TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2005

One tough cookie

When Dawn moved to Pennsylvania in March, I mentioned the conditions she was facing, but I haven’t revisited them because, frankly, she wasn’t complaining about them. Well, I just spent four days there and felt like I was in the third world:

  • Inside Aquarius (where she’s living), it’s 110 in the daytime and 55 at night, and at anytime she may have visitors in the “gift shop” downstairs
  • She watches TV upstairs on a borrowed 13-inch portable, but to watch a movie she has to sit downstairs with her laptop and a rickety wooden chair she found in the barn
  • If it’s raining, she doesn’t have an Internet connection
  • There are no lights outside, so at night she has to find her way by feel, and hope the resident horse hasn’t left any calling cards
  • Her entire wardrobe hangs on a spindly clothes rack she bought at K-mart, making her bedroom look like a Salvation Army outlet store
  • She has to get up at 6am every day to let the contractors in, and she doesn’t get back until she’s cleaned up after everyone, usually around 8:30 or 9pm
  • Her cell phone reception is so bad, people have asked her not to call them
  • She has to take precautions never to drop anything because it will slip between the wide floorboards and disappear into the crawl space
  • The shower works intermittently, at best. Dawn asked me one day why I left a bottle of Aquafina in the shower and I said, “rinsing.”

But on the bright side, she finally got a working toilet upstairs, so she no longer has to come downstairs in the middle of the night; she’s getting along well with her mother; and her friends from high school all seem to have trade skills and are more than happy to help out. Darin Tompkins, in particular, has helped her scrape paint, sand floors, strip windows, and is now working with her on the exterior wood. He is also a professional glazier, and can reassemble the windows, fix the sashes, and make storm windows. His wife’s not too happy that he’s doing all of this for Dawn but won’t install a microwave oven at home, but isn’t that the way it always works?

Brian and Bob have also turned out to be god-sends, taking care of so many odd jobs for a very reasonable cost. They removed the porch, cleaned out the basement, hauled all of the trash out of the field, demo’d the Summer Kitchen, fixed the dump truck, and now are pouring the concrete floor in the basement. Dawn’s already asked them to clean the Paymaster’s Office, put a new roof on the privy, build cellar doors, and fix up the workshop. I’m not sure where we’d be without them.

I think of Dawn as an implacable trouper, but I couldn’t help notice she was losing a lot of hair. That can’t be a good sign.

Addendum: On June 6, Dawn discovered a bat flying around the greenhouse. She said she slept under the sheets the first night, but after that she was okay with it. Now that’s tough.