When that first drop of rain slid down the kitchen wall during a storm six months ago, we should have known it was just the first splash into what would be an ocean of frustration.
Frustration and dust.
Here's how it went: Our house sprung a leak. We could follow the path of that first raindrop back up the kitchen wall to the part of the roof where the addition met the old part of the house. The roofers came and patched something and we thought we were safe. We dried the wall and turned our worries to other things.
But then it rained again, and this time it wasn't a droplet but a river running down the wall. We positioned buckets to catch what we could, invited a different roofer to have a look, paid for a patching job and repainted.
But it rains all the time here and, as anyone who owns an old home can attest, water will find its way into a house if it wants to -- just like spiders and stink bugs and telemarketing calls.
Turns out the roof never was repaired, and what did they think they were patching up there, anyway?
A hard rain brought a Zen-like sheet of water flowing down the kitchen wall, turning the paint to bubbles and wrinkles, and cracking the plaster.
There was no point in repairing the wall until the leak was found and fixed, and so we lived with what I came to call the ugly corner -- a foiled spout hung down from the air conditioning duct, the ceiling above it was the ugly gray of bare drywall, and the brown paint on the wall was wrinkled like melted chocolate. I stopped inviting people over.
We'd have to live with it until we solved the roof mystery. My only options were to disguise the corner or move. I shopped for the tallest silk fern trees I could find, but this is an old house and these are tall ceilings.
I remember a married couple I worked with early in my career. Their living room ceiling sprung a leak that resulted in a big hole.
Opting for humor over home repair, they stuffed the leg of a blue jean with newspaper, attached a sneaker and wedged it up there.
For as long as I knew them, they had a man falling through their living room ceiling. I don't have that kind of whimsy.
We finally found the right man for our job. He found the leak, repaired the roof, and is now on this fourth day of repairing the kitchen wall, a job requiring plenty of puttying, plenty of sanding and ghastly amounts of dust.
Drywall dust is skinnier than regular household dust. It's like silt, soft and fine and able to get airborne and travel great distances.
The worker used a vacuum on his sander and still some dust escaped; I found it two floors up, covering the shoulders of a jacket hanging in the closet.
The dust was in the toaster, on my stapler, and on the piano, giving the black keys a white film.
The dog shook, and I swear I saw dust flying. Do drywall workers ever get the dust off of them?
In one more day, the final sanding will be done, and a fresh coat of paint will return that corner to its original, chocolate brown beauty.
Then, finally, I'll attack the house with a sweeper and a damp cloth, praying inside my dust mask for the rain to stay away, and for the roof to hold.
Beth Dolinar is a former Riverside resident and Pittsburgh television reporter who is staying at home to raise her two children. She can be reached at cootieJ@aol.com.