Patience Is a Virtue

John isn’t quite as impatient as he was as a young man, but I don’t think anyone who knows him would describe patience as a virtue he possesses in abundance.  If he wants help with something, he wants it on his schedule which usually means immediately.  However, one hot July day last year, he learned the hard way that patience is a virtue he probably should work harder at cultivating.

That was the summer that we looked around at our place of residence (and all the accompanying buildings) and realized we had done very little in the way of maintenance over the last 10 years.  The result was a guest house, three garages, a cabin, and a shed that desperately needed a coat of paint.  Since John avoids painting the way most people avoid a colonoscopy, that meant hiring a painter or doing it myself.  John attempted to hire teenage painters, but when we couldn’t impress upon them the importance of actually painting during the time they charged us for, it became apparent that the job was now mine.

After several days of painting, one garage and the guest house were done except for the frame around the windows and some trim, so I set about painting one suffocatingly hot July morning determined to finish what remained and have both buildings painted top to bottom.  After opening the paint can, I dipped in my brush and took the first stroke along one window sill.  From the other side of the garage I heard the sentence that has struck terror in my heart since the beginning of our marriage, “Terri, could you come and help me for just a minute.”  Anytime I hear that request I know that at best, it will be much longer than a minute before I’m done, and at worst, I will have a major injury to deal with as a result of whatever project I’m helping complete.  I could give numerous examples to illustrate this assertion, but in the interest of brevity, you will have to believe me when I swear it is true.

I replied, “You’ll have to wait until later because I just started painting.”  John walked around the corner of the garage and explained what he wanted me to do.  We had recently installed a new heating and air conditioning unit in the basement of the guest house, and he wanted to take out the old unit that was upstairs and haul it away.  “Can’t you just put your brush down for a minute and help me?” he implored.  I explained that in the heat the paint would dry before we could complete the task, and the brush would be ruined.  I also asked if there was some special reason why this appliance removal couldn’t wait.  He mumbled something about the electrician coming out to work and needing to have that done before he arrived.  I said if the unit wasn’t out of there before the electrician arrived, he could help with the removal which seemed a much better plan to me all the way around.

I resumed painting and thought no more about it until I heard John yelling for help.  Over the years I have learned to gauge the severity of a situation simply by the tone of his voice so I knew this situation was somewhere between a severed limb and a concussion.  As I dropped the paint and ran around the garage, I could see John lying on the deck outside the guest house with one end of the heating/air conditioning unit across his thighs at a sharp angle pinning him down and the other end wedged in the back door.  It was a scary sight as I had no idea how badly he had been injured in the fall.  I immediately tried to lift the unit but I was unable to raise both sides evenly because of the weight so each attempt caused the sharp metal edge to dig into the leg on the opposite side.  It quickly became apparent that my only chance of extricating him without additional injury would be to lift the unit in the middle from inside the house.

I ran to the front door trying to control my growing panic and formulate a “Plan B” if I couldn’t lift the unit. I’m pretty strong, but lifting large appliances is not something I practice on a regular basis, so I wasn’t confident I would be able to do this.  I slid underneath as close to the door as I could and pulled my knees beneath me pushing upward.  I lifted slowly not wanting to extend my strength beyond what I could maintain as I knew dropping the unit on John again from any height would be painful if not disastrous.  I knew I couldn’t lift it much higher when I finally heard him say, “I’m out.  You did it.”  Completely exhausted, I yelled at John to get inside quickly as I knew I couldn’t hold the heater/air conditioner much longer.  Once inside he quickly freed me and we sat down to catch our breath, wipe away the perspiration and inspect the damage.  John had a deep indentation in both legs that would soon turn to dark bruises and some minor cuts, but he escaped serious injury.

Once I realized he was going to be fine, a sense of irritation began to grow as I realized the entire incident was precipitated by his impatience.  I walked back to my painting to find a dried out brush as predicted, so I walked back to the house to clean up.  I don’t think John had an epiphany as a result of his accident.  All I know for sure is that a year later the windows and trim still aren’t painted.  I know I will get to it eventually.  I just have to be patient.

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