Things I worry about less as I age: Bravado

So our gutters are clogged up (again) and my wonderful husband was about to climb up there and dig them out last Saturday.  He was going to do this hisself because we are underemployed right now, and cannot afford to hire someone to come and do for us.  He was hesitant about getting up on the ladder, so I went to exchange my faux-Crocs for actual, lace-up shoes and climb up myself.

Doesn’t sound like such a big deal, does it?  Just climb on up there and use the garden trowel and the hose to show those downspouts who’s boss.  And I’m way shorter than he is, so I’m naturally more nimble.  Well, it’s not all that simple. Ya gotta see our house.  We have a ranch-type house, which is actually a bi-level.

This means that one end of the house looks like a plain old ranch which is kind of built into a slope, and the other end of the house looks like a two-story home.  We have a six-foot folding ladder which we set up on the back deck, that allows us to reach the roof on that side of the house.  This does NOT, however, protect us from falling arse-over-teakettle off the opposite end of the roof, which boasts almost a 20-foot-drop to the hard-packed clay of our Tennessee yard.  Or to the unforgiving cement of our driveway.

And of course the downspouts that are clogged are the ones at the high end of the roof.  For Pete’s sake, there is a BIRD’S NEST on one of the downspouts at the high end, and I worry about the baby birds leaving the nest prematurely and splatting in the yard!  This is quite an unforgiving height, people!

I got to the top of ladder, had my palms touching the shingles, and then I looked off to my left, toward the high end of the roof.  I saw that drop, almost as if for the first time, and I contemplated the consequences of falling off that end of the roof and landing with an ominous thud sound on that hard-packed clay ground.  It struck me that if one of us fell off that end of the roof, that it would undoubtedly mean hospital time.  SERIOUS hospital time, if not actual death, or worse.

Keep in mind that in my earlier days, I was very adventurous and somewhat athletic.  I mountain biked, played softball, Rollerbladed, and in my spare time I served two communities as a volunteer firefighter.  In that capacity I did many silly things, including capering about on the roofs of peoples’ houses, and I did them with alacrity.  I’m not certain why I was so foolhardy back then.  Part of that bravado can be attributed to indestructible, fast-healing youth, part of it to not wanting to be seen as weak by the people around me.

And I can now acknowledge that I did have a delusional trust in my turn-out gear’s ability to protect me from any and all harm, although that might have been a tad naive:  I’m not certain how steel-shanked rubber boots and a fire helmet could protect me in the event of a 12-foot fall, but then again I never devoted a lot of thought to that potentiality.  I only knew that if I followed procedure and wore my equipment properly, that nothing bad would ever happen to me, ever!

Yep, I was delusional.

When I was a firefigher, I was much younger and therefore capable of withstanding more damage and healing more rapidly.  I was also covered by health insurance courtesy of my full-time jobs and the fire departments.  So just in case something awful DID happen to me, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I’d have to try to walk off a 12-foot-drop from a steeply-pitched roof rather than go to the emergency room.

There was a combination of powerful forces influencing my decision last Saturday:  1.) I’m older and don’t bounce as well as I used to, so there’s a good chance of me being seriously injured, and 2.) I’m uninsured now, which means that I have to be careful about treating an embedded splinter with respect in order to avoid huge medical bills–much less DOING SOMETHING STUPID LIKE CLIMBING UP ON A ROOF TO CLEAN THE DAMNED GUTTERS.  Plus, I am a tad older now, and my flexibility, strength and reaction time is just a bit ‘lesser’ than it was at my peak.  I really shouldn’t be tempting fate.

I rationalized this all out and convinced myself I was being sensible and careful by forbidding Rick to go up on the roof, and declining to climb up there myself.  But there was still that little, smirky voice in the back of my head whispering “Chickenshit.”  The bullheaded, stubborn part of me wanted to push through this fear.  Even today, the bullhead still wants me to put some long pants and tie a long rope around my waist and drop it over the ridge vent to tie to the truck bumper in the driveway, and get this shite done.  And the chickenshit part of me says “Don’t be stupid.  Let it go.”

So I’m gonna just let it go.  The gutters can overflow until we can afford to hire someone to come and clean them out for us.  Now all I have to do is get over the shame of being chickenshit scairt.  But being chickenshit scairt and in one piece is better than being broken, or dead.

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