It was actually my wife’s idea. Lose the clunky stand-alone bookshelf on the second floor landing and build in a bookcase that wraps around the stairwell. Four years ago, her father called a buddy with a sawmill up north. The buddy sold us an oak tree. Then he quarter-sawed it into planks, delivered it to my father-in-law’s shop, and in a matter of months, we had a stack of lumber that was milled to provide tops, bottoms, sides, and shelves of a bookcase. Some assembly required.
“I’ll do the finishing,” I said. “I don’t want this to be a slap-dash job.”
It wasn’t. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. The rift and quarter-sawn white oak was sanded. It was filled and sanded again. It was stained. It was varnished. Multiple times. The varnish was sanded down to even it and provide a smooth base for the next coat. And the next. And the next.
“Are you ever going to finish those bookshelves?” my wife asked.
“No sense paying someone to do something I can do myself,” I responded.
This week, as her uncle and I measured, re-measured, plumbed and leveled and trimmed out and touched up the enormous room elephant that this project had become, I shared my frustration with a colleague.
“I swear that’s the last time I volunteer on a home project!” I told him. “It’s not like I couldn’t do it. The finish work is gorgeous, if I do say so myself. But the time! I swear I would have been way ahead of the game if we had just hired someone to begin with.”
“Kind of like a pro se divorce, isn’t it?” he quipped, referring to the 80% of divorces where the couples don’t use any lawyers to assist them.
“As I recall, you don’t do a lot of wood finishing, do ya?”
“Ya learned a lot ya didn’t know before, sounds like.”
“The understatement of the year!”
“Like I said, sounds like a pro se divorce! Hey, I know ya got “skills,” but how much time did ya give up, and how much of it did ya have to do over ’cause ya didn’t get it right the first time?”
It’s not that I don’t know why those 80% try to do it themselves. I get that! Last week I helped a woman who did it herself. She also transferred part of her retirement to her Ex. But she made a mistake and had to do it over. This time, the Ex had a lawyer handle the transfer order. And she had me look it over to be sure it was all in order, which it was.
I probably should have hired you in the first place,” she said when we were done. “Thanks so much!”
It had a familiar ring.
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