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August 30, 2016

Forced Bravery

It is probably a little-known fact, but I have a touch of claustrophobia. I don’t like tight spaces, especially if they are dark and could possibly contain all manner of creepy-crawly creatures. It is NOT a little-known fact that I’m a big guy. A point that I’ve used to say that I can’t climb up into my attic as the ladder wouldn’t hold. Not to mention that I probably couldn’t really move around once I was up there.

Recently my father-in-law, who’s 80 and a giant of a man, was working on replacing a section of the roof on his motorhome. He was going up and down the ladder and walking around some twelve feet into the air. All the while grunting and groaning as his legs have started giving him problems. We were replacing the cover when he came down. In the process of pulling the tarp over the top, it got hung on one of the vents. He started to climb back up the ladder but I couldn’t let him do that. The last thing we needed was for him to have a heart-attack on top of an RV.  So I quickly scampered up and released the hung rope. My wife noticed a hole in the tarp so I quickly moved the ladder and climbed back up on the other side to reach over and patch the hole with some strategically placed duck-tape.

I didn’t have a choice. I would never forgive myself if I stayed on the ground, allowed him to go back up, and then get hurt or have another heart attack. Understand, I pray that I have the drive that he does when I’m his age. During one of our moves he kept pace with me, in some case out lifting and pacing me; and the man was in his 70’s at the time!  Talk about an eye opener at the state of my own health!  In this case, however, he really was spent.  His strength was gone for the day and there was still work to get done.

After that, I knew the ladder would hold me. Which meant I could no longer put off some projects that required me crawling around in our attic. We have a lot of data devices in our home and needed to run hardline to the rooms to get the streaming devices off the wi-fi signal. The first drop was easy, I didn’t have to leave the opening in order to drill the hole and drop the wire down the wall. Getting it fished out was a bit tricky as we ran into some other wires, but, we got it done. Running a hardline to my inlaws bedroom … that was a bit more of a challenge.

I had already pulled the cat5 cable over to the opening on my previous job. This time, though, I had to crawl up into the attic and make my way to the air handling unit of our busted HVAC system. Then slide up and over the unit to drill down into the inside wall behind their TV. Lifting my girth through the small entry in our ceiling was funny enough. But then sliding along the floor of the attic to avoid the trusses of our very short roof … I thought myself crazy. But, I did it. I had already cut the hole in the wall so my youngest was able to tell me that she saw wires on the first fish attempt.

Getting back down was more difficult than getting up there. I had gotten turned around so it wasn’t as simple as doing everything backwards.  The fear of stepping on the wrong spot and putting my big number twelve through the ceiling was ever present. The proximity of the HVAC system and it’s trunk line made for a tight squeeze in an already cramped space. Not to mention the heat and dirt. Sweat rained from my forehead and soaked my shirt. After folding into positions I didn’t think possible and cramps in places I didn’t know existed, I finally contorted my way down the hole and back into my home. My daughter noted how wet and filthy I was. I, through heavy breaths, told her that there’s a reason fat men don’t do those kinds of jobs.

But I’m glad I did. Now other projects that will require me going into the attic don’t seem as impossible. I’m not swearing off hiring someone else to do the work for me, but it’s no longer a necessity either. All of this has been opened up because I was forced to climb an untrusted ladder. I would never have done that for myself, climbed the ladder I mean. I only did it so my father-in-law wouldn’t. Makes me wonder what else I’m capable of if I can keep someone else from having to do something.

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