I had about decided this floor was going to be the end of me. Or, Mother was going to be the end of me because she was so frustrated with my efforts to deal with the floor as they only seemed to make life harder for her.
It didn’t seem that big a deal in the beginning. I thought about all the steps for weeks and decided I had worked through all the issues and had a good and a not too difficult solution. First, pack up all the knick-knacks and books and stuff that cover every surface and stack all the boxes in my bedroom. Second, hire some teens from the church to rip up the thirty plus year’s old, red carpeting, hack up the underlying pad and cart it all out to the street where the garbage trucks would pick it up. And third, clean up the dust and dirt and put down a layer or two of MinWax Refresher for wood floors and, voila, pretty, shiny hardwoods! Granted, the floors are as old as the ninety year old house, so a little stained and marked up here and there, but hardwoods, after all, and that was worth the work it might take. Right?
I talked to Mother about the plan for several weeks before it was time to put it in place. She would need that amount of time to get adjusted as she does not like change or surprises. She never has. The only times I ever heard her and Daddy fight were when he brought some traveling minister or missionary home without giving Mother weeks of notice. Her stress level went through the roof and his frustration went right with it. Shouldn’t we be gracious and share what we have with others? That was Daddy’s take. Mother’s was, I am worn out and now I have to cook extra and make sure the house is clean and that I look my best and you’re just now telling me, while your guest is sitting in the other room?
For Daddy, giving of himself and his home was never about what it looked like or how someone was dressed. It was about sharing his love of God with someone else who loved God and who needed a meal or a place to stay. For Mother, routine and space and time were the things she needed to be prepared to let in the world. I saw Daddy learn what it took to have peace at home and he didn’t bring people home after that. It didn’t stop him from going where the people were, though, as he poured out his life in loving people who needed Jesus. And Mother joined in willingly, in the routine of Sundays and Wednesday nights and the occasional extra meeting at church. As long as she had notice ahead of time.
So, a change as big as pulling up the carpet and pad in a house she and Daddy bought nearly thirty years ago, red carpet included, was big. Not that she liked the carpeting. She frequently tells the story of how when they were house shopping and found this one, she hated the red carpeting and all the dark mahogany colored ten inch baseboards and wide window casings and door frames and open beams across the ceiling of the living room and dining room. But she loved the big yard and the garden and the quiet neighborhood, so she finally said yes and their years of enjoyment and hard work began; and not once in all the years of seeing the red carpet expanse across the dining and living room, did she or I ever think of how the red carpet is rolled out for royalty or celebrities. After all, this was a simple home, not a hot spot for important people and so the red carpeting seemed strange, not exotic, and was a color to be tolerated and a grateful warmth underfoot on cold nights.
Now, all this time later, as I take Daddy’s place in maintaining this life and this house, I look around and see the things that need attention and beyond the clutter and dust and cobwebs, I see the potential beauty of a 1930’s craftsman style interior to this little Spanish style house and I think, why not uncover all that beauty? Why not let it shine? Isn’t that worth the effort?
Of course, any project sounds easier that it actually is, particularly when you uncover a 4’ x 5’ section of the hardwoods under the dining room carpet that have been badly stained and are covered with some thick, hard, crusty layer of what appears to be carpet glue or underlying pad that got wet and ground into the floorboards. The area rug I purchased didn’t cover it all and all the smaller rugs I tried didn’t work in the space, so the only thing left to do was to clean and re-stain that spot; much easier said than done, of course. After lots of thought and research to determine the best plan, stripper was poured on, scraped off, the wood scoured, bleached, then vinegar added to stop the bleaching effect, wood soap to clean it all, then new stain, then MinWax finisher. The stain was too dark so, once again, stripper was poured on, scraped off, scoured, and mopped, then a lighter stain. Cherry wood stain. Who knew the original floor stain was cherry? I don’t even know what kind of wood the hardwoods are, but the Cherry stain comes closest to matching and, God willing, we’re on our last round of MinWax and then it will be done. Whew! This has been going on since last November when those kids showed up and made quick work of getting rid of the carpet and pad. That part really did turn out to be the easiest.
I struggled with getting it right and getting it done. The vision in my mind of a fresh, cozy palate of warm golden floors and tones of teal and light blue, beige and chocolate in the new area rugs and décor of the transformed living room pulling me on. Mother struggled with feeling out of control, her familiar, comfortable world turned upside down, her path to the bathroom, kitchen and dining room all obstructed and difficult. She erupted, more than once, with a fevered pitch to her voice as she demanded to know why I couldn’t wait until she was dead to change everything! Why I thought it necessary to disrupt everything!
We’ve come to a new understanding of each other. I understand now that just because she said ok to the changes, that didn’t mean she really wanted them done or understood why I thought they needed to happen. And, I understand now that what I was really saying was that her style of life, her decorations were ugly and dated, which really meant I was disrespecting her. I’ve apologized for that and she agreed we had to go forward; we’ve come too far to go back. What she’s come to understand about me, I’m not sure, other than she’s had to remind herself that she’s grateful I’m here, because it means she continues to live in her own home.
We’re in that tug of war between the middle-aged and the elderly with a sometime energy and resolve and drive on my part to transform the space that surrounds me and a sometime energy and resolve and drive on Mother’s part to just keep on living through the pain and slowness and difficulty that is old age. It is said, iron sharpens iron, and I find that to be true with Mother and me. She’s a tough, old bird and I’m just as tough. I don’t know that I knew that about either of us before, but now it’s as clear as that shine on the hardwood floors. Neither of us will give up on making it through this journey. Thank God for that because it means we’ll survive and be the better for it at the end. And that end will be with hardwoods, not old red carpeting.