Monday, March 19, 2012

Roof Walker Me

Today, I was on the roof. My first time!

Today was the day. I'm not sure why it was THE DAY, but a combination of feeling old, feeling the clock tick in my body, my time on earth darkening by the tick tocks, all these urgencies, propelled me to do something daring! I had to prove I'm still alive.

Oh yeah. I needed to kill the moss raising up the roof shingles too.

So I'd bought the cheaper shaker can of Moss Out! Some form of zinc I think it contains, rather than the colorful staining iron mix reserved for lawn use.

At first, I tried tossing handfuls up the sloped roof from the top rung of my short ladder. The wind grabbed my first handful of the fine white powder and whipped it right back at my face, prompting a quick dash down the ladder and inside to a faucet.

I straightened my shoulders and looked in the mirror. I'm getting wrinkles. I tried to flatten them out by making faces at myself. I shuddered at my unwillingness to climb up on that roof. What a wimp, especially at my age.

The older you get the less you have to lose.

I may as well try pretty much anything now.

So, I set up my five foot ladder next to the yard fence, climbed to the top run, then stepped tentatively onto the top 2x4 of the cat yard fence. I threw one knee up atop the roof from that 2x4, but how to get the other leg up. My one knee is on a slope, my right leg extended down off the roof, foot balancing on top of the fence and there's nothing to grab onto on the roof to pull myself up.

I thought "You're way over thinking this. Just do it." Up I went.

Once on the roof, I crawled the shingled slopes at first on my hands and knees, shaking out the moss killer onto the rows of bright fervent moss, the shaker cylinder gripped in one hand, and loving the view I was getting. Then I pushed myself to my feet and got a good snoop into neighbors backyards from that height. Wish I'd had my camera with me.

I pretended I had achieved the peak of a fantastic and beautiful snowy mountain. Mt. Suburbia! I shielded my eyes with one hand to view my domain.

Then I slid back down the roof to the gutter and scooped out some really gunky slimy partially decomposed stagnant stinky algae covered leaves. I slapped them from the edge of the roof onto the concrete driveway in disgust. The romanticism of conquering my fear and climbing the roof faded quickly.

My grandfather on my mothers side died a few weeks after he retired. He was up on his roof, to make a repair, and stepped back to pick up a safety rope to attach. But he stepped onto the rope, which rolled. He fell, backwards, off the roof, only a dozen feet, but landed on his head on his concrete driveway. He lived about ten days then died of massive head injury.

That was the end of my grandpa, the one I liked. The other one was just a mean old bastard.

We only visited my fathers' parents on Thanksgiving. We'd drive up to Springfield where they lived. Originally I don't where they came from but my grandfather was a mill wright and even built some bridges, I was told. Originally my father's family lived in West Fir and worked the mill there.

One of my father's brothers died in the mill pond. He was driving along it, probably going too fast and crashed into it. He drowned at age 17. A pair of twins, his siblings, before my father was born, died of the measles, I was told. My grandfather was mean and I didn't like going up there for Thanksgiving. But..I liked their house. There were secret little doors only a kid could get in through and passageways beyond those doors. There was an overgrown garden out back with trellises that became my secret garden.

There was the razor strap hanging in the bathroom that he had used to beat his kids and threatened us with. There was the huge radio that got channels from all over the world, if you tuned it right.

I don't remember much about grandma except she was kind, had soft fine gray hair and was mostly deaf and partially blind, from macular degeneration. Grandpa was always yelling at her and after she died, in her 90's, he was even meaner. He had a chihuahua that would, when we knocked, enter into ear piercing yaps. The high pitched shrieks only stopped when the dog's concentration turned to humping our legs.

When grandpa died, my father didn't seem much moved. Nobody was. His caretaker and her various druggee loser boyfriends had ripped grandpa off for years, even backing their old van up to the backdoor from the alley the better to steal from him out of sight of neighbors. We went up, for the funeral, and my father collected a few things. The family vultures had already picked clean the carcass of his belongings. As we drove away, I watched his cat, Pinky, a big orange and white male, slink hopelessly around the corner of the house to watch us leave. I made my father turn around. We took Pinky home with us. Nicki, the little humping chihuahua, had long since passed.

My mother's side grandpa died better than his wife, whose death was awful, long, drawn out, and not a fitting death for a human being. She ended up in a nursing home and in the end, dribbled urine and babbled nonsense. Far better to go as grandpa did, off a roof, head first!

Both my grandfathers are dead, the good and kind grandpa, and the mean yelling hard drinking smoking grandpa. The mean one, despite his nefarious lifestyle and habits, died at a ripe old age, way up in his 90's, outliving the good grandpa by almost two decades. I liked my father's mother better than my mother's mother. She'd had to become tough dealing with her angry husband, and kinder to offset him. In my mind's memory, she had more character as a result. My mother's mother was easy to be around, however, easy to please.

In her old age, when I had nothing but a motorcycle to ride, unable to afford the cars my brother's had for themselves, she wanted to take a ride with me on it. So I took her, her slight frame hugging me from behind, helmet atop her gray and tiny head. She was validating my life in her way with that ride, my already very difficult life. Later, she gave me her old Chevy Impala.

I could not afford a car because I had to work for my father summers instead of at a pay job. My brothers got pay jobs starting in high school, for the summer, but I had to work for him, without pay. My father believed it was a woman's place and enforced his belief on me starting when I was very young. Once he claimed he'd pay me with a camera for a high school photography class I wanted to take the next fall. But after three months, he took the camera back, saying he had meant I'd get it only for the class. More putting me in my place. He mocked my fallen face, enjoying himself, as he took it from me.

One brother went on to tour Europe on a rail pass with money he'd earned summers. I bought the motorcycle for under $100 when I went off to college. I needed transportation and that old decrepit bike, continually breaking down, a Suzuki X6, ancient then already, max speed, with high vibration--60 mph, was what I could afford. I loved that bike. It did not last very long.

Anyhow, I'm not advocating diving off roofs.

I was afraid to climb that fence from my ladder. I was afraid to climb from the fence to the roof. I feel great I did both today. More small feats in my future?

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