By Joe Rector
Give a retired man and his wife enough time at home, and the chores will start piling up. Mix in a bit of winter-time boredom for good measure, and a man might be excited to do something that otherwise would be a real pain. This past week, I spent hours with a brush and roller in my hand.
Painting is something I can do. My first experience with a brush came at a neighbor’s house. Mrs. Myer lived across the street from us. She was a short, stout woman with the walk of a commanding officer. She sometimes agreed to watch over Jim and me when we were young. On one occasion, we visited as she was preparing to paint the window trim in her house. After discovering that we’d never painted, Mrs. Myer held out two brushes and pointed us to the windows. Instructions helped a little, but by the time we finished, the woman had hours of labor before her in removing smears of paint on glass and bare pieces of wood we’d left.
One summer after Amy and I married, I was hired to paint the white trim and fascia boards at the bank where she worked in South Knoxville. I climbed up and down the ladder the whole day, and by the time evening arrived, I rubbed knotted calf muscles and cooled sunburned skin. Although the bank was small, it had more than enough area for me to paint. For all my efforts, I earned $150. All but $15 was spent on a new guitar.
On another occasion, I contracted to paint the outside of a house owned by a teacher’s mother. I arrived to discover the house needed to be scraped. However, the paint was so thick on the lapped siding that it proved impossible to remove. After hours of getting as much old paint off as possible, I climbed the ladder to paint the overhang of the house. It took only one thrust of the paintbrush into a nook to rile a packed wasps’ nest. I stood completely still as they swarmed my hand and arm to decide whether jumping from the ladder would help the situation. I decided to shimmy down the ladder and went straight to the front door. When the owner appeared, I held up my swollen arm and told her I wouldn’t be back until someone cleared all areas of the critters.
Over the years, my brother Jim and I have slung a lot of paint. We work well together. I usually trim and leave the rolling to him. The finished jobs have always looked acceptable, and we avoided paying someone else a small fortune to complete a project of which we were capable.
These days, painting is a bit more difficult. Amy believes in taping the baseboard, door frames and any other area on which I might swipe a dap of paint. I keep telling her the wet rag I keep is for those goofs, but my protests fall on deaf ears. Getting down on the floor to run the tape isn’t so bad; getting up is a different story. I need something on which to put a hand for a push. I also don’t see quite as well as I used to, but with my wife’s critiquing my work, the missed spots are always covered.
This latest painting adventure included the kitchen, family room, enclosed porch, main bathroom, and garage. I worked for about 7-8 hours each day, and after a bath, my behind slumped onto the reclining couch. I dreaded bedtime that would bring cramps, and that turned out to be true. Yelling, “Oh crap,” and hopping out of bed startled the dog, and she began barking. I walked the hall to the kitchen where I could lean on the wall and stretch the knots straight. Rough days turned into rougher nights.
The house looks neater now. I’m hoping, however, that my newly retired wife won’t make any other color scheme changes for a while. My old muscles won’t survive it.