Every night I would come home and come face to face with one of the chores I dread doing around the house. I would walk up towards the house and take a quick glance up at the gutter over the garage door. There I would see leaves spilling out over the top. The gutters were full and would need to be cleaned out before the next rain came.
I put it off as long as I could keeping an eye on the weather forecast every morning before I left for work. Then one morning I heard the words coming from the television that i did not want to hear. It would be warm on Friday and Saturday with high winds. Sunday would turn cold and moving in on Sunday night would be rain that would stick around for a few days. I knew deep in the pit of my stomach that the time had come to take care of the gutters.
I called Brett that afternoon and asked him if he was working Saturday. I also had a back yard of leaves up to my ankles that needed mulching. I knew that my hands would be limited in using the leaf blower on the gutters and then trying t run the lawn mower all in one day. Ever since my wrist were victimized by carpel tunnel syndrome too much vibration on the wrist would make my hands useless. So I asked Brett to come over and hold the ladder for me while I climbed up on the roof and got the gutters cleaned and then he would run the mower over the leaves and mulch them up. He said that it was no problem and he would be there at nine on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning greeted me at nine-thirty. Brett wasn't there yet but that was not a big surprise. I had told him any time would be okay as long as we got it done before the Mizzou game started. I decided to face my demons and go ahead and get the gutters done while I was waiting for him. Now, if you have been reading this blog for awhile you know that I am terrified of heights. The thing is that Brett isn't too wild about high places either so I had made the decision that since it was my house, I would do the high chores while he stayed grounded. It seemed like the best thing to do since he was willing to help out.
I got dressed and put on my jacket and went to the garage. I pulled my extension ladder out and took it to the back of the house. I always climb on the roof from the back of the house because I look really silly getting up the ladder and stepping onto the roof because of my fear. I look even sillier trying to get from the roof back onto the ladder to climb down. I did not need the extra pressure of having Jim, my neighbor across the street, see me struggle to get up on the roof.
Jim is a very nice man and we have become pretty good friends over the years. Jim is about fifteen years older than I am and when we were both younger he was always busying himself around his house keeping it up. I would see him fearlessly on his roof leaning over to paint spots here and there during the summer and of course gutter cleaning presented no problem to him at all. I always had the feeling that he knew I was trying to keep my house up but he did it so much better than I did. I tried to keep up with him on the house work but never quite could until two summers ago. The water company was replacing sewer lines and had dug up Jim's front yard. For the first time in thirty years my yard finally looked better than his and I did not hesitate to walk over and tell him about it. In the back of my head, Jim owed me one because of that.
After getting the ladder set up against the side of the house I went and got the leaf blower. I have made it a habit to start the leaf blower and get it running while on the ground. Using this method I would not be trying to start it cold from the roof where I envisioned myself pulling on the start rope so hard as to throw myself from the roof. I would get it warmed up, turn it off and then climb up the ladder. Once on the roof I would start the leaf blower rather easily because it had already been warmed up. And so I began the ritual.
After starting the leaf blower and turning it back off I began to climb the ladder with the leaf blower in one hand and my shaking left hand holding onto the ladder. My knees would shake with every step I took closer to the roof. I finally arrived at the roof and after setting the leaf blower on it, pulled myself over the ladder onto the roof.
After getting on the roof I sat and took a couple of deep breaths looking around me to get use to the height. Then came the moment. The most deadly moment. I got on my knees and pulled the rope on the leaf blower. It started right on up much to my relief.
I slowly stood up and began walking down the edge of the roof blowing the leaves out of the gutter. I stayed as far from the edge as the leaf blower would let me. The weatherman had been right. It was windy up there and that only made slightly more terrifying to walked along the edge. After getting the back gutters done and having established my legs as being steady, I climbed over the peak of the house to the front gutters. I saw Jim's garage door open and knew that he was in there watching me. He always stayed in the shadows of his garage watching me as I worked. One time I was out trimming with the the lawn trimmer when it had stopped. I tried and tried to get it started again. Suddenly Jim appeared from his garage and asked me if I had gas in it. I had looked at the gas tank to see it was empty. Jim had just smiled and faded back into his garage. This is the kind of thing I did not want to happen while I was on the roof.
I eventually finished the front gutters and, pleased with myself, climbed over the peak of the house to head back to the ladder and get myself down off the roof. As I crested the peak my eyes landed where the ladder should be. It was not there. Apparently the wind had taken it down and while I did not go to the edge of the roof to check on the ladder, I pretty much had a good idea of where it was.
I had been up there about half an hour blowing leaves and now I couldn't get down. Brett had not arrived yet. I called out to Barb a few times but received no answer. The doors and windows were shut to keep the stiff cool wind out of the house. I stood up and looked around. I began to try to figure things out. I looked over the top of the house and saw Jim's garage door open. I thought about it for a bit. I imagined yelling over to Jim's but couldn't bear the thought of the old man coming over to rescue me once again. No, Jim was not the answer.
I sat on the roof and pondered my options. I could try to jump from the roof and hope for the best that I wouldn't break an ankle or a foot. The more I thought of that option the more I realized that it wasn't really an option. I sat and continued to think.
After about ten minutes of sitting up there the girl next door cam out and played fetch with her dog. She had not looked up in the sky and I was being fairly quiet and so she did not realize I was up there. I watched her play with her dog and was just about to get the courage up to ask her for help when she went back inside. It was for the best I suppose because if I had called to her, Jim would have heard and would have seen her walk over to my house to save me. I took a deep breath and decided to sit it out hoping Brett would show up soon.
Finally after sitting on the roof about half an hour I saw his bald shaven head come walking around the corner of the house into the back yard. My boy had arrived. I watched him as he looked around the back yard and call out for me. I slapped my leg and he looked up. Then he looked at the ladder on the ground followed by looking up at me again. He walked over to the ladder without say a word and soon I found myself handing him the leaf blower as he reached the roof on the ladder. I did my silly move to get back on the ladder and began my descent. It was not long before I found myself back on solid ground.
We talked about the mornings events as to how long I had been up there, as to how I was not going to ask Jim for help and so on. Then I had to go into the house and explain to Barb where I had been for the last hour and tell her all the grisly details about being stuck on the roof and about how I wasn't going to ask Jim and all the other facts of the adventure.
It was time to go to the grocery store. Barb said she would come with me since it was Thanksgiving shopping and there were a lot of items that I usually do not get. While we were gone Brett mulched the leaves in both the front and back yard.
When I came home from the store I looked up at my nemesis once again. No leaves spilling out over the top. The gutters were clean before the rains and the the cold weather arrived. The yard looked good with most of the leaves now gone and Brett and I sat in the warmth of the house to Watch Mizzou win another football game and become bowl eligible.
It is a good feeling to know that the chore of the leaves are done for another year. Next year I will make sure that I have the ladder set up so that the wind does not blow it over again. That is how life is. No matter how old you get or how many times you do something, there is always something new to learn as you progress through life. This year I learned that the wind can leave me stranded and alone with my thoughts on top of the house.