Odds and Ends and Falling Apart

Posted on: June 27, 2010

by Deborah in the UP

The first few winters were dealt with by both of us snowing shoeing out to the car, digging it out of the most recent snowfall, and going to town. It was an event. We would each load up wood in our respective stoves, mine the cook stove, Pete the downstairs furnace, and hope it would keep the house warm until we got home again. Often it did not… a very chilly homecoming.

Winter mornings were met with lighting a kerosene lamp for light while having our coffee and toast. It didn’t get light outside until 9am, and it was dark again by 4:30pm. Depending on the cloud cover, a lamp may burn all day to chase the gloom from the shadows. I spent many hours washing soot out of the well used globes during those long, cold months. One morning, we left to shoe out to the car for a trip to town, getting an early start, around 9am. It was to be a full day: laundry, errands, groceries, all which would be brought back in on a sled. That 1.2 mile trip taking a half hour or more, longer the heavier the sled was. As we came up the final stretch to the house that day, I noticed a light in the kitchen window, and could see the lamp was still burning. Commenting that we had forgotten to extinguish it, Pete got very upset at me, saying that I was the one who left it burning, and it would have been my fault if the house had burned down! MY fault? He didn’t agree that things of that nature were a joint responsibility.

After that, only one of us went to town. The other stayed home to keep the fires going, or to prevent them.

In the spring, after the snow had melted, but before the trees had fully leafed out, there was another incident.

There was always a metal ash can in the basement for, naturally, ashes. I would bring the cold ashes from the cook stove down every few days, and dump them in with the remnants from the furnace. When the ash can was full or mostly full, Pete would haul the can, on a sled, out to an area away from the house and empty it… as he did that day, then went on to other chores. He was on the roof an hour or two later, brushing the chimney perhaps, and I went out to talk to him. Facing away from the house as I went out the door, I saw flames. I brought it to his attention as I ran to the area, right where he‘d been dumping the ashes. Apparently there were still some hot coals within all the ash and they had caught the dry brush on fire! While he started raking the fire apart, I grabbed a hose, attached it to our holding tank and started filling buckets. Since the hose wouldn’t reach that far, I dragged full buckets, two at a time on the sled out to douse the fire.

A half hour later, the near disaster was over, fire fully extinguished. That’s when Pete started in on me. Those hot coals just HAD to have come from MY cook stove, therefore the fire was MY fault.

I was beginning to see a pattern.

One winter morning, while we were both still going out to the car, we had to shovel off 18” of snow from the previous night. It was really deep, covering the windshield of the jeep, much more than a little scraper or brush could deal with. To me, the only logical thing to do, was remove some of the snow first, so I took the plastic shovel out of the back of the car, and began lifting the top foot of snow off the hood of the car, in segments, 6“ at a time. The plastic shovel never touched the surface of the car, but once again, Pete started to yell at me, this time for scratching his car with the shovel. The plastic shovel.. The same material the scraper was made of. His attacks were confusing me, and I was getting real tired of it. I had thought that perhaps it was ‘cabin fever’… being cooped up together for days and weeks, not seeing other people, was getting to him, so even though it upset me, I let it slide. He didn’t.

That same winter he accused me of being stupid enough to leave matches and paper on the floor next to the wood furnace, even though it was he, not I, that always lit and maintained that fire.

The spare bedroom was only 10×10, but was perfect for an office, sewing room, even a spare bedroom for guests. There were lots and lots of books, mostly mine, medical books, cookbooks, how to books, nature books and my favorite authors… and all of them needed shelves. I bought some attractive wooden brackets and stained them to match the woodwork. Pete installed them and then set rough sawn planks as the shelves. It looked great. The expanse over the window was a problem, but I had dealt with that issue in my last house, so offered the solution: turn the bracket upside down, attaching it to the shelf from underneath, then securing it to a stud to take the weight. Did the trick nicely, even creating in-place bookends. The next time Pete’s parents came for a visit, his dad remarked what a great idea Pete had come up with. Pete said thank you, never mentioning my contribution. A month or two later, being very restless and not wanting to disturb Pete, I was sleeping in that room, on the floor. During the night, one of the other shelves came crashing down, burying my legs in books! It seemed that Pete had not put those brackets into studs as they should have been, just into the drywall… but then it was MY fault for putting heavy books on it. The next morning, limping with bruised legs, I told him it was a good thing his mother hadn’t been sleeping there when the shelf let loose. He fixed it promptly, the right way.

I had spent hours and hours laying Berber carpet tiles in the bedroom, hallway, bathroom and spare bedroom, getting them to line up just right. Even when the color changed, the pattern flowed perfectly. When Pete’s dad saw it, he looked at Pete and said ‘nice job!’. I immediately said thank you. This was the one time I would not let him take credit for my hard work! I had spent too much back aching time on my hands and knees for him to do that yet again. Pete scowled and me for a week for ‘embarrassing’ him in front of his father. I was starting not to care.

The pattern continued: If something went right, he got the credit, any time anything went wrong it was MY fault, even if I had nothing to do with it. I now saw that he could not take responsibility for any errors, he could never be wrong, therefore, if something did go wrong, it had to be MY fault. It was obvious to me he cared little for my feelings, which meant he no longer cared for ME. My heart was breaking.

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