BY NORBERT RUG
I am a septuagenarian (look it up), as such I am not quite as active as I once was. No more roofing, no more biking and no more volleyball. I now have to pay people to do things that I used to get paid to do. I need people to do carpentry, painting and plumbing.
My home and I were at odds with each other. Health concerns like COPD, edema which is the build-up of fluid that causes my feet and legs to become swollen, peripheral neuropathy in my feet caused by the chemo I had for cancer and arthritis were making it difficult for me to live in my family home of over 40 years where the only bathroom and my bedroom was up a flight of 16 stairs from the main living area. It was a scary trip.
We considered moving to a ranch style house or at least a home with a bathroom and bedroom on the first floor. None of us including my wife and I were very happy with this option. Our grandchildren were almost in tears when we told them we might have to move. They told us they loved our house and wanted us to stay there. Our home has been a safe harbor for many people that now range from 8 to 50 years of age. If we bought a new place we would have to have our belongings packed up and moved to the new place. The one thing a moving company can’t pack up is the over 40 years of memories from sleepovers where the living room floor looked like an emergency shelter to teaching my grandson how to play Canasta in my Man Cave.
We decided to put a small addition off the back of our house to make it more livable, a bedroom, a walk in closet and a small bathroom. That way our house will serve our needs for as long as necessary. A project of this magnitude will require quite a bit of capital but not as much as buying a new home and moving.
We worked on the ground work for putting an addition on our home for a few months. It wasn’t as easy or as cheap as we thought it would be. I’ve been as stressed as a cat that wandered into a tennis racket factory. We lined up a surveyor and had our lot surveyed. We then found an architect to draw a plot plan to present to the city to get a variance. For what these people charged, I think I went into the wrong profession.
I called several builders and most of them never bothered to show. Three contractors did show up though. The first one wanted to give us vaulted ceilings and a few other modern amenities at a price that was in the stratosphere. First off we wanted something that went with the architecture of our house that was built in 1919 and vaulted ceilings just wouldn’t make it. We have high ceilings sure, but none of them are vaulted.
I had a funny feeling about the second contractor when I met him. He was considerably cheaper. I worked 40 years running my own handyman/contracting company couldn’t see how he could do a quality job at the price he quoted.
The third contractor that came over was Michael Harrington (208-6995). He came from out of town and wasn’t even licensed to work in Lockport at that time. I felt at ease with him from the start. The bid he gave us was in the middle. It was higher than I had anticipated but most projects of this type always cost more and take longer that you think. Michael got a city license and has been back a few times for additional projects.
I also have a few friends that put my window air conditioners in the spring and take them out in the fall. There is no way I could lift these much less put them in the window without falling down.
When I was younger, I used to snow blow all the way around the block. I figured I was dressed and out in the cold anyway, why not help people out? In the winter my wife does most of the snow shoveling now but I worry about her doing it and try to watch her thru the window.
Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks. Emergency rooms in the Snow Belt gear up for extra cases when enough of the white stuff has fallen to force folks out of their homes armed with shovels or snow blowers according to Health.Harvard.edu. Occasionally though neighbors help out by doing our snow. I am thankful for this. I am also thankful for the people that cut our lawn for us. One less job for my wife.
Fortunately I have managed to find a few good people I can rely on. After all the people I have helped in my lifetime it is nice to see good karma come back to me.
Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport. His blog is WhyWNY.home.blog