Living in the House that Bob Built

Living in the House that Bob Built

While we were still reeling from the funeral and before we had the memorial at the cabin, the washing machine stopped working. Having a one year old in cloth diapers, this ranks high in the crisis scale. Here is the condensed version of the events. I found the warranty information on the washer and called the repair people. They came and were efficient and supportive and said it wasn’t the washer, it was the water coming into the washer; we needed a plumber. We called the plumber and he replaced the valves that were the problem. The problem, however, was not fixed. So, called the plumber again and he said if that did not fix it the problem was with the well. So, called the well people and they came and pulled the pump and found a hole in the pipe. Obviously the pipe had to be replaced, but, they ask, do I want to replace the pump? Since the pump had been running 24/7 for a long while and since it was 19 years old, I said yes, replace the pump. The silt problem that we expected to be worse for a day after the well work was done did not go away (we have had a minor silt problem for many months). In fact, it was worse than before the well work was done. So, called the well people back and they said that it sounded like the well was caving in on itself and we had two choices, repair the well or dig a new one. Since we had good water (except for the silt) we decided to repair it. That fixed the washer problem and the long standing silt problem. First major house issues solved! All of these were issues that Bob would have dealt with! And all of this happened within two weeks of when he died.

I think I heard him chuckle and say, “You passed that test well! Let’s see what else we have!”

After we finished with the funeral, got water, and then had the memorial service, I needed to get on with the necessities of living in the house that Bob built – literally. Bob was the foreman of the building crew that built our wonderful post-and-beam construction home. It was his baby and we both loved the house and everything about it. Without Bob, I had a few issues with the house and Bob and I had discussed a few changes that were in planning stages. I wanted to go on with the plans and needed to fix the problems.

Our daughter and her family moved in with us about seven months before Bob died. That necessitated some changes in the house. We were excited about creating a multi-generational home. We knew that each family needed its own space. Bob and I had identified two rooms (our bedroom and a small office) that would be our sitting room and bedroom. That required that we move our bedroom to the office and make the bedroom our sitting room. We thought it would be reasonable to replace the carpet in the bedroom (it was the original carpet from when the house was built 35 years ago!) Also, Bob had built a built-in headboard for our bed. It was built (a better description is wedged) between two of the posts. When he built it we both commented that we hoped we would never need to move it! Our bed was a king-size bed and the new bedroom was small, so I decided to get a smaller bed. Another thing that I needed was a washer and dryer that I could get to (ours was in the basement and my knees don’t do stairs these days). We also needed heating and air conditioning put in a building that Bob had built for our workshop/studio. All of these things required that I coordinate getting carpet, a new washer/dryer, new heating and air conditioning, and a new mattress and bed. And sequencing this was all like a string of dominoes; needed the new bed before we moved things out of the bedroom to get the new carpet and the new washer/dryer had to be installed after the carpet.

It took three orders delivered to the house (over three months) to get an undamaged heating and air unit. It took three ordering tries over two and a half months to get the washer/dryer actually in the store. Carpeting was accomplished without a hitch. The new mattress and foundation came without a hitch. Finally, my two rooms were taking shape. They have become my sanctuary. I am surrounded by the house Bob built, have my own new bed (and now a gorgeous bed frame), and I can do my laundry whenever I want!

So, you might ask, how did all of that feel? I had HUGE batches of frustration with the store that was providing appliances. Changing beds was a jumbled mix of emotions: Pleased that I had a comfortable bed; overwhelming sadness that I was sleeping in it alone; big helpings of guilt that I was excited about my new bed; frustration that I was dealing with all of this alone; waves of a sense of independence as I could do my own laundry. The carpeting was fairly emotion free. My daughter and her husband were incredibly supportive and did my laundry easily and without any sense of imposition. But I felt horrible! I am an independent soul and depending on someone (other than bob) for such a basic need felt terrible. Overarching all of this was the clear knowledge that Bob is the one who would have taken care of most of this.

I think we passed our second test. And this whole process served to keep us from really feeling the loss of Bob. We were so busy we had no time to feel what the house felt like with out Bob.

This was about four months after Bob died.


  1. Sue McManus

    And the “rest of the world” didn’t seem to notice the loss either. But we did and still remember. Bob trained you well. Hugs

  2. Jan

    Thank you Susan. I appreciate your support.

  3. Jan

    Hmmm, I never call you Susan! Wonder where that came from? Are you feeling more formal?


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