“I am still learning.” (Michelangelo)


The older I get the more I think about what little time I have left and all the experiences I still need to try out. I guess some people call that a bucket list but I’m not sure why. In my case, that list is populated with chores I still need to get done, not fun adventures. These last few months have been pretty exciting but not necessarily by choice. My daughter got married, I was an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting, an autistic teenage boy nearly broke my arm while driving down the interstate and I had to tackle a five-year old before he could run out in the street, but the highlight of the fall of 2014 was learning to paint.

When I read this quote, I was inspired. I should have read the rest of Michelangelo’s  biography. I think all the paint fumes must have gotten to him. For me, painting is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never undertake that job again and I will never complain about how expensive it is to hire a good painter. They are worth every penny.

Here’s the story of how I came to that conclusion.

After paying for my daughter’s wedding last summer, there wasn’t much left over in the family budget for some much-needed repairs to the house, new paint being at the top of the list. So my natural response to things I know nothing about is, “I can do that. It’s just four sides and 10 gallons of paint. How hard can it be?” Guess what I learned, it’s really, really hard. Now I know why it took Michelangelo sixteen years to paint the Sistine Chapel. For every day of painting it takes about three days to recover. Oh and don’t ever believe any friend or family member who offers to help. My wife did her share but not without my constant coaxing. I used every positive reinforcement I could think of like, “It sure is a nice day for painting. You’re so good at this. I couldn’t do this without you dear.” On average that got me about three hours a day of hard work before she had to retire to the couch with an ice pack on her knee.

Then it was just me. My son put in a few hours but his weekends were full of bachelor parties and weddings over a three-week period in October. Then it was just me again. Me and the ladder. On the very first day, the ladder tried to kill me. Apparently, it’s best if you get both feet on the ground before you let go of the ladder. My first dismount was a half twisting back flip into the bushes by the front door. My wife was more concerned about potential damage to her beloved flora than the father of her children and she let me know in no uncertain terms that my dismounts had to improve or else. I didn’t even ask about the else. I only fell off once more after that and I made darn sure not to land on any vegetation, that she knows of. Every husband has his secrets.

I did have one constant companion for my long days, our dog Indy. As dog’s go Indy is in a class by himself and for good reason; he wants to attack anything that moves. I found this out the hard way when I tied him up by the tree in the backyard so he could watch me paint. As soon as I set one foot on the ladder he was on me like Cujo, nipping at my heels and growling like I had just stepped on his tail. So then I had one hand on the ladder, one hand on the paint bucket with brush, one foot on the bottom rung of the ladder and one foot being chewed on by my faithful companion. I halfway expected him to pull the ladder out from under me just to make his point. Apparently, dogs don’t like ladders or painters. See, I’m still learning.

Painting wouldn’t be so bad if the only person the painter had to please was himself but that doesn’t work when you’re married. My wife, in her infinite wisdom, decided that we should paint every possible trim board with the second color on the face and the base color on the sides. With my skill level, that was the equivalent of painting stripes on a toothpick. At least she didn’t ask me to do a subtle maple leaf stencil on the gutters, just for fun. Even a female divorce court judge would understand that argument and rule in my favor.

As I toiled away through the month of October it became clear to me that I was going to need some help for the hardest part. Those are the moments when you find out who your friends are. I went across the street and pleaded my case to my neighbors, Jason and Howard, both of whom are highly skilled at home repairs and younger than I. When you’re asking for help on a monumental scale, it helps to have a huge incentive built-in. I said, “I hope I can count on you two to help me with the hard part of this job?” They challenged me with, “What exactly would that be?” I replied, “I need you two to convince my wife that I’m really doing a good job and the pay is a bottle of Anejo Tequila.” Every man has his weak spot and I know they love premium spirits. The very next day, Jason innocently wandered over and pronounced his appreciation for the quality of my work. My wife didn’t say much but at least she didn’t complain for the rest of that day.

So now here’s what I learned about painting. I don’t ever want to do that again. I will only live in a one story house with as little trim as possible. I will never let it go this long before I do something about it. I will make sure the dog’s rope is shorter than wherever I’m standing. I will acquire a large supply of good tequila in the event of an emergency. I will practice my dismounts before I ever climb another ladder. And finally, Michelangelo was a very slow learner.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 Responses to “I am still learning.” (Michelangelo)

  1. Brian J says:

    I had a lady of the evening once offer me to do anything for $300.00.

    I said Paint my house!

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