There are three men out in my backyard building me a new deck.
One is my son, Ari, 22, who knows this is the cost of living here. The other two are doing me a huge favour.
When Ari took control of the Deck Project, he called his stepdad, The Poor Sod. You might remember him from years ago in these columns. Good guy then, good guy now.
He brought along his friend, Matthew Bryant, who has built a lot of decks. Matt gave Ari a list of what lumber and hardware to have delivered, told him to get the old one ripped out, and the deck games began.
Dad built the last one when I was a teenager, which means it has stood (and in these later years, wobbled) for nearly 40 years. Not bad for a guy who made up his own plans and podged around and improvised when he didn’t quite know what he was doing.
It was fun watching Matt’s face as he peered at some of Dad’s handiwork. Dad was a bricklayer, so he was happy to plunge joists directly into the house and slap some concrete around them. Matt doesn’t know I heard him muttering. I also heard him explaining to Ari the correct way to do it.
No new deck project is complete without an entire day lost to a task you thought would take an hour, four trips to Home Depot, coffee, beer, rain and a row of cat faces in the window.
The first day was perfect weather; the next was rain nearly all day, yet the work continued. Matt would give Ari an instruction, then leave him to it. I watched Ari soaking up everything like a sponge; he’d spent a day at the cottage deck-building with his uncle and he loves doing it. It’s times like these I miss my father being there; for all Dad’s creative fixes, this is the grandson most like him, the one he could have handed the tools to.
Tape measures were flying the whole time and I realized early on that Matt wasn’t second-guessing Ari’s measures. It’s a small thing, but it’s a trust thing and I watched as Matt started incorporating some of Ari’s suggestions. And I watched that build confidence in Ari, who worked shoulder to shoulder with the other men.
Matt and The Poor Sod exchanged a few glances — I smiled as I realized it was an “I told you so; the kid is OK.”
When they finally packed up at the end of day one and left, Ari came into the house and got me.
“Come help me move the rest of the wood around back,” he said.
I stared at a pile of heavy lumber in the driveway and wondered what any of this had to do with me.
“The guys will be back tomorrow, right? I’ll put a car at a neighbour’s.”
“No, it’s better if it’s all around back. I don’t want it stolen, and it saves them doing it in the morning.”
Sighing, I picked up my end and grunted.
“I can’t lift this many boards at once,” I complained.
“Sure you can,” Ari grinned.
“You wouldn’t make Taryn do this, or Pammy,” I puffed.
“You’re right. They couldn’t, or they’d complain, but you’re …. you. Now be quiet.”
They’ll finish the railing this week but it already looks awesome. Watching my son become a welcome part of a crew is a bigger thing, something his stepdad knows.
Thank you, Matt. For the deck, too.