Every weekend for as long as I can remember, my father would get up on a Saturday,
put on a worn sweatshirt and he'd scrape away at the squeaky old wheel of a house that we lived in.
I wouldn't even call it restoration; it was a ritual, catharsis.
He would spend all year scraping paint with this old heat gun and a spackle knife,
and then he would repaint where he scraped, only to begin again the following year.
Scraping and re-scraping, painting and repainting: the work of an old house is never meant to be done.
The day my father turned 52, I got a phone call.
My mother was on the line to tell me that doctors had found a lump in his stomach
terminal cancer, she told me, and he had been given only three weeks to live.
I immediately moved home to Poughkeepsie, New York,
to sit with my father on death watch, not knowing what the next days would bring us.
To keep myself distracted, I rolled up my sleeves,
and I went about finishing what he could now no longer complete -- the restoration of our old home.
When that looming three-week deadline came and then went, he was still alive.
And at three months, he joined me. We gutted and repainted the interior.
At six months, the old windows were refinished, and at 18 months, the rotted porch was finally replaced.