On the Roof

       It all started with water dripping from the ceiling in our guest bathroom. We knew it came from a leak in the roof. It only dripped during heavy rains, and we don't have any plumbing in the attic above this bathroom.

        Fortunately for us, it seldom rains hard in west Texas, so the drip remained tiny and the damaged sheetrock minimal. Unlike the time we returned to our mobile home from a two-week trip only to discover an acoustic-type ceiling panel sagging several inches like a ready-to-burst-any-minute upside down balloon. This time the leak wasn't as potentially catastrophic.

        After Cyndi pointed out the dripping ceiling, and then pointing it out again, and once more because sometimes I’m slow to engage in a project I don't like or didn't plan myself, I shifted into my home handyman mode, which is to wait a bit longer allowing the problem ample time to repair itself. When that proved unsuccessful, I considered climbing up on the roof to identify any obvious damage but remembered the risk of Cyndi finding out.

       When we first build this house and realized the roof would be too steep for someone like me to stand on, I suggested installing a giant eyebolt at the apex. “I could thread a rope through the bolt and belay myself when on the roof,” was the idea I suggested. Cyndi quickly batted that plan away and said in her sweetest voice, “I don't want you to ever go up on the roof. I need you to hang around a few more years.”

        I mostly obeyed until one December evening when I noticed a dozen Christmas lights along the eaves were burned out. They were scattered, meaning I'd move the ladder too many times to replace them, so I convinced myself climbing up on the roof was the smartest fix. However, as soon as I tried to stand on the slope I realized how much I'd underestimated (1) the height of our house, (2) the steepness of the roof, and (3) that Cyndi was probably right about staying off.

        I laid down flat on the shingles, my head and arms toward the eaves, doing my best military belly crawl from bulb to bulb. When I dug into my pocket for the last bulb I slid downward about two inches, enough to get my attention, enough that I could now peer over the edge. It occurred to me if I kept sliding the best outcome would be crashing headfirst into the thorny rose bushes, and the worst would be to bounce from the rose bushes onto the brick planter. I quickly replaced the bulb and climbed down and didn't mention the project to Cyndi, figuring she was smart enough to figure it out on her own.


        So last week I met the insurance appraiser, a fine young man, younger than either of my own children yet surely competent and experienced, who said the shingles all looked acceptable and the water was probably leaking through an aging and outdated bathroom vent. He composed a detailed ten-page itemized cost estimate which totaled to about 20% of our home insurance deductible.

        I mentioned my project to the Iron Men on Thursday morning, along with a plan to climb up and pump a can of sealant into the leaks. I asked Cory, head physics teacher at Midland High School, to have his class calculate the coefficient of friction and recommend what I should wear while on the roof to minimize sliding risk. He said, knowing his class, they would recommend a Speedo.

        Chad, owner of a commercial lumberyard who works with builders all day every day, asked if I planned to work up on the roof all by myself. He used that same incredulous expression I've seen at home which communicated (1) he thought it was a bad idea, (2) I was a fool to consider it, and (3) he might've talked to Cyndi already.

        Later that same day Chad texted the personal phone number of the roofer who installed our roof ten years ago, along with this advice, “It's not expensive for his guys to fix a small vent.” When I showed the text to Cyndi, she beamed with approval, confirming my suspicion of, if not conspiracy, certainly collusion with Chad.

        Well, I met the roofer yesterday. He needed all of ten seconds to diagnose the problem and agree to repair it. He nodded his head in that experienced way telling me I was smart to call him.

        And so, what do I learn from all of this? Maybe that even after 62 years: (1) some decisions aren't easy, (2) that it is hard to not assume I can do everything myself even if I don't want to, or (3) that being a responsible grownup is a constant struggle.

        Or, it could be the lesson I’m supposed to learn is that Cyndi is always right and I should do whatever she says. Whether that’s true, or not true, don't tell her I mentioned it. I’m counting on her not reading all the way to the end of this. She doesn't need to know everything.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32