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anxiety (Photo credit: FlickrJunkie)

I frowned at the can of roof sealer, mocking me as it sat perched at the edge of the corner gutter where the garage roof meets the side of our house.  The insolent can had jumped out of the plastic bag in my hand as I squeezed through the second floor hall window to the garage roof, laughing as it rolled down the roof to a place it knew I would not want to get close to.  I’m not kidding nor am I crazy.  That can was sneering at me, taunting me.

Come on, chicken man, come over to the edge of the roof if you dare.

Perhaps it was that sarcastic can that made me forget that I am afraid of heights.  Without hesitation, I stomped down the shingled pitch of the garage roof, bent over, looked that can in the eye.

“How dare you mock me, little can.  Prepare to feel the pain, suckerrrrrr.”

I bent over, the realization of the height hitting me as I stared straight down at the ground below, reluctant to try to grab the can.  I kicked the can, literally, sending the rebellious sphere on a plunge to the grass below.

“Serves you right.”  I thumbed my nose at the groaning aluminum adversary as it writhed in pain.

“Who are you talking to and what are you doing up here?  Aren’t you a bit close to the edge?  DON’T FALL.  OH MY GOODNESS!”

My ever anxious spouse was sticking her head out the window behind me,  the panic escalating with each word.  Suddenly I realized where I was standing, which was at the very edge of the garage roof.  Normally I would be mortified, but the brief argument with the mocking can had somehow at least temporarily cured my vertigo.  I was Spiderman.  I looked out over our backyard, Nick the sheltie peering up at me with his tongue hanging out, a hopeful expression in his dog eyes that I would come down from my perch to throw a tennis ball for him.

I turned to witness Miriam clutching her temples between her hands, her crazed eyes pleading for me to crawl back inside the house through the window.  When she gets that way, anxious that is, the frustration  monster begins to rear its ugly head.  Either I am going to get impatient with her or her anxiety is going to consume me.  Really I didn’t want either to happen, not this time.

“I just need to check out that hole in the roof, see what needs to be done to fix it.  I’m fine.  For some reason, the height isn’t bothering me right now.”

I turned and stepped over the crown of the garage roof, towards the front of the house.  Years before, when a crew had replaced the siding on our house, that crew had not covered the garage and porch roof when they replaced the second floor siding, damaging the roof in the spot where the front of our garage roof meets the front porch roof.  Now there is a gaping hole in that spot, at least two feet long and six inches wide.  All of the shingles in that area have blown away.  Each step I took down the roof towards the hole prompted a nervous “oh my goodness, oh my goodness” from Miriam.

“Why don’t I just call Ken to come help you?  You really shouldn’t be doing this.  Aren’t you just dying up here?”  When she gets nervous, she asks a lot of questions.  I suppose this was one anxiety that I have earned.  I do hate ladders,usually freezing about halfway up a ladder.  Our friend Ken came over last year, at Miriam’s beckon, when she got tired of watching me fret over climbing a ladder to the top of our roof to fix some wind damage to the aluminum flashing on our chimney.  Ken likes to climb ladders, claims to adore heights, and he owes me several favors (or thinks he does) after years of maintaining his families bikes for him.  He scaled the ladder with little thought and fixed the damaged chimney quickly.

“I can do this.  Really.  I can.  You’re not really helping me by worrying over me.  If you can’t stand watching, then go find something else to do.”  What I didn’t want to say was that I was trying to be extra quiet in the first place, hoping I wouldn’t wake her from her nap and therefore not giving her cause to worry, but the giggling can had taken care of that.  She had heard the can hit the roof and came running to see what was the matter.

She left.  I went back to the cavernous hole in the roof, scowled at bit at the hole, decided that the little patch kit I had would not be sufficient, and returned to my worrying wife where she waited in the upstairs hall.

“Who were you talking to out there? (still nervous and asking questions) You always get a little crazy when you try stuff like that.”

Whatever.  And the worrisome waltz of questions began.  Why don’t you let someone else fix that hole?  Don’t you think it is better if we pay someone to replace the roof instead of you doing it yourself?  Do you really think you are going to be able to stand on that roof to fix it?

On and on.  Anxiety.  Worry.  Of all the things I like about my wife, her anxiety is the one thing I can not stand to be around.  It consumes me if I let it.  When the barrage of questions start, I can feel the knot begin to grow.  All spouses worry, some more than others, and I am married to one of the more than others.

What to do?  Well, it’s been more than twenty years.  I do what most husbands do when their wives start lobbing the worries on them – flee.  Thank goodness I needed to take a shower and get ready for our daughter’s band concert yesterday afternoon.

And there you have it.

Oh geez, that can is still out there.  I think it has suffered enough.