I was trapped! I could hardly pretend I wasn’t home; the kids were out there on the lawn. There was no time to camouflage my project and no time to clean up either the mess or me. If ever anyone needed to freeze time, this was definitely it! I had reduced my father-in-law's pride and joy to a shamble of dust and debris. I was sure it would appear totally hopeless at this point. I knew it would be devastating blow to his pride in front of these people he was obviously trying so hard to impress. I was doomed.
I watched in horror as my proud, unsuspecting father-in-law led his guests to view what he had every reason to believe would be a "nice house". Engrossed in his usual zealous prattle, Father failed to notice the pile of debris off to the side where I had deposited the broken sections of wall from the bedroom. He was ill-prepared for the destruction that beset his eyes when he stepped across the threshold. As his jaw dropped to reveal a gaping mouth, a cloud of dust assailed his lungs. His discourse stopped mid-word and his face turned ashen. At that moment, I was truly afraid he might just suffer a heart attack.
You could have heard a fly sneeze in the silence that followed. Father and his guests stood motionless, staring at the wreckage before them. I stared helplessly back at them, unable to think, to utter any excuse, any explanation or any apology. There was nothing I could say and it was obvious that there was nothing they could say, judging by the shock on their faces. Nobody moved or spoke for what seemed like hours, but honestly could have only been minutes, while each one of us tried to get past the deadness that had overtaken each of us.
It was one of the strangers that finally spoke first.
"I guess you are doing some renovations," he said and I stared at him mutely. Dad was still in a trance. His eyes were fixed, his mouth was still open, and his breath was coming in raspy gasps from somewhere beneath the grinding rapids of his racing heart. The taller of the two strangers seemed to gain his composure first.
"We should let you get back to your work," he verbalized kindly, obviously trying hard to provide this stunned assemblage with the benefit of an escape hatch. "We'll come back another time."
I just nodded numbly.
"Come, let's go take a drive through the country," he urged but my Father-in-law was paralyzed with shock. His mouth was still gaping and eyes were still fixed like protruding marbles in his head. He hadn't blinked once since he stepped into the room. The man put his arm around Father's shoulder. "Come," he urged but Father stood rooted in his tracks. . He had turned into a virtual stone statue. In desperation, the man motioned to the other stranger.
Gently but firmly, they linked their arms with Father's and between them, they managed to turn Father around to face the doorway. Then with great difficulty and with as much dignity as they could muster, they got him down the steps and onto the sidewalk. Wedged between the two men, Dad staggered. zombie-style, towards the car where they helped him into the front seat. As they all got into the car, I took my first deep breath since their arrival.
As I watched the white car with the smartly dressed strangers and my stupefied father-in-law pull out of the yard, it suddenly hit me. The result of this afternoon may affect me profoundly. My father-in-law will come out of his stupor sooner or later and when he does, Heaven only knew what ramifications there would be for these rash actions of mine to deface his precious house. He had a violent temper, I knew that, but he had never ever directed it at me. Quite frankly, I could not picture him doing so, but then I had always been a docile daughter-in-law and had never given him any cause to vent at me - never, that is, until now. This time I did it right though. This was the mother of all misdemeanours. Maybe I hadn't asked for reprisals till now but this time, instead of asking for a sample, I had demanded the full rack. And that was not even taking my husband into account! This may just be the last day of my earthly life!
The wind had totally gone out of my sails regarding the renovations. Gone was the bravado, the enthusiasm and excitement of a functional and, perhaps even beautiful, kitchen. Would I live to see it even? And even if I survived with my life, would I be banished forever from the house and the farm? John would probably divorce me on the urging of his very insistent father, his mother would land up taking care of my kids and I would never even be allowed to see my precious babies anymore. I felt physically sick!
Why, oh why, hadn't I left well enough alone? This was no minor indiscretion I had been toying with here. There were going to be major repercussions! Helplessly I looked around me at the mess. I tried to see it as Father and those strangers had seen it, without the wistful image of a neat kitchen to blanch the stark ugliness of the debris.
That was it! I could remove that ugliness. Perhaps I could soften the blow of my impetuous action if I brought the image of that kitchen into the foreground. The kids were awake and I quickly gave them more wieners and buns and Kool Aid. Thank God they had not learned the art of rejecting a repeat meal yet. I worked feverishly, packing the debris into a box that I could easily haul out to the garbage out behind the woodpile. Then I finished anchoring the slab of wall into the opening between the bedroom and the living room. I would have to plaster that wall to smooth it in preparation for the wallpaper, but for now, it looked half decent. Next I swept and washed the floors and the walls, removing as much of the dust as I possibly could. I was shaking out the sheets from the furniture covers when John came home.
Final entry next week