The Door to My Soul

My wife and I moved into our current house in 1998.  It’s a nice little home very close to Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake.  My wife liked the floor plan and the full basement and I liked the fact that I can’t walk more than 2 miles in any direction without hitting a place to put my boat in the water.  It also has a pole barn and a garage with a heater and a huge workbench.  We both love it for different reasons.  She doesn’t go into my garage unless she absolutely has to and I didn’t even realize there was a closet in our hallway until last spring.

Different strokes and all that……

This is the second house my wife and I have owned.  The first time we bought a house, we bought the most run-down home in the best neighborhood we could afford.  We put a little time, money and some sweat equity into it, lived there for two years and sold it for a tidy little profit.  It worked out well so we decided to do the same thing when we moved to Muskegon.

My wife and I like to fix up our homes together.  It’s an opportunity to spend some quality time with each other while we improve our home.  My wife is as handy as I am so we have a great time together (although sometimes I think she spends more time laughing at me than she spends swinging a hammer).

Our house needed some serious TLC when we moved in.  We didn’t mind the beige walls when we looked at the house.  We were less thrilled with them when we took possession of the house and the pictures were no longer on the walls.  You may not know this, but apparently 40 years of cigarette smoke will turns the walls a soft, warm, beige color.  Actually, I thought the color was more of a “sandalwood”.  My wife argued that it was more accurately “Soft Wheat”.  Whatever color it was it took nine gallons of stain-killing primer to make the walls white.  Our blank canvass was ready.

Since the day we moved in, my wife and I have been in a constant state of motion working on our castle.  We have painted (more than once), renovated the bathroom, half the kitchen, a third of the basement and re-done our living room.  It has been quite a trip and we have enjoyed every single minute of it.

Well, almost every minute.

One of the immediate problems we ran into right off the bat was our bedroom door.  When we moved in it was immediately apparent that the gentleman who built the home (and occupied it for years) was a man who liked to get the job done right away.  I guess he had really important things to do.

Like smoke.

In the house.

A lot.

He also didn’t bother with small trivialities like local building codes, the right tool for the right job or quality building materials.

I envy the man who built our house.  He wasn’t stressed out by things that you and I might have trouble getting perfect the first time.  Things like square corners, studs 16 inches on center, or flush trim joints.  This guy had the uncanny ability to just slap it up, eyeball it, call it good and go smoke.

In the house.

A lot.

Which brings us back to our bedroom door.

We had been in the house about 20 minutes when I noticed the door hung a bit askew on its hinges.  We only had the furniture in the house for a day or two and hadn’t even met any of our neighbors when I decided I was going to fix that door.

Now, I wasn’t the handy guy then that I am now.  I am currently as much of a dynamo with a tool belt and a Lowe’s credit card as I am in the bedroom.  And that’s pretty freakin’ handy.  (Sorry folks, I just wanted to make my wife very uncomfortable when she read this. Mission accomplished!)

Back then, however, I was a mere mortal when it came to tasks around the house.  However, I was not going to let that stop me from fixing THE DOOR.

Over the next few hours, THE DOOR was to take on it’s own dark, malignant personality.  Modern day prophets will not be sent into the desert for weeks without food, water or shelter to live among the wild beasts to prove their worth to god.  They will be sent to my home, on the shores of scenic Lake Michigan, to fix THE DOOR.  I will confide in you, my friends, Satan was in that door.  It was to be my Waterloo, my Achilles Heel, my melted wings of Icarus, and more.  It was to be my Ishtar.

It seemed easy at first.  The hinges were only loose on the door!  I didn’t need to be Bob Villa to tighten some loose hinges.  I went to retrieve my tools and make it a quick job.  As I whistled my way to my toolbox, I couldn’t help but think how easy and quick this job would be.  Hell, I was thinking of taking up smoking in the house, what with all the free time I was sure to have.

I opened my toolbox to grab my flat screw-turner thingee and the trouble started.  No screwdriver.  Scenes ran through my mind of the twenty-two thousand times I had seen and used the screwdriver in the last few days.  I looked intensely for about twenty minutes and came up empty.  It was then that I realized an important fact about screwdrivers.  They are like police officers.  When you don’t need one they are everywhere.  When you need one they are nowhere to be found.  Back me up on this guys.  How many times have you needed directions and there is no cop within a hundred miles?  But you have one dead hooker in your trunk and….Bam!  Traffic stop.  You know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I looked for the screwdriver until I was on the brink of insanity.  My wife, noticing my frustration, asked me what I was looking for.

“My @#$%^&* screwdriver!”  I yelled.

And so it began.

My wife walked over to our dining room buffet (the large chest-type furniture, not the food line with a sneeze guard) and picked up the exact screwdriver I needed.  She muttered her time honored “if it was snake it would have bit you” line that has almost sent her to the Women’s shelter on many occasions, handed me the screwdriver and walked away smiling.

At this point, I would like to tell all women that I am on to your little game.  Somewhere in my home is a hidden compartment.  It’s probably somewhere I would never go, like hidden behind tampons or dishwashing detergent.  In this compartment are all my screwdrivers, nail clippers, assorted car keys, my favorite brown belt…you get the picture.  Guys, our wives have these items hidden away, waiting for the perfect moment to secretly retrieve them, magically produce them from the kitchen counter or some other obvious place, and pronounce what great “finders” women are.  Women, I will find your secret place.  I will catch you in the act and It will spell your doom!  The day will be mine and I will get a backrub without having to rub anything in return!

But I digress…

I took my screwdriver to THE DOOR and started to tighten the hinge screw.  I turned and turned and turned and turned.  After turning the screw about three dozen times (I’m a slow learner) I realized the screw had stripped like a single mom with a GED.  THE DOOR had struck its first blow, but I was ready for this!

I had remembered a little trick I had seen on some inane home improvement show.  They had filled the screw hole with wood glue and crammed a golf tee in there.  The golf tee was then cut off with a utility knife, the glue dried and you had a fresh place to start a new screw.  Victory would be mine.

By the time I looked for and found my utility knife I was in need of a Zoloft I.V. and my blood pressure was about 230 over 174.  When I found my wood glue it was a solid block of simulated wood because I had left it open 1/250,000th of a millimeter the last time I had used it.  That earned me a trip that cost me $2.50 in gas to buy 97 cents worth of wood glue.  Thinking back, I think I left the new bottle open when I was done with the damn thing.

I retrieved a golf tee from my bag and got down to business.  I took THE DOOR off the frame and took its hinges off.  I squooshed some glue into the hole and it just disappeared.  More glue.  Two seconds later, it too was gone.  Another squeeze, same result.  I cursed bitterly and squeezed more.  THE DOOR just stared at me with evil malevolence and sucked up the glue.  It was then that I realized my next trip to The Home Depot would need to be on a short school bus.

It was a hollow door.

Round two went to THE DOOR but the fight was still young and I still had a small shred of my sanity.  I crammed the golf tees roughly into the screw holes, hoping to pierce THE DOOR’s insidious luhan heart with each thrust.

An hour later, the tees were set and it seemed very strong indeed.  I carefully screwed the hinges on with new screws and they snugged up tight!  They didn’t spin in their holes!  I was starting to swagger a bit as I stood the door up and placed it in the hinges.  As I tapped the hinge pins into place I felt a sense of accomplishment that a man can only feel when he has used his hands to provided adequate shelter for his family.  I had danced with the devil and I had come out on top.

These thoughts raced through my mind as I looked at THE DOOR.  As I admired my handiwork I heard a small creak.  It could have been a small mouse in the crawlspace or a cricket in the bushes.  It could have been.  But it wasn’t.  As my mouth slowly formed the word “Nooooooooo” THE DOOR shifted off it’s new hinges and propped awkwardly in its frame.

My anger was so complete and utterly pure I actually lost vision in one eye.  My veins popped out all over my body and I took on a red hue.  For twenty seconds that warm summer day I channeled that Loony Tunes favorite, Yosemite Sam.

“Farginfreakinfriggenbrickenbrackenrootintootinstinkinlousy DOOR!”

As my mind gave over to the dark side, the Manager of our local Lowe’s stopped what he was doing in his store 12 miles away and remarked ominously to his assistant, “There is a disturbance in the force”.

In a fit of perfect rage I ripped THE DOOR from it’s remaining hinge and stomped across the kitchen toward the back door.  When I reached the entryway from the kitchen to the outside deck I was stopped momentarily as THE DOOR, which I was carrying horizontally, struck the frame which was vertical.  That’s right, I went out Three Stooges style.

I finally made the deck and threw the bastardly DOOR off our five foot deck and into our back yard.

I can’t say why I did what I did next.  I like to think it was because I was under a lot of stress from our move.  I had just started a new job and had a new mortgage.  I was finding I had many limitations and was not secure in that knowledge.  I may never, really know.

I simply jumped from the porch, raced to THE DOOR and jumped up and down on it with my well-worn Caterpillar work boots.  As each 220 pound jump smashed holes into the hollow door I screamed a new cuss word.  I stopped just long enough to kick the doorknob across the back yard.  Finally, I tired.  I stood panting and wheezing on a broken and shattered piece of luhan wood.

I had killed THE DOOR.

“Take that you sorry piece of crap!” I exclaimed in victory, as I raised my hands to the heavens.

As I looked up I noticed my new neighbor staring at me from across her backyard.  This was the first I had every seen this woman and the first she had laid eyes on me.

“Hi! How ya doing?!”  I asked in a friendly voice with a small wave. My hair was disheveled, I was tomato red and surrounded by wooden carnage.

Her mouth said “Fine” in a shaky voice but her face said “please don’t hurt me or my children”.  She rushed into her house, ostensibly to tend to some forgotten chores.

As I was literally shaking from a white rage, I heard a thunderous, full belly laugh coming from the deck.  There was my beautiful wife, pointing at me and laughing.  After a little while all I could do was give in and laugh myself.   I laughed and laughed and laughed.  If you can’t laugh at yourself, what are you going to do?

As the orderlies loaded me into the community mental health ambulance my wife asked,

“When will he stop that crazy laugh? It’s really creeping me out.”

“The electro-shock therapy will stop that in a few months, Ma’am”

And you know, it did.


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