Saturday, April 30, 2016

Where moth and rust consume

That sounds like a conversation at my kitchen table!
That’s what she told me outside church after Mass the other day.  The roof repair estimators had arrived just as folks were leaving, stirring curiosity.  I explained that they were here to identify the sources of the leaks damaging the church ceiling.  The week before, the first assessor had walked about on the roof, but determined that information was needed from the “attic” -- the catwalk and crawlspace between ceiling and roof.  Access is possible only through the small square hatch above the head of the Sacred Heart statue over the main doors.    
Now I admit to being in a state of some agitation, as this seemingly simple effort had taken on pricey complexity.  The roof assessor called me a day or two later to inform me that a scissor-lift was required to reach that hatch, which apt but arcane piece of equipment must be rented at a price not less than $1000.  That’s right, folks, a cool grand, just for a look-see.  Now do you understand my agitation?
Fueled by indignation as I shared the full story with the insatiable onlookers, I pointed out that the roof to the church was fine -- fine! -- since it dates to 2003, quite young in roof-years.  Moreover, I had personally seen to the re-flashing of the seams and edges, and the re-sealing of the eyebrow vents, early in my tenure as Pastor, not later than 2008;  more recently, I had been veritably breathing down the neck of our gutter liners and downspout junctions.
As leaks persisted and plaster fell in chunks, evidence pointed to the eyebrow vents as culprits; but I was convinced that something else was wrong, because it could not possibly be anything so recently repaired.

Don't you raise your eyebrows at me, young lady!
At this point I was forced to admit that after ten years as Pastor here, I have reached a point where I have fixed, patched, or replaced almost everything.  It seems only humblest reason to expect it all to work, doesn’t it?  But no!  Some things insist on breaking again, sometimes in the same way, and sometimes in new and creative ways.   Which leads to my cri de coeur: didn’t I just fix that?
That’s when she said: That sounds like a conversation at my kitchen table!  She explained that her family, too, has been in their home for long enough that their seemingly “brand-new” appliances fail, and “recent” repairs and restorations crumble.  The only remedy for the anguish and confusion is to retrieve the receipt, often brittle and yellowed, revealing the purchase or work might not be so recent as the inverted telescope of memory shows.  It’s a rear-view that should come with a warning in reverse of the one on your car:  objects in mirror may be further away than they seem.
So yes, folks, I am at that stage as “householder” where the paper trail tells a startling tale of years gone by, and original sin working its ways on the material world in rust, decay, and failure.  All things bright and beautiful eventually break and need repair.  Alas.  Does this sound like a conversation at your kitchen table?
Later that day of the conversation, the assessment unfolded a happier tale that not all is turned to dust quite yet.  The culprits are indeed likely the eyebrow vents, not the whole roof, and not the parts we resealed so recently, but underlying caulk in joints untended since Stricker strode the parish.  This too can be repaired.  We’ll need to keep after those gutter liners too, of course, most pressingly the expansion joints. 
But the really good news came when the roofers told me they had grown so impatient waiting for the hours-delayed scissor lift that they found they could access the hatch by combining two ladders they had on their truck, so they cancelled the rental and the $1000 expense.
And that’s just the sort of happy news that I hope you, too, get to include sometime soon in a conversation at your kitchen table.

Monsignor Smith

No comments: