Ever have one of those days when you try to do something good and it just doesn’t work out like you thought?
This happened to me on Saturday.
I was crafting my post about my mom’s death and jumped onto Facebook to grab a photo from one of my albums. I happened to come across a post in my feed from one of the community groups I belong to. In it, a lady was asking for help for her husband – a custodian at a church that is a neighbour of mine. The church snowblower had died and she was asking if anyone knew how to fix it as last night’s snow was too much for hubby to shovel.
My first thought was one of total schadenfreude – I will not lie. During the fall/winter that my husband was sick and eventually died, the snow came fast and deep and early on. It was a record season for the number of days of uninterrupted snow on the ground. JD and I used to do the shoveling ourselves and now it was all left to me. I didn’t have time to try to find someone to help me during his sickness and dying and during the aftermath of his death. Many the night and morning I had to run over to the building to clear the steps, the wheelchair ramp, the sidewalks (it’s on a corner lot) and one of the parking lots (the tenant at that time got their lot plowed out so I was left with only one to clear, thankfully). Yep, just me and my trusty snow shovel. And when the plows went by and threw the stuff from the road onto the sidewalks and driveways, I had to go back and do it all over again. Mr. Custodian would watch me silently as he was snow-blowing out the walks on the church property.
(One day during that crazy winter after an especially fierce blizzard resulting in thigh-high drifts, one of my fellow downtown landlords came up the street with his tractor and plowed out my lot. I’ll admit to this: I stood on the sidewalk and sobbed hot tears of relief, unabashedly.)
Yep, I thought on Saturday morning, dead snowblower looks good on ya.
Then I gave myself a stern talking to. Told myself I was better than these thoughts; not to sink down to this level. Got my ass quickly dressed and out the door, shovel in hand, to help.
I approached Mr. Custodian and introduced myself as his neighbour from across the street, told him I read the Facebook post, and offered my services.
After a long pause, he said, “I told my wife I needed someone who knew how to fix a snowblower.”
Me, cheerfully pointing to shovel in other hand: “Well, I can’t do that but I certainly can shovel snow so show me where you’d like me to start.”
After another pause, I was directed to a patch further down the sidewalk, and began to shovel. Another fellow appeared who introduced himself as the church treasurer. We cleared the sidewalk together. Mr. Custodian tried to start a conversation.
Him: “So you rent upstairs over there?”
Me: “No, I own the building and yes, I live upstairs.”
Him, pointing to my tenants’ unit, the downstairs Museum: “What do you think of them?”
Me: “I think they are great; happy to have them in the building. Have you been to visit?”
Him: “They hosted our church for coffee a few weeks back. Not a place I’d ever go into. Do they get many visitors? I don’t see much traffic going in there.”
Me, brightly: “Well, actually many people are very interested in going there. They get visitors from all over the world and host large tour groups from time to time.”
Then Mr. Treasurer decides to chime in and change the subject: “Nice the building is finally getting fixed up. The fellow that ran it before didn’t do much.”
Me, smile becoming more and more fixed: “You mean my husband who died? He had a mental illness that prevented him from making those changes. And he had no money. But I own it now, and I have been spending the money to get it fixed up.”
Mr. Custodian: “Well, I guess we should shovel your place now.”
Me, still smiling: “Not necessary, thanks. I have people to do that now and they should be around any minute. What’s next? Let’s do the main entrance steps and then the parking lot. Between the 3 of us it should go quickly.”
Them, variations on a theme of: “Oh no, that’s OK. This is good enough. Main entrance doesn’t need to be done. There’s a guy coming to do the driveway. Thanks for your help.”
So off I trudged, back to my place – thoroughly pissed by the entire encounter. I just wanted to shovel some fucking snow to help my neighbour out and ended up feeling under scrutiny and like I had to defend both my tenants and my late husband to these guys.
Later I came back downstairs and saw they were indeed shoveling the main entrance stairs.
“Hey!” I called out, blood boiling: “I wanted to help with that!”
“Oh no, that’s OK” came the reply.
Fine – fuck this, I said to myself – my low-level thoughts making a spectacular and rapid-fire comeback.
Then I got mad at myself for letting them get to me; for going low instead of high.
I can’t understand why more people don’t take up church. It clearly brings out the best in people.
P.S. Today, a couple of hours after I posted this entry I saw a thank you to me posted on the Facebook community group by the custodian…or maybe it was his wife. Apparently I helped “a lot”. At this point I don’t give a fuck about the snow shoveling any more. I hope I helped open some minds and hearts. Including my own. Looking for a Christmas miracle. 🙂