In he final moments before ceasing construction, I dropped it. Down the toilet.
It was December 21, and I had thirty minutes to make this house “livable”–as promised–before my wife and children arrived “home.”
5 weeks earlier they left Vermont to live with my wife’s sister in Florida “until I finished the house.” That separation took place the week before Thanksgiving– and now it was just days before Christmas. (None of us had ever spent more than a weekend apart.)
Unfortunately what had been dropped down the toilet were its “anchor screws” which meant that there would be no usable bathroom in this house where we were supposed to begin living–tonight.
In the past five weeks, I divided my days between teaching highschool history and building a home. I laid the floors, hung the sheetrock, spackled and painted; installed kitchen cabinets, countertops, appliances, sinks, a woodstove and a chimney–all with the help of great friends. I lived on hotdogs, and slept on my ex-brother in law’s couch.
I gave up our rental when my family left town. Friends and family suspected a marital “separation,” especially given the adage: Build a house, loose a spouse.
It’s true that I hadn’t been around much once this project began the previous year. I had originally “promised” to have us in the house before the end of summer, but as a novice builder, I extended that deadline again–and again–until my wife couldn’t take it anymore and we decided that it would be best for her to leave town so that I could devote every extra minute to getting us in– before Christmas.
It was my ex-brother in law Tim who helped me in the last panicked moments of “finishing” when I lost the screw (and what was left of my sanity) down the toilet.
The nearest hardware store of any kind was twenty minutes away and it was already 8:30 pm. We prayed that Home Depot might still be open and that it had what we needed. It did, but by the time I found this out, there was no way I could get there before they closed.
As I spoke with the guy in plumbing, I thought I recognized the Irish accent of my son’s former soccer coach. “Is this Patrick?” I asked.
It was, and he not only agreed to leave the screw outside, he waited there in the parking lot to hand it to me, and then refused to let me pay. I could have burst into tears right then.
By 9:20 pm I was back at the house, “seating” my very first toilet, just in time to leave for the airport to retrieve my wife and children.
At midnight, they turned the corner of the terminal–and all the months of madness melted away.
Two days before Christmas, I brought my family “home” to a trim-less, door-less house–that was all ours.
Casey Deane (& Kelly Salasin)