Kevin, The Neighbor Ladies husband asked me to give him a hand today. A wind storm had blown part of their roof off last night. It wasn't a huge hole he said. The wind caught the edge of the addition and a piece of plywood let loose. Vincent was with me so I figured it was a good time to teach him about ladder safety. This is what happened.
"Come on buddy, we got to help the neighbor fix his roof."
"Yep, the wind blew part of it off. We have to go up there and nail it back on."
"Dad, that roof is huge! We have to do the whole roof?"
"No. Just a small piece. Come on, I'll show you."
Kevin was in his yard looking at the roof. "Ya think we can git it done taday Mike?"
"Well, it depends on how bad it is. Let’s get up there and see what we are dealing with."
Kevin grabbed the ladder and went up first. I told Vincent to wait for a moment before he came up so I could survey the damage. I was absolutely shocked.
"Kevin! What in the name of all that's good and right is going on here? I mean what the hell am I looking at?"
"Yeah, the guy who s'posed ta fix the roof the last time never finished."
There was an entire eight foot section of bloated plywood that was too small to fit the hole it was intended to cover just laying half nailed down and barely covered with tar paper. If I didn't know better I would have thought that someone just chucked the parts up from the ground and let them fall where they may.
"Dude! How long has it been this way?"
"Well, ya moved here in March right?"
"WHAT? Since March? I shudder to think what’s happening to the ceiling under all that tragedy."
"Oh it caved in yesterday. Almost killed Ashley. Big ol’ section came down."
"Well Jesus Christ Kevin! Don't you think you might want to mention something like that before we go stomping around up here! I almost brought my son up here!"
I called down to Vincent and told him that cursing is never a good thing and to stay on the ground until I figured out if this was even something we could fix. He nodded his head and said something about never using bad words. Honestly I barely paid attention to him. There were more important things at hand. Namely not falling through the roof.
"So there are boards and nails and sheet rock in your bedroom right now Kevin? I mean I didn't see a pile of debris outside your house so I know it’s got to be just layin' there. Right?"
"Well I pushed it ta the side. Ashley wants me ta git it out da house though cause Conner is gonna git in it if we don't watch him."
"I don't even have words Kevin. Really I don't. I mean, man I like you and everything but sometimes you really freak me out. You can't have children walking around rusty nails and splinters. Not to mention that you had to notice how bad the ceiling was before it came down. You got to stop and think or someone is going to get hurt. And I'll tell you right now Kevin, if anyone in my family gets hurt because you or your family does something stupid then I will take great delight in beating you to within an inch of your life. Look at me Kevin. I shit you not. I will have your skin if you hurt my family."
"Don't worry Mike. I won't do nuthin. I jus need yer help. I promise I won't do nuthin like this again."
"Oh, and one more thing, If I see you giving your kid a ride on the lawn mower again I'll put my foot in your ass so far that the water on my knee will quench your thirst. You could kill your child and I don't want to have to live next to a yard filled with pieces of two year old boy! Think about what Conner would look like spread out over ten yards of your lawn. I don't think you could live with yourself if that happened."
We stood there looking at each other for a very long while. Actually for him it must have been a very uncomfortable long while. Suddenly the silence was broken by a small voice from below us.
"Dad…um…you said "shit" and "ass". But I can't get in trouble for saying it cause I was only telling you what you said and those are bad words."
"I know Vincent. Dad is really sorry. Sometimes I make mistakes like that and I apologize. Thank you for pointing it out but next time you can just say, "the S word" if you need to repeat it ok?"
I closely surveyed the condition of the roof and determined that only the sheet rock had fallen, not the actual studs supporting the roof. I pointed out the difference to Kevin. Then I decided it was safe for Vincent to come up. He loved every moment of it. There is something about a boy helping his dad that makes everyone smile. Soon the tension was gone and we were all having a good time.
We fixed what we could with the materials he had on hand. I guess we did a fair job but it's not going to stand up to much weather. He is going to call a roofer on Monday and get it done right.
Vincent turned out to be a great help and a great listener. He didn't seem scared at all. The best part was when he looked at Kevin and said, "Man, you got to start listening to my dad so you don't die. If he said he's gonna take your skin off I would really do what he says cause you can't live without skin."
Kevin just looked at Vincent and gave him an uncomfortable smile and nodded his head in agreement.
Vincent continued, "They taught us in school that our skin is our first line of defense against infection and if my dad takes yours off then you are pretty much gonna die. But then you don't have to worry about him beating you up so that's good right?"
Kevin stopped smiling, glanced at me, then down at the roof and muttered a meek, "yeah".
We finished our work. Everyone was proud of what we had accomplished. Kevin thanked me and we made plans to blow stuff up on the 3rd of July. It's his birthday. He bought a few hundred dollars worth of fireworks. The big kind. As in, "Sweet mother of goodness that's a big'@$$ firework" or "Are those even legal to have without a license?" That kind of big. I said I'd bring the cold salads and chips if he brought the meat and beer. We had a deal, shook on it, and climbed off the roof.
A moment later Vincent and I were on our way home. I talked with him about everything that had happened. I explained that I should have paid more attention to my language. It's a bad feeling when you have to scold yourself in front of your child.
But Vincent made everything better when he said, "It's OK Dad. I know you're sorry. Actually Dad, Kevin is dumber than my friends at school and I don't even play with the dumb kids. (He meant troublemakers.) It's kinda nice that you help him. Our teacher says we have to be nice to everyone but some kids are bad to be around. I think you won't have to take Kevin's skin off. He looked very sorry, like for real sorry, not like pretend sorry so people stop yelling at you. I think he will be good from now on."
I put my arm around him and held him a little closer as we walked. "I bet you're right buddy. I love you ya know that?"
"You say that a lot. I already know it."
"Good! Then you will just have to get used to hearing it all the time because I love telling you how much I love you!" I grabbed him up and threw him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. We giggled and tickled each other the whole way home. It's great being a dad!