January 29, 2020

The Never-ending Cycle of Maintenance

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

The maintenance on a place like this never ends.  You simply have to accept that.  What’s curious is that only you notice.  Oh, sure, if the barn is collapsing, the house caving in and the animals escaping, folks take heed.  Most won’t say anything but they’ll notice.  However, once a certain baseline is reached and the place no longer resembles a future archeological site, no one sees what remains to be done.

Nobody but you.

What’s surprising is how very difficult this is to accept.  I’m confident those missing shingles on the barn scream for attention.  Surely you notice it?  It’s right there by the corner.  The cows scratch themselves there.  I’ve replaced those cedar shakes time and time again only to have them rubbed off once more.  Of course everyone must notice the peeling paint by the front door?  (How many times have I painted this place?)  The lattice work under the porch should be replaced, too.  (Pressure treated lumber isn’t forever, however nice that would be.)  Surely everyone wonders why you haven’t gotten that repaired?

The answer is ‘No’ in all cases.

You’re self-conscious.  You notice what has to be done.  You feel the pressure.

Nobody else does.

One of the reasons this is so strange, it’s the exact opposite of housework.  Once inside a home, the only time folks notice the kitchen is if the dishes aren’t done.  Are your floors clean and vacuumed, the bathrooms disinfected and the clutter put away?  The beds made?  The cobwebs gone?  No one will notice.  But leave the interior a mess and, you bet, the rumors flying around town about what a slob you are will come home eventually.

You doubt me?  I test these theories continually.

“Honey, did you see that I repaired the entryway window?”

Wendy’s response never varies.  “Really?  What was the matter with it?”

(Remember, please, she lives here, too.)

Her answer is plain.  It doesn’t matter what I do.

“Did you see that I replaced the footings under the woodshed?”  “Doesn’t the back door look better painted?”  “Hey!  What an improvement limbing that tree made.”

Her response stays the same.  “Really?  I didn’t notice.”

Nobody does.  Not even your wife.

Sadly, I can’t leave maintenance undone simply to test this theory.  That would drive me crazy.  (Now there’s a short trip!)  But I have stopped asking Wendy.

No.  She hasn’t noticed that, either.

In fact, nobody has.

That’s because the maintenance on a place like this never ends.   But nobody ever notices.

Nobody but you.