Sunday, July 17, 2016

Thanks for the Memories

The sun is shining, the pool water is 78 degrees, and there aren’t any home improvement projects on the horizon. Ahhh. Finally a relaxing day in our suburban California paradise. Here I come pool! What, I thought, could spoil this idyll? 

“You should replace your roof,” our 86 year-old neighbor called out from the perch of his lawn chair.
“Good morning, Harold,” I said plucking the newspaper from the driveway. “But our roof is fine.” 
“Your roof’s at least seven years old,” he said eyeing the shingles on our house as if he were a California Highway Patrol stopping a drunk driver on St. Patrick’s Day. Ever since Christmastime when Harold and Norma had gotten a new roof for their house, the 86 year-old had become the self-styled expert at home coverings doling out advice as he saw fit. Like now. “You should replace it.”
“Thanks, Harold, but it’s fine.”
“Oh,” he shrugged. “You want your roof to fall in? Well that’s your business.”


Months ago when the fear and excitement of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino was sweeping California bringing promises of wet weather and an end to the drought, a bajillion Golden State homeowners got their roofs redone. You couldn’t walk down a street where there wasn’t at least half a dozen homes getting their roofs stripped and re-shingled. Harold and Jean were two such eager homeowners. Since our elderly neighbors had witnessed the entire history of our house from our moving in day stretching back to the California Gold Rush, we asked them how old our roof was. 

“It was just redone,” Harold had said at the time. “About a year or two before you got here.” Which comforted us, giving Mr. Wonderful and me the confidence not to re-roof our house in the pre-El Nino rush. 

But now in one morning stroll to fetch the paper, our roof had aged becoming seven years old? Hmmm. Maybe Harold’s memory was off?

Taking the baby out for a walk I saw our 85 year-old neighbor in the driveway.
“Afternoon, Norma—”
“Harold’s wrong about the age of your roof,” she said hauling grocery bags out of her car.  
“Excuse me?”
“You roof’s at least ten years old.”

I found this nugget of information disturbing for several reasons: 1) Our neighbors discussed our roof’s history when we weren’t present; 2) Kids grow up fast, but our roof was aging faster than my child; 2) and 3) I still wanted to get in the pool but the pressure of buying a new roof was inserting cracks into my perfect summer idyll. Maybe Norma’s memory was off?

By the time I returned from the park with a sleepy baby, I saw both our elderly neighbors standing in their front yard, with another man wearing a fedora, staring at our house.  

“Hi Harold, Norma—”
“This is my brother, Steve,” Norma said hitching her thumb towards the hat-wearer in their threesome.
“And they’re both wrong,” Stephen said. “Your roof is over 25 years old.”
“What?! But they said—”
“Forget what we said,” Harold said tapping his head. “The memory is going. For both of us.”

And in one fell swoop my perfect summer day became frenzied with googling “new roofs”, “shingle roofs”, and “cool roofs”. So much for enjoying our pool. The idyll was gone. Arrrggggg. Harold and Norma, thanks for your memories.