This morning a continuation of the wonderful weather everyone’s been enjoying the past few weeks; mid-October, early fall, Indian summer. Cool, mid-fifty degree mornings; warm, mid-70s afternoons, balmy breezes (even when it’s windy it feels great), sunny day after idyllic sunny day, the absolute best time of year in this state of extreme weather and rough attitudes.
This morning, as I look out my classroom window, across the vast rear-parking lot from where I work, they’re getting ready to put a new roof on the church, the church on the corner, the big corner; the church I attended a long time ago, a church I was baptized in.
A flat-bed truck, backed up to the edge of the two-and-a-half to three story building, three guys unloading the bundles of shingles from the truck onto a conveyor, the angle close to forty-five degrees; it looks almost straight up. About a dozen guys on the roof, carrying the shingles in relay, and in early, cool morning hustle. In fifteen minutes, incredibly, they’re done with that job; the bundles all up on the roof, stacked in their packages three-high, spread out in lines from one end of the roof to the other, and two large gables in back and one in front; there are multiple roofs here, a multi-dimensional building to be sure, tall and brick and 1950s and stately.
The shingles are stacked just below the roof’s peak, so that plenty of room is left to begin tearing off the old shingles, which is what the roofers are doing now, an hour later. I’ve done just enough of that to know: it’s one of the two hardest jobs there is, construction-wise (working concrete being another), and to also know I would never want to do it for a living. I never want to do it again. The other parts of shingle roofing are equally as hard: on your knees three-fourths of the time, lifting heavy bundles and, when it’s hot and the sun’s glare is bouncing off that roof, when, if the temperature’s 95 on the ground it has to be at least 115 on the roof, if not Dante’s Inferno revisited; it’s not for me. And, you have to walk like you grew up on the side of a steep mountain, forever dealing with the risk of tripping and falling over the edge, and stepping on the ladder each time, to descend, to terra firma, is tricky business too.
On that same terra firma, decades ago, I was baptized, my second one, the first being as a Roman Catholic. Between ages 10 to 14 I lived in Oklahoma City, and went freshman year high-school to Northwest Classen, largest (at the time) in the state, the school where I now teach. I was living with guardians, would run away from home at the end of every school term; gradually, I got better, making it work the fourth go-round. Never went back to the guardians, and graduated high-school in a small town with a class of 36.
It just isn’t easy, working with shingles. And it must not be too easy for the people of this church; just three days ago they held a double memorial service for a married couple, members of this church since it was built in the early 50s, both of them in their nineties, and still vital, but somehow naive enough to pick up a young couple, boy and girl, nineteen and seventeen, from New Jersey, who had already started on a murderous crime spree. The boy, John Esposito, has confessed to the murders; he said he always picked older people for victims, because they were easy prey. His uncle, whom he worked for, is a convicted New Jersey mobster. The bodies of the elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair, were found near Adrian, Texas, in that state’s panhandle, and the criminals still in Durango, Colorado where they were captured, awaiting extradition to Georgia to face the music for their first murder, an elderly lady. I suppose she was also naive, but the people of this church on the corner, where I’m watching the roofers, have to have faith, and why? Because God is getting a new roof over his or her head, and you can’t ask for any more than that, can you?
As I turn again and look out the window, watch the dozen-and-a half men up on the roof of the church, walking and working, forty feet in the air, the length of the roof a good three hundred feet; as I watch these men work I can see–it’s a long trip, with small steps.