. We had a salt water pool (RIP) and (still have) kids who shower in the outdoor shower and because of this, the planks of the deck in one section were in bad shape. I should also mention that the deck screws we used (with a LIFETIME GUARENTEE) rusted through leaving loose boards and an altogether unsightly appearance. So we are in a repair moment in our lives.

Now, I thought buying replacement boards was not too complicated. One must make note of how many boards would be needed, the sizes and the budget and then you would need to go to the store and slide this type and quantity off the shelves. However, the boards should be straight and hopefully not splintered or knotted or pitted. These parameters drastically reduce the likelihood of taking home criteria-met lumber. In the past few days I have honestly scaled woodpiles no less than eight times at stores to procure wood that we could use.

Here is the kicker. My husband has done this for years. Again and again, each time he built something, this was the process. One store, scramble, scale, have a breakdown, leave empty-handed, onto the next store…over and over and over again. I never really understood why he wasn’t joyful working on the project because I didn’t know the half of what went into doing it. I usually had small children at home while he went out to get lumber or other hard-won supplies and when he came home I would do what I could to help a little or bring him a sandwich or snack, but I mostly dealt in cleanup.

Over the past three days I have learned more than I thought possible about what it takes to stay level headed and get what you need to get and what it feels like to carry piles of wood back and forth and then out to the street (for the record, someone came and picked up all but one stick that I dragged down to the curb). I have learned what it takes to take out a tool and put it back and take it out and put it back when you are at home, then leaving, then back home then leaving again. I have felt the burning irritation of stripping a screw and ripping a board and uncovering a massive ant pile hidden under the deck.

The repairs are far closer to being finished and we have paved the way for the next addition of deck. I have worn men’s camouflaged cargo pants and dirty sneakers for days on end (in a low moment I praised the pants’ practicality as I stored my phone, wallet and keys in one pocket…) and I am sore all over. But I have lived. The sun went down on newly adhered planks that I clawed my way to, with shadows cast on them by a coconut palm tree we added to the mix today. And I am just beginning to know what exactly I don’t know yet.

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