Frustration

Night time visitor.  Found these raccoon tracks around my barn and circling my back door this morning.

Night time visitor. Found these raccoon tracks around my barn and circling my back door this morning.

When I walked into the room, Marty was kneeling on the floor, pushing down on a jar, twisting its cap on.  I reached out to hold the jar while he tightened the cap.  He’d just finished a day of plumbing my new bathroom.  I told him how I’d stripped out three screws that morning trying to hang a silly towel hook in the kitchen.  And how I’d ended in frustration, tossing the screwdriver down the cellar stairs.  “Well, I threw it, actually,” I admitted, ashamed.   “Do you ever get frustrated?” I asked him.  “Of course!” he answered.  “Yea, but you always find a way.  And you always seem to smile!” I countered.  “How do you do it?”  I mean, he’s a seasoned professional builder for 30 years.  A few years ago he re-learned how to do everything with one arm and hand.  He can (and does) do anything.  So here’s what he told me, and I try to remember these things when I encounter something challenging.

1.  Sometimes you just need to walk away for a bit.

2.  Think it through.  If plan A isn’t working, look at it from a different angle.

3.  Be patient with yourself.

But what struck me most was this one:

4.  Don’t ever say that this would be easier with two hands.  It just doesn’t help.

Sometimes when I’m facing a challenge, I look at what I DON’T have and think how if only I had that husband/money/location/whatever that this would be SO much easier.  Poor me.  If only.  Well, Marty reminded me to just look at what I have to work with right now, and find a way through the problem with that stuff in hand.  It’s self-defeating to look at it any other way.  I try to remember this wisdom when I face a task that feels bigger than me.  I haven’t thrown too many screwdrivers down the cellar stairs lately.

Marty

Martin Davis

Martin Davis

When I pulled into my yard the green Subaru was parked at my back door, its rear hatch open, the back filled with stuff.  Walking into the mudroom I found it alarmingly empty.  The table saw was gone, the buckets of tools and plaster were no longer lined-up, the pile of lumber had vanished, the floor was swept of mud and sawdust.  We ran into each other in the kitchen doorway, he with an armload of gear, me with a question.  “You’re leaving?” I asked.  “Yup,” he answered.  “Almost all moved-out.”  I pulled a long face and heaved a big sigh.

Then we both started laughing.  This is our little joke. Then we hugged, and I thanked him profusely.  You see, “He” is Marty, my favorite contractor.  He is also family, husband to my sister Ruth.  Marty had been mending plaster, putting up moldings, and tiling the backsplash in my kitchen over the last few days.  He set up a small workshop in my mudroom for the duration.  And created a bit of a mess each day.  Last summer he did the same when he created a new upstairs bathroom for us.  Marty’s been making his way through my 150 year old house, improving it 10-fold with his beautiful work.  His personality and energy make the good experience even better.  I tell him he’s like a masculine Mary Poppins:  He finds a house in bad condition, works his magic, and when his job is done he moves on to the next home in need.

I’ve been wanting to write about Marty for a long time now.  I even received his permission over a month ago.  But I haven’t known where or how to start.  I still don’t really.  But I’m compelled to give it a try.  Marty has a big story to tell.  But it’s his story to tell, not mine.  Marty is the world’s greatest uncle, brother-in-law, and contractor.  Marty’s also a cancer survivor.  Three times over.  He’s also an amputee, as a result of that cancer.  Doctors removed his left arm just below his shoulder when sarcoma hit him the second time.   He continued his work as a contractor and builder throughout treatments.  During that time he also created and built a beautiful home for my sister and himself.  And when I say he did it single handed, I mean that quite literally.

Like I said, his remarkable story isn’t mine to tell.  But as his massage therapist, I’m going to write about him, little by little.  How could I not?  To me, he’s a role model and a hero.  So I’m going to give it a go over the next few weeks and months, here and there.  Stay tuned.