I wonder, do you have a brother or sister, a niece or nephew, or even a son or a daughter, who you love dearly, but they also frustrate you? They’re mischievous and naughty, but endearing too. They’ve found your buttons and know how to press them.
That’s how my relationship with my father-in-law was. He was like a naughty child right into his nineties. I loved him dearly and have a lot of warm, happy memories of him but, there’s no getting away from it, he was a frustrating old rascal sometimes.
Like the time he fixed our roof.
It was forty years ago and he was in his sixties, too old to be climbing onto the roof, too young to resist it.
The house we lived in at that time had been extended by a previous owner, making a large kitchen and eating area. The extension boasted a flat roof.
Where rain is not a stranger.
A flat roof with poor drainage.
(The correct way to deal with this information is to sigh and shake your head, or even to tut! and question the previous owner’s sanity.)
Above the eating area of this large kitchen, there was a pitched glass roof, surrounded by a moat. I call it a moat with good reason. It was often filled with water and, from time to time, it leaked. It leaked onto the table below and the diners around it.
So, forty years ago, when we were moving house and had insufficient funds to repair the roof, we decided – honesty being the best policy – we would tell any prospective buyers about the problem and leave it to them to decide if they had the funds to fix it.
Enter my dear father-in-law.
He was a very gregarious man and I’m certain he knew everybody in our village – and their business – despite the fact that he lived at some distance and visited infrequently.
Dissatisfied with how we intended to handle the matter of the roof, that dear, kind, lovely man decided to take matters into his own hands.
We were unaware of the road works going on in our village, but Papa, as the children called my dear father-in-law, was not only aware of such, but already on excellent terms with the workmen.
He returned from the ‘stroll’ he informed us he was taking, carrying a bucket. Before we even knew where he’d procured it and what it contained, he’d carried it through the house and climbed out of our sons’ bedroom window onto the flat roof, where he proceeded to pour the bucket’s contents all around the moat.
“Whatcha doin’, Papa?” my eldest son asked as he watched the black, treacly stuff being dispensed.
“What are you doing, Dad?” I asked, seeing the steam and hearing the fizz as the hot, gluey liquid hit the cold, wet surface of the moat.
“Neil! You have no business up there whatever you’re doing,” said his wife, my mother-in-law.
Someone, possibly me, possibly my husband, took a photograph to record what we could hardly believe with our eyes.
“What I’m doing,” Papa said. “Is fixing the roof.”
I think he hoped for thanks.
Just as he traipsed back through the house with his messy bucket, the rain started hammering on the glass roof, and there was a knock on the front door.
A couple of prospective buyers come to view the house.
When we reached the threshold of the kitchen and I was telling these viewers to mind the step down, and they were ooh-ing and aah-ing at how lovely and big and bright the kitchen was, I did wonder what the plopping noise might be.
Plop! Plop! Pl-l-l-op! A slow glutinous plopping sound.
The sound of hot, runny, black-as-black, icky-sticky tar.
You know the stuff. They use it in road-mending.
Tar, which far from ‘fixing’ the leaky roof, was itself leaking through the roof, raining down on the idyllic scene of our children abandoning their snacks on the table and making a run for safety.
The prospective buyers also made a run for it, straight out the front door, followed very closely by Papa’s car disappearing down the driveway from the back door.
He did toot his goodbye as he passed the kitchen window, and indicated he’d left us to return the disgustingly sticky bucket.