Friday, May 06, 2011


So I take a contract to work on this house, Ronghild's house, on the northwest side. Referral from the neighbor across the street. Signed the deal 3 weeks ago, and finished the work yesterday afternoon. My guy calls me and tells me the customer can't find her checkbook.

$2000 balance due.

Can't find her checkbook.
Tearing the house apart,...still can't find her checkbook.

Two beautiful new fiberglass doors, stained light oak inside to match Ronghild's floors, and white outside to match her windows. Sweet ODL nickel caming in her insulated glass units (tempered glass by law), and really nice Schlage satin nickel hardware.

So I tell my guy to call it a day, and to tell Ronghild that I'll stop by this morning to grab a check.

Did I mention she's 96 years old?

Yeah, Ronghild's 96 and so the misplaced checkbook didn't trigger the usual alarms that go off when some underwater douchebag tries to get me to fix up his McMansion on a deferred payment plan to be worked out by the fuckin' bankruptcy court. The old timers always pay their bills. Always.

And being 96, I guess "tearing the house apart" might be a bit strong. Carefully, methodically, slowly going through every drawer in the house is more like it. Ronghild's hearing isn't so good either, which is why she didn't know the smoke detector battery needed to be replaced the day I sat down to talk business with her.

It's not that the PEEP it was bothering me so much as PEEP I wanted to make sure that PEEP Ronghild had a functioning smoke alarm PEEP in her house. 

So while I'm swapping the battery out of her smoke detector, and selling her these two doors, we get to talking about her name. It's Norwegian. And I tell her that she's the 2nd Ronghild I've ever known of, and the other is Keith Colburn's wife on the Wizard. (crab boat on Deadliest Catch) Ronghild, "call me Ronnie" tells me she watches Deadliest Catch all the time because she knows a lot of the guys on the fleet are Norwegian.

She watches with the volume on her TV turned way up of course, and so I'm sitting there picturing this 96 year old Norwegian lady tuned in to Discovery and cranking the volume up as Bon Jovi's Dead or Alive starts blasting and I kinda got a case of the giggles. I had to step outside under the excuse that I needed to go to my car, and got it out of my system.

Ronghild also watches Ice Road Truckers and Gold Rush Alaska.

Great story, and the kind that reminds me of why I like what I do for a living. Imagine a 96 year old woman dropping 3K on some doors, just because she wants new doors. She came to America  in 1927, which I guess made her 12 years old or so. Spent her entire life in that same house and watched as the city grew up around her. A seamstress. The old timers are an absolute treasure trove of cool trivia about the neighborhoods, the politicians, the local businesses that have long since moved on. She can't drive now so she takes the bus everywhere. She told me about taking the bus to go see her tax guy a few days before I met her.

96 year old people shouldn't have to do that. The IRS should come to her house, pick her up, and drive her to the tax guy, wait, and then take her back home. She was pissed off that they moved down to Addison and whatever when they used to be right down the street next to the "grocer." 

I love the old timers...they use words like grocer.

So I waited until about 9 before calling Ronghild this morning. No answer. And no answer again a half hour later. I think I started to get a little worried around 10. I called the neighbors across the street, the ones who'd referred me to Ronghild, to ask them if they'd check in on her. Make sure she's OK.

For about 10 minutes I sat at my desk thinking bad things. Bad thoughts. Unwanted, but immutable. What if she's...ya know...dead? That's when business guy had an argument with human being guy. Actually, human being guy was doing most of the talking. It's not about the 2K, is it? You like the old broad, just admit it. You're worried. So shut the fuck up about your stupid money and...

The neighbor calls. Ronghild's fine, she's sitting in the kitchen doing her crossword puzzle. Waiting for me to call. C'mon down and get the check, she found her checkbook two minutes after the guys left, and would I give her an estimate for some Leaf Guard gutters for the house and garage?

Just got back to the office, with another contract for her gutters. She loves her new doors.

Oh and, she didn't hear the phone ringing because sometimes she doesn't hear the phone ringing.


MichaelRyerson said...

We spend a lot of our lives worrying about worthless shit. Here's to Ronghild and the important stuff.

Michael said...

She really made an impression.

I thought of you when typing that part about the "grocer." Ronghild remembers the guy who had the son who delivered the groceries. That was the grocer. Down at the end of the street. Next to the hardware guy who actually knew about hardware n stuff instead of a pimple-faced kid in an orange smock. Big box grocery stores must make her sad.

Keifus said...

I had a similar thought, in that the ones who take it all the changes in stride, manage to focus on living their lives well and being decent people, seems they're best suited to making it to a vibrant 96. She reminds me a little of my late grandmother, even though she's nothing like her.

(Of course it's gotta help that she's got enough set aside.)

Michael said...

Lives alone in a house, her house. No retirement community for her.
Her neighbor Dolores (the one who referred me to Ronghild) keeps an eye on her as well as an 82 year old on the block. Takes them grocery shopping, out to vote, etc. It's a nice thing they've got going there. Good neighbors who watch out for each the old days.

Cindy said...

Gives me hope, this.

Michael said...

And hope is a good thing!

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