Cousin Steve was a tremendous help the first frantic week we moved to our new home, unloading the moving van, hooking up lights and electronics, replacing toilets, hanging medicine cabinets, helping with appliance installation, and sleeping in a cold drafty room, all with his usual good humor and frequent laugh, as we worked past his usual bedtime night after night. We ventured to Seattle for a leisurely elegant dinner on Christmas Eve, and to the local theater for the late showing of Sherlock Holmes two days later, but other than that, we worked non-stop to make the house livable for me—who doesn’t know how to do-it-yourself—during the weeks I’d be alone.
At the end of his recent trip to California, Kevin asked if Steve would like to come back up sometime. Steve’s answer, “I don’t know, it wasn’t very fun there.”
When Kevin relayed Steve’s words I agreed. “We should do something fun every day,” I said. But, what constitutes fun? Going to dinner? Yes. Out to a movie? Yes. Sledding down the street when it’s covered in snow? Yes. Climbing on the roof? Yes.
There have been times in my life when fun has disappeared under the weight of family obligations, school and work deadlines, health crises, and crumbling relationships. I was too immersed and stressed, if not miserable, to make time for fun. But even when there was time, my attitude could suck the fun out of an activity. As a young teen, how could I enjoy a party when my parents were divorcing? As a young mother, how could I enjoy a day at Disneyland when my children were tantrumming? I was a permeable membrane, taking on anyone and everyone’s troubles. If they weren’t having fun, neither was I.
It has taken most of my life to learn how not to absorb someone else’s pain. It’s taken soul searching and prayer not to feel guilty for being okay, and for even having fun while someone else––someone I know and love––is suffering. I think about Jesus saying, “pick up your cross,” not, “pick up your cross, then sweep the neighborhood and gather up your neighbors’ too.” It’s hard navigating doorways staggering under the weight of our own burdens, impossible when we’re laden with woes that don’t belong to us.
I’m glad Jesus was a carpenter. He would appreciate that his cross metaphor applies even in today’s world filled with power tools. Literal and figurative lumber is part of my life for many months, maybe years. My husband lugs boards from Home Depot to his truck to our house and when he needs help, I hold them in place while he drills and hammers. We stretch tape measures across walls and floors, imagining how we will remodel this house room by room with short-term fixes and long-term improvements.
Unbelievable as it might seem, I’m having fun. Kevin uses his creativity and vision and constructs something tangible that has purpose and can be called finished. Very different than the never-done-often-invisible professional work he has done. This productivity is messy, and I’m on-hand with my vacuum to vanquish the sawdust, usually before the work is done, so I vac again, and liken my contribution to that of a dental assistant suctioning mid-filling. Cleaning up after a handy husband might not be any other woman’s idea of fun, and it doesn’t’ rank first on my fun-o-meter, but I’m blessed to have these days with my husband before he is employed full-time again, as we build desks and a life together.
Visit us again, Steve. I guarantee you’ll have fun.