Oh, com’n, we baby boomers still have got a lot to learn… as boomer Jerry Zezima, humor columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and the Tribune News Service of Chicago, recently learned… and bemoans… in this lesson which we all need to heed: “Climbing on the roof is the height of folly.”
Because I suffer from acrophobia, which is an irrational fear of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head, I would rather have a root canal while listening to a telemarketer than get up on the roof of my house, a two-story Colonial that could give a mountain goat nosebleeds.
But I got up there recently with a fearless young man who came over to give me an estimate for a new roof.
“I never realized I was petrified of heights until we bought this house and I had to clean the gutters every fall,” I told Anthony Amini, who owns the company that my wife, Sue, and I were considering for the job. “Even the word ‘fall’ makes me nervous.”
“You should have gotten gutter guards,” Anthony said.
“I did,” I replied. “Now I don’t have to get up on the roof anymore.”
“Except for today,” said Anthony, who agreed to my frankly stupid request to accompany him on a trip atop the Mount Everest of houses.
As Anthony put a ladder against the family room extension, which at one story has the lowest of our three roofs, I asked, “Are you afraid of heights?”
“No,” Anthony responded.
“Have you ever fallen off a roof?” I wanted to know.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” he said.
“What’s your secret?” I inquired.
“Don’t look down,” Anthony answered.
I didn’t even want to look up. But I had to as I began my ascent, which took so long that it could have been timed with a sundial.
“This isn’t so bad, is it?” Anthony said as I stood, knees shaking, next to our leaky skylight, which he said needed to be replaced.
“Skylights are great on sunny days,” I told him, “but otherwise, they’re floods waiting to happen.”
Even though we were only about 10 feet up, Anthony complimented me on my bravery after I was back on terra firma, a Latin term meaning “the place where you will be buried if you fall off the roof.”
But the coward in me came out, in pathetic whimpers, when I had to climb to the top of the house.
Remembering Anthony’s admonition not to look down, I stared into a second-story window and saw my reflection, which bore a frightening resemblance to the Edvard Munch painting “The Scream,” except with a mustache.
When I had reached the summit and surveyed my kingdom, which costs a king’s ransom in property taxes, I exclaimed, “Look, it’s the Great Wall of China!”
“That’s your fence,” Anthony noted.
He said our altitude was about 30 feet. It seemed like 30,000 feet. A plane flew past. I waved to the pilot.
“You’re doing great,” Anthony said as I stood stock-still, my feet straddling the crown of the roof, afraid to move. “You can join my crew. I’ll have you carry up shingles.”
“I may have to be carried down,” I stammered.
Then I noticed that my right sneaker was untied. Anthony bent down to lace it up, making a double knot.
“I’ve done it for my kids,” he said.
I slowly made my way back to the ladder and climbed down, only to climb up again, this time to the roof above the garage, kitchen, and laundry room, a mere 18 feet high.
As he did on the other parts of the roof, Anthony took measurements and showed me what needed to be done.
Later, as Sue and I sat with Anthony in the kitchen, where he gave us a reasonable estimate, I said, “I just renewed my life insurance policy.”
“Looks like I’ll have to wait to collect,” said Sue.
“Your husband is very courageous,” Anthony told her.
“Coming from you,” I said with a sigh of relief, “that’s high praise.”
Copyright 2019 Jerry Zezima
Jerry’s latest book is, “Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures: Grandkids, Wine Clubs, and Other Ways to Keep Having Fun.”