David Lauver – Fixing the Front Steps

Fixing the Front Steps


In 2001 it became clear that the front steps at 80 Hamilton Place were in such poor condition that we had to replace them. I was the only one in the house who had any experience in carpentry and construction, so it seemed to everyone but me that I was the obvious man for the job. The thought terrified me that I had to do something I could not do and could not escape. One day, Lori, the housemother, was leaving the house with her husband, Dick. On their way out the door, I heard her say something to me that sounded like "steps" and would I do something about them. I took a deep breath, got my hammer and a wrecking bar, and demolished the front steps all by myself in less than an hour. By the time Dick and Lori got back, there was only a gaping hole where the steps used to be, and me carrying pieces of debris over to a pile in the front yard. I learned much later that this sight shocked Lori to her core because whatever she had said to me, it was not a request to tear them down. Dick reminded her that this was something she had wanted to happen. Otherwise, I don’t know what she might have said to me.  

At a deeper level, this episode and, indeed, this whole story is about the power of a woman's desire. She wanted something from me that I thought I could not do. She didn’t nag, criticize, or push me; she ignited me.  

In the ensuing weeks after the demolition an inspector showed up and "red-tagged" our project. Red-tagging meant that we had to get a building permit, and to get a building permit we had to have drawings, and to produce drawings, we had to have a plan. Also, the project had expanded. We had discovered rotten boards in the porch floor and found that it was only three or four house jacks that held up the entire porch. We had to address these things, too. 

To produce a plan, I had to think through every detail of this now expanded project and come up with ways to do it. We were fortunate to have a CAD designer in the house at that time and he produced the drawings we needed for the building permit. No downtown skyscraper could have been done better.  

We were also lucky that we had Lori at the helm overall. How she kept finding the money, I will never know. 

So, the upshot of it all is that we did it. It took months longer than expected and there were expensive mistakes. It cost far more than expected. There were moments of bleak despair. There were moments of joy working together and seeing things get done. 

From another perspective, I learned that the way to do something is to start. When you start, it may seem impossible, and you may doubt your abilities. Yet if you commit yourself, no matter what, you will learn what you need to know - and support may be closer than you think.  So, keep doing the next right thing, then the next after that, right until the end, even if you do despair.  

We had to have a new set of steps and somehow, despite my perception of my inadequacy, the leader slip wound up in my hand. With lots of help from lots of people, the new steps not only came to be, but everything we did is still in place and doing what we wanted almost twenty years later.