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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 66 - Renovations

Gayle Woodward settles happily into her new job, her children thrive – then her father-in-law dies after a stroke.

Gayle’s account of family life in New Zealand has delighted readers around the world. For earlier chapters please click on Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine. Hey, this is the real thing, not some fictional soap opera!

I was keen to get to work in the mornings and as I became more confident with the copier ‘beast’ and even successfully cleaned the wires, I began to enjoy the autonomy and busyness of my job. I became friendly with some first year female teachers who had started the same day as me. They congregated around the tables in the resource room to chat about their worries and I could often provided solutions to their problems by calling on my own work in schools. Some of the older teachers were often stressed and sharp with me but most were grateful for the work I did and the help I gave.

Sometimes I could hear peals of laughter coming from the women in the other office. The typists would have heads bent down over their keyboards as they shook with mirth. I would have to leave my room and go to investigate, trying to extract the reason for the laughter through giggles, which made my task impossible.

Karyn enrolled in a gymnastics class and was soon promoted to a competition group. Gym classes were twice a week and meant my car became a taxi again after school time. Mark began to play basketball and also needed transport to the courts, in the opposite direction to the gym hall where Karyn needed to be.

Jeff had quickly made new friends in the senior school. He made the first XI and in winter the First XV. He had new mates around to swim in our pool and sit in the spa pool late into the night, talking. He did not, however, appear to be doing much schoolwork and definitely did not do homework.

But Mark was in his element. He had made a friend also called Mark, who seemed to be as fast a worker as our Mark. Both boys were good at maths and both were very competitive. Fierce rivalry between the two meant better and better test scores for both. He also began to play cricket for the school and football in the winter.

It was a busy time. Weeks sped by and weekends passed in a blur of washing and housework. It was a big house and took many hours to clean. I loved my job and I was happy in the busyness of a vibrant family home, but there was no time for me to write. It was a very lean time for writing and it astonishes me when I look back through my poetry journal that there was nothing written in those busy teenage family years.

We redecorated Mark’s bedroom first as the striped wallpaper looked very dated and it was deemed to be a small enough room to resurrect our painting and wallpapering skills. Woody cut and hung pale creamy wallpaper while I acted as his ‘boy’, refilling water troughs and collecting scraps of sticky paper for the rubbish. When the room was finished with freshly painted white ceilings and woodwork it looked sparkling and it gave us confidence to move onto other rooms.

But the next redecoration was not planned. Woody received the terrible news that his father had died after a stroke. In his normal tight-lipped, silent manner, he did not weep or talk about his grief. Instead, he took up tools and began to dismantle walls, down at the foot of the staircase in what would become our foyer. The house shuddered as crowbars forced apart many-nailed timbers, and electric saws shrieked. Dust filled the air as he hammered, and the anguish that he felt was evident in every strike. I was rather frightened by the power and pain exhibited there but knew better than to intrude.

When he had finished there was a hole which would become the front door to our house, and the old entry to the apartment downstairs was gone. A laundry space was now in the area where we had once entered the house and when water was brought to the site, my washing machine and the dryer could be carried down the stairs to their new home.

Once Frank’s funeral was over we could replace walls in new places and begin to paint and make the new foyer look like it was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. Certainly I had given no input to this new plan. Woody did not ask me what I had envisaged and we had never discussed the order that our renovations would take.


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