Canadian Woodworking

Summer Help

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: October November 2017
summer help
summer help

A son-in-law arrives to help with some home improvement projects during the summer. What could go wrong?


Last summer my son-in-law, Geoff, brought his entire family from Manitoba to help me put on a new roof and maybe add an addition to my house. To be honest, I was hoping that I’d be helping him while he did most of the work; after all, I’m a lot older than he is.

My dear wife pointed out that I was perfectly capable of reroofing the house myself since I had been a roofer when we got married, lo those many decades ago. She also took the time and patience to point out that I had managed to build not one, but two houses for the family, so I should be able to stick a simple lit­tle enclosed porch onto the front of our bungalow. It seemed to me like she actu­ally wanted her son-in-law to have a real vacation.

I then pointed out that my son-in-law owed me big time for having taken my Number-One-Daughter away from me, even though I’m still debating whether that should be counted as a mark for or against him. Then she reminded me that he had given us three wonderful grand­children. I won the argument when I reminded her about the fourth.

The entire family showed up around mid-July. After the obligatory hugs and handshakes had been dealt with, and sleeping pods for the children were estab­lished far enough away that I wouldn’t hear them (but close enough that their mother would), jobs and duties were assigned, and order was restored as much as possible.

In anticipation of their arrival, I placed the ladder against the eaves, fully charged the compressor, and strung and draped the air hoses over the peak of the roof, ready for the son-in-law to get up there and finally get to work. The rest of us were heading for the beach. Believe me, a hot roof in the Okanagan in mid-July is no place a sane person wants to be.

Apparently, I am not quite as sane as I thought, because my wife informed me that I was gladly remaining at home to help with the removal of the three layers of old shingles. I informed The Boy that he wished to stay and help as well. The old shingles tore up surprisingly easily with the judicious use of a spade, a wrecking bar and some muscles a lot younger than mine. I utterly exhausted myself carrying liquid refreshments all the way up the lad­der to the roof to the ungrateful wretches. They were lucky it was only a single story house – otherwise I would have simply turned the hose on them.

Once a section of old shingles was torn off, The Boy and I would gather them up and happily toss the piles off the garage roof and (mostly) into the large bin con­veniently placed just out of easy reach. My eldest grandson was helping his father by handing him shingles as needed and supplying him with my shingle nails for the air-nailer I had to remind him to buy. I couldn’t believe he had simply assumed I would be supplying an air-nailer AND the nails for it. He should feel lucky I pro­vided the compressor.

Eventually, and through no fault of my own, the roof was finished and admit­tedly looking pretty good, almost as if he knew what he was doing up there. I stood out on the front lawn and carefully studied every square foot of the roof for flaws and mistakes, but eventually my wife and Number-One-Daughter insisted I put the ladder back up and let the son-in-law down.

Early the next morning I was awak­ened by the type of heavy downpour you can only get from an Okanagan summer storm. Before anyone else could arise I grabbed a bucket from the closet and poured several inches of water in it. I then dumped more water on the kitchen floor and placed the bucket in the middle of it.  Then I screamed!

The poor guy spent almost three hours on the roof in the pounding rain as light­ning danced around his head while he searched for the elusive leak before I started to feel a little bad for him and finally admitted there wasn’t a leak at all.

He packed up the kids, and they left shortly after the rain stopped, cutting their Okanagan vacation short. I’m still trying to decide if that was a win or not.

Apparently, I’m mean-spirited. No one has a sense of humour anymore.

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