Friday, June 6, 2014


We're having our front steps replaced. Our house is set on a hill, fourteen steps up. The big block of six at the top was moving down the hill pulling the front entrance with it. Repair was out of the question. Replacement was our option and we went with it.

Getting a mason turns out to be challenging. One came for the estimate but disappeared. A second estimated, promised a date, let it slip, said he'd be back in spring but never showed. A friend recommended a third guy who one estimated, showed up, and has almost finished the job.

Today they pour the concrete. The forms are set. In fact, they are re-set. Yesterday, coming home from work, I saw what they had framed near the doorway and had a big uh-oh.

Our old steps had a wide landing up. The guys had framed one half that size and, climbing on the forms, standing where the top step would be, I opened the door into my chest.

There are people who have no problem at this point. They call the mason and request a fix. Others curse the contractor out demanding a fix, but they're broken and I don't want anything to do with them. The people who calmly explain what they need, I want to be like them in every way.

But I'm not yet.

I stood on the top form and went toward panic. I couldn't leave it like that, but if I asked for a fix, they'd think me one of those bastards who curse and demand. I couldn't think what to do.

I climbed off the forms and stood imagining the fix and some way to request it. I stood sweating anxiety and starting to lose myself.

Yesterday I wrote about breathing to overcome the bad rush of being late. People wrote that I had gotten it just right. Standing next to the steps, I reminded myself both to breathe and that I could say things without being a jerk. Then I called the mason.

When they guys came back to finish setting forms, I asked about the top step and they walked me through their decision. There is no room for the landing I wanted.


But the guys said, there are ways to do this. I apologized but they said they work for me and whatever we decide will literally be set in stone for fifty years. We can make this work so that you're happy. They were awfully kind about it. And wise too.

They cut forms, set a board so my wife could stand where the top step will be and imagine things. Our solution isn't perfect, but I see the whole situation now. We improved on what they originally set, closer to what I want, and everyone was fine.

This morning I took photos before the guys and the concrete truck arrive for the pour. I like the fix well enough. I'm much happier that I survived the anxiety, stayed true to myself, and got most of what I want.

It would be great if things worked out perfectly and I got everything I want with the steps, a new job, everything in my life, but imperfection has its own appeal and I'm ready to set some things in stone or at least in type as I write on.