I’m handy, I’m capable, I can do various things with tools, but I have my limits. I can build things, mostly. I’m good at getting things put together – a pile of parts, with or without instructions, and at some point in the near future I’ll have a finished thing. What I’m not so good at, I’m coming to find out, is finishing, and I mean the literal act of finishing something, as in “to give a particular desired surface texture.” I’m just no good, and I’ll tell you why: I’m impatient. See, the act of building is satisfying because it is a process that constantly results in verifiable, visual progress. I need that. I have to have a sense of progress to feel like something is being accomplished. With painting, I can’t get that. Paint is slow. You paint and you wait, and then you look to see how it came out, and then you paint some more. And I have no patience for that.
I tried, I tried really hard. We got this big dresser, with a nice tall hutch on top of it, for Amanda’s room that once belonged in Alissa’s room when she was a kid, so we could swap out the smaller dresser for Danielle’s room. That dresser was mine as a kid. I liked the parallel there. Both of our children had something from our childhoods. Only the dresser we brought back from Alissa’s parents house smelled . . . bad. It had been kept with the cat litter and had absorbed, for many years, the various odors cat litter is known for.
I did everything I could think to remove the odor. I sanded, I painted with a special odor-killing primer, painted, etc., but things went from bad to worse. Not the odor, mind you – the primer finally took care of that. But my painting skills leave much to be desired and there was a lot to be painted. It ran, it rippled, it bumped. It looked terrible. I blamed it on bad brushes so I bought better brushes. It still looked terrible. I painted on the back porch and the wind came along, knocking the hutch onto the corner of the dresser, punching a hole in that damned backing material that I never remember the name of, but you know what that crap is. It can’t easily be repaired, but probably could be replaced, but that’s just one MORE thing. I freaked out. I froke. I threw up my hands and said that’s it, this is over, I can’t do this. And it was over.
Except I felt guilty because I started thinking maybe Alissa had the same thing in mind that I did, that our kids could have something from each of us, and now one would have something of mine and the other would have some thing from some store delivered by some truck. Or something. So i gathered my whits again and tried to approach it anew. We moved the dresser to the garage where I was sure all my problems would be solved – I was certain the paint was drying to fast in the sun on the back porch, and now our wind problems would be solved – and begain again. And I bought some more brushes. As I discovered, there is an amazing sense of progress and importance that rushes over you as you peruse brushes. And brushes get very expensive, so I opted for a $7 four-inch brush to speed up the painting, just sure that this nicer brush would make for a nice smooth finish – because the three-inch one I had used prior to that was from a four-piece kit that cost about the same as this one brush alone. Surely the low quality of that brush was responsible for the terrible paint job, right?
By mid-afternoon, I had Kenny Rogers in my head, telling me “Son, you got to know when to fold that shit.” I looked at the dresser. No matter how careful I was, it was still covered in drips and runs that had dried past the point of quickly painting them away. It looked less like something of an heirloom and more like something I’d picked up outside of a high school woodshop, discarded after a failing grade in the finishing portion of the semester. It was an embarrassing wreck. It was time to fold and walk away.
When I told Alissa, I expected her to be upset. She wasn’t. She only expressed desire to not have to spend money. Any emotional ties I’d attached to the project were purely mine, it turns out. I can’t say I’ve put myself through all of this for nothing. The past however many weekends have been painfully annoying, but yesterday was a bit of a realization. I know now that I need to focus on what I really can do and find someone else better at what I can’t do alone. Since I tend to do everything myself, this is hard, but I’m wasting precious time, going back to work exhausted after a weekend spent doing all kinds of things with very little to show for it. So it’s not all a loss. And now I can get Kenny Rogers out of my head again, because I had enough of his warbling when I was younger and had to endure whatever my parents played, and I’m as done with that as I am this dresser.