From a Distance


Often, changes are seen only from a distance.

So it is with our house renovations. Since we signed the closing documents on our soon to be new home a bit over two weeks ago, our lives have been compressed activity. It is not unusual for two or more groups of contractors to be working, or at least inspecting, at the same time. Since Debbie and I decided to act as our own “general contractors” after having been staggered by the labor costs associated with using a well known home center as our main coordinator for our projects, we have interviewed many painters, kitchen cabinet suppliers, flooring installers and builders and roofers. If it sounds like we are doing a lot of work, well, I guess we are! But, changing a house is not nearly so challenging as changing one’s life. And, so far, so good.


We have learned to really listen to those presenting us with work proposals. It’s often not only what they say, but how they say it, that determines who we will agree to work with. We’ve been blessed to come across some very decent, hard working folks that believe their crafts are the signature of their lives.

Dave is our lead man for the floor demolition and will also take part in the installation of the new tile. He comes to work early and is determined to remove every bit of what was intended to be a “permanent” wood floor. One arm is tattooed with a barbed wire design and the other with the Confederate battle flag and the words, “The South shall rise again”. He smokes too much. But, during his breaks he speaks of his wife and a son afflicted by what sounds to be autism. Dave’s hardness is mainly in his arms and back. We hope he will join us when we have our “new home” celebration party.

There are others we have met during this “extreme makeover” for which we are grateful and fortunate to have met. There are some that we wish we could have worked with but our budgets or schedules were not in sync.

We also have met several of our new neighbors. We are keeping the promise made to ourselves to be outgoing and speak with those we live near and those we meet while walking our neighborhood. Here it is easy. While many of our new neighbors are not originally from Jacksonville (many are from the mid-west) there is something different here in the way neighbors interact. At least in my experience. Debbie has had the good fortune of experiencing Southern graciousness before. There is a book I am nearly finished reading titled, “Southern by the Grace of God”. It gives an interesting insight to Southern thinking, values and custom. I cannot help but think of the similarities between the Southern way of life and that of rural Irish living, from which I am not far removed. Perhaps I am closer to home than I had imagined.


And, so, yesterday I took The Redhead’s advice and went for a neighborhood walk before returning to our apartment. I had spent much of the day at the house with the workmen. Sidewalks are a neighborhoods best friend – they connect homes and people. It was while speaking with our neighbor, whose home also is on the pond, that I was able to see our house from a distance. She remarked how she noticed already some changes. She was right. Some of the changes could better be seen – from a distance.

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