A retired fisherman, Roley could have been anything. I picture him as a gentle teacher, maybe shop, maybe math, or as a die-hard surfer. Instead, at age 70, he is putting up shelving and installing a doggy door at our house.
Actually, he’ll install a kitty door, as our little Mini Foxie is afraid of dog doors. Or maybe isn’t smart enough to figure them out. At the Handydyke and Pianist’s house, the dog sat and watched over a couple of years while the other dogs came and went through a dog-sized flap. She’d stare like a muggle at the train station, wondering where Harry Potter and his pals went.
In any case, Roley the Handyman is in our closets marking the walls, tapping for studs, drilling, attaching brackets and borrowing my tools. Or else he’s off buying materials. Sometimes he calls a couple of hours after leaving to pick up materials and asks if it’s too late to come back to work. His lady friend lives down the street so I know where to find him.
Forty plus years they’ve been together, in separate homes, and here my sweetheart and I are, thrilled to be married and cohabiting. Kind of ironic, kind of fun, having the tables turned this way.
The house, of course, is a mess. We’re also downsizing during this transition and I actually turned down an offer of a bookcase from an ex who is also downsizing. Who would have thought I’d still be dividing property with former lovers decades later? Though I was tempted to reunite the hers and hers bookcases, I remembered that my sweetheart and I already have 42 of our own.
Since Roley’s moved into our closets, we’ve dragged our “wardrobes” out. The house is not that big, so we’re sharing space with, besides the dog and cats, heaps of jackets, pants, t-shirts, my sweetheart’s dresses, my vests and a nightmare of tangled hangers. It’s kind of like living in a used clothes shop or a Salvation Army store, though Sally’s Army wouldn’t like that. Roley and his lady friend would be okay, but not lady lovers like us.
He’s also strengthened the bars in our closets. What a surprise: they were overloaded to the point of pulling out of the walls. I wish I was the kind of person who traveled light, but when I hit a certain age, I started growing, and not in a good way. I finally got rid of my size 28 jeans and men’s small shirts, but I’m hanging on for dear life to the 34s and larges with great optimism.
It may be time to stop collecting favorite things. Or not. I could ask Roley to put up narrow shelves for my toy cars. They haven’t been on display since I lived with my ex-bookcase. Back then, I had the energy and patience to do my own projects.
If only I was the kind of person who could leave things behind, and not save for tomorrow. I’m the child of depression parents. Like my mother, I’ve taken to making balls of used string and folding paper bags neatly, ritually, because I might need them some vague day. Although I squander thread — Grandma Lynch would consider that a crime — I’m the kind of person who’s always afraid of running out — of words, of pet food, of safety in a county that just voted down domestic partner rights for everyone, gay or not.
The oddest part of working with Roley is how very much he reminds me of my friend the sailor who, when I first moved to the Southern Oregon women’s community, was the local handydyke. The sailor and Roley are both tall and thin, with weathered, handsome faces. More than that, they move exactly alike, always in rush-forward motion, with long quick steps, figuring aloud, gesticulating with tools and frequently in search of misplaced measuring tapes, small bags of nails or big orange loops of electrical cord.
The handyman is back, after an extended lunch hour. He’s putting up my sweetheart’s shelves for her collection of shoes and other femme essentials. He’s courteous, honest, respectful, non-judgmental and not at all sexist.
Can a straight man really be as nice as a handydyke? Will his shelves hold up till my sweetheart and I can marry in as many states as Roley and his lady friend?