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Thursday, October 29, 2015
There is for everyone, “That Day.”The day you realized you were not just a kid anymore. The day you knew you would never play for the Yankees (or the company softball team). The day you knew you were in love. The day you knew your marriage (s) was over; and then there is the day you realized you were old.
I have always been somewhat afraid of heights. I was never a tree climber, I had trouble looking down from the window of a tall building, I will go on an airplane, but they make me nervous.
When I was in college, I had a summer job working with a painting crew. On my last day of this job I had to climb a forty plus foot ladder to apply an acidic brick cleaner to a building. (I was going to say the ladder was sixty-foot, but I was on the job with my friend Charley who sometimes reads this blog and I’m lucky if he lets me get away with forty foot.)
Climbing that ladder scared the bejesus out of me and I could not get to the top rung. I had to stretch my arm as far as I could to reach the last brick. With my arm stretched out, the brick wash trickled down my arm and into my eyes, or close enough to feel like it was in my eyes. I had to scramble blindly down the ladder.
It was on that day that I realized painting was not in my future, not if ladders and height scared me. I also was a lousy painter. Everyone thinks they can paint, but house painting takes a skill, and I did not have it.
Years later, when I owned my own home, there were chores which required climbing ladders. I didn’t have the money to hire someone else to do those chores. I was still scared of ladders, but young enough to push through my fear.
The job I hated the most was the once a year gutter cleaning. It involved many two story trips up a ladder and then the nasty job of scooping decaying leaves and gunk out of the gutter. I did this chore every year for thirty years. On my last home, the roof was one extra story high, but for two years I still managed to clean the gutters. I never looked down.
The year I turned 55, I prepared to clean the gutters as usual. I raised the ladder, propped it against the house, secured the bottom with brick wedges, grabbed a trowel and a towel, and ascended the ladder.
Half way up the ladder, I looked down; memories of acidic brick wash trickling into my eye while up a forty-foot ladder (by now it was 60 feet) flooded my mind and my legs turned to jelly.
I climbed down, lowered the ladder and put it away. I called a local handy-man to clean my gutters. On that day I could never climb a ladder again, and I realized I could now afford to pay a young person to climb them for me.
That was the day I knew I was old.