Marriage in the Time of Home Renovation

The house was under renovation from the day I moved in four and a half years ago. If I am to believe the tales of my husband and stepdaughters, it has always been in some phase of improvement or other since shortly after it was purchased more than a decade and a half ago.

Once, my younger stepdaughter asked her mother,

"How can you stand the sound of constant hammering?"

At this point, my husband Rob was re-siding the house, a project that technically isn't completed. His late wife was in the last months of her life. According to my stepdaughter, she replied serenely,

"Because it is the sound of progress."

Shortly after Rob and I married in the summer of 2007, he and a friend pummeled the back stairs into concrete blocks and then he took out the door, expanded the back porch, rebuilt the deck in place of the missing porch and put in a set of double doors. But the steps? Cinder blocks. This will be our fourth winter gingerly negotiating the icy blocks and this in spite of the fact that we have even replaced the sidewalk leading up to them.


One renovation leads to another to be regularly interrupted by the unending demands of simple maintenance not to mention - but I will - the demands of job, children and elderly parents.

It's really no wonder at all that the complete overhaul of the front full half of our main floor over a year ago is still not done.

Last night, Rob finished laying the tile. The floor was supposed to be done mid-August but was interrupted by an urgent plea from my mother-in-law to drive the 12 hours through mountains to her condo to help her pack.

"It's not that much," she said. "I've packed a lot and it's already in storage and I've purged."

And because we helped her pack for her move to the condo in the first place, neither of us believed her.

Packaging her out to storage units (yes, plural) to await clearance from the U.S. government, so she can join her American husband in Arizona set our renovations back about a month, was a full day's work for a solid week.

Rob's back and shoulders are no longer 25 and frankly, mine aren't either. When the washing machine slipped of the dolly and near crushed him, my Facebook status read,

"We are forever done helping people move. We'll be happy to lend the truck and pack boxes, but we are now officially too old to fetch and carry."

People who know us wonder at the constant state of undone in our house. People who know me marvel at my sanguine attitude about it all.

"Someday, it will be done," I tell them though my wise massage therapist just shakes her head and says,

"It will never be done."

Perhaps not. Maybe we'll end up like that old Remington heiress in San Francisco with a puzzle box house that echoes with the sounds of phantom renovation workers, unfinished and slightly Stephen King-ish.

Or not.

The important thing is the progress. It's not as if nothing occurs or rooms take on a Miss Havisham aura. Things proceed. We are not prisoners of the projects. We took a three-week holiday over the summer, hosted my mother for two weeks around Thanksgiving, and regularly attend our daughter's soccer and school events. Renovation fits around our life and not the reverse.

And that's progress.


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