My bathroom has been diligently working on a leak for a while. I’ve tried to ignore it, but when my children came running upstairs from the breakfast room the other day screaming, “The ceiling is LEAKING!!” (which, incidentally, I thought they were saying my dog was leaking…I never before realized how closely her name rhymes with “ceiling”), I decided that my method of just not making eye contact with the leak was not going to fix it.
(And I don’t know which is worse…a leaky ceiling or a leaky dog.)
As we all know, one leak can turn into gutting your entire house, which is where I find myself right now. My house was built in 1979 and has original EVERYTHING. It’s not just due for a face lift…it needs a boob tuck, lip filler, and could probably stand to have a few joints replaced.
In other words…we’re going to be in recovery for a while.
Which is how I found myself at Home Depot today, trying to envision (again…not my strongest area) the custom cabinets I would so like to have, but probably can’t afford. This has happened to me a couple of times since my husband died and always leads to the question: “Should I just do the basics for possible re-sale someday…or should I just do it all because I’m going to stay here?”
So, now my little leak has me worried about where I will be in the next 10 years.
I hate working on these details. I don’t like measuring, I don’t like looking at one million cabinet knobs, and I don’t like looking at 50 different versions of white. I would like to point to a picture, pack my bags for a 2 month cruise, and have it all done with a big bow tied to my bathroom door when I get home.
Okay, fine. I can do without the bow.
I’ve really been trying to focus on the positive side with this whole bathroom thing. My husband was one of those detail people which is how I spent about ¾ of our marriage in some sort of furniture or home improvement store. I actually think he did it on purpose. We had very different tastes and I think he knew that if he just kept me in there long enough, with 3 small children, eventually I would just say, “Get whatever you want! I don’t care. Just get me the hell out of here!!!!”
Which is how we ended up with a sofa I still haven’t warmed to 13 years later.
But today I was missing him. I didn’t want to pick everything out on my own. I wanted to fight. I wanted to have his opinion. I wanted him to look at me funny when I picked out a 72” cabinet for a 60” space.
After sitting with a very nice woman who was patiently trying to piece together something that might work using a computer program I couldn’t see how anyone could understand, I had just about hit my breaking point. I was just about to tell her, “My husband is dead and he’s the person who should be doing this” (something that I try not to spring on people, but Home Depot brings out the worst in me), when I took a deep breath and decided to distract my widow mouth by paying her a compliment.
“Wow,” I said. “That’s a beautiful ring.”
Her face lit up and she said, “Thank you so much! I just got it last week! We’re getting married in April!”
I don’t know if it was how happy she was, or just my home improvement depression, but I felt that old familiar lump start to form and wondered if anyone else but me had a nervous breakdown every time they walked into Home Depot.
“Now,” she continued, “Let’s save these plans so that when you come back we can pull them right up. What’s your phone number?”
She typed it in, pointed to the computer monitor, and said, “Is this your information?”
Pause. “No. That’s my husband’s.”
Now, we all go through these times of indecision about correcting this stuff. You either have to tell them to take your spouse’s name off and go through a very uncomfortable moment as you explain why…or you just let it go. Which means the next time you come, it will pop up again. And no one understands this but another widow…it’s painful when that happens.
I didn’t have it in me to correct her. I didn’t want to explain to this cute, newly engaged girl that bad, tragic things can happen…and then you find yourself pouring out your heart and soul to a stranger in the Kitchen & Bath section of Home Depot. I wanted out. Out of the whole thing. Out of making all of the decisions. Out of dealing with the house by myself. Out of trying to figure out how to pay for it on my own.
And I wanted to get the hell out of Home Depot.
I grabbed my plans and bolted. I put my sunglasses on before I even hit the door and felt my face crumble as I shut myself into the safe cocoon of my car. And right before I turned the ignition, my cell phone went off and I saw that I had an email.
It was a newsletter. From the company my husband worked for when he died. Something that in all of the years he’s been gone, I have never received. And I took that email to mean one thing.
Of course it could have also meant something else.
“What the hell are you thinking with those cabinets?? That will never look right!”