ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

DON’T ASK

For Brent, it was a logical question to ask: “When are you going to fix that?”

Brent, my brother-in-law, is a handy guy.  When something needs to be fixed at his house, he fixes it.  Come to think of it, he fixes most of the stuff that needs to be fixed at our house, too.  Or he tells me what to do and gives me enough time to mess things up really good before he comes over to fix it.  He’s either completely sadistic, or he loves a challenge.

A few months ago Brent and his father – my father-in-law – came over to help me with a fairly simple project – for them.  For years I have used the little dining area off our kitchen as an office.  Which has worked out great, except this little room has had an opening to our front room.  And since my office tends to make “Lord of the Rings” battlefields look tidy by comparison, Anita decided it would be a good idea to close that opening so I can keep my clutter to myself.

Putting up the frame and the drywall over the opening didn’t take us long, although it is always entertaining to watch my father-in-law and my brother-in-law try to work together.  Dad is painstakingly meticulous in how he does things.  He works slowly, but accurately.  Brent, on the other hand, tends to work with frenetic energy and speed.  He will say, “this looks about right” and it usually is.  And if it doesn’t quite fit he shrugs and says: “Get a bigger hammer.”  They both do wonderful work – it’s just that they don’t always work wonderfully well together.

Somehow we made it through the process with family unity basically intact.  All that was left was to have a professional come over to smooth the rough edges with tape and putty, slap a little paint on the wall and we’d be done.  At least, that’s what Dad, Brent and I thought.

“But we can’t just paint it,” Anita said.  “Look at the rest of the room.  We’ve got wallpaper on the bottom half of the wall.”

“OK,” I said.  “We’ll paint and wallpaper to match the rest of the room.”

“But I’m tired of how the rest of the room looks,” Anita said.  “I want to get rid of the wallpaper and do the whole room in a different color, with this great new texturing technique that Carrie and Art did in their front room.”

“OK,” I said. “I guess we could do that. Could we get it done in one weekend?”

“But the new color won’t go with the furniture we have in that room,” she continued.  “We’ll need to get new furniture.  Wouldn’t a baby grand piano would look great in that corner?”

I was starting to get a sinking feeling – right in my wallet.

“And this carpet won’t work with the new color scheme at all – we’ll have to get new carpet.  For the whole house.  So it will match.”  Anita’s “nest feathering” chromosome had kicked into gear, emitting powerful pheromones that made furniture retailers salivate all over the county.  By the time she was finished she had sketched out how she was going to take down walls, enlarge the kitchen and extend the west side of the house by six feet, which would allow us to add walk-in closets to our bedroom and a Jacuzzi tub to our bathroom.  There would be a new dining set, new family room furniture, two new fireplaces, a redwood deck and a fruit room.

And my office – you know, the little room Dad and Brent helped me wall up to begin with?  Somehow it disappears in the renovation.  As I understand it, there will be a garbage compactor right where my computer currently rests (not a huge change, I know).  I’d like to tell you where my office is going to be.  It’s just that . . . well . . . I’m afraid to ask.

The other day Brent stopped by and noticed the huge drywall patch in our front room.  That’s when he asked: “When are you going to fix that?”  So I told him exactly what fixing the patch meant.  Now he’s afraid, too.

That’s what he gets for asking logical questions.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.