Fall Softly


With the holiday and everything else going on, I haven’t been able to write anything in a couple of weeks.   Although I had a wonderful Christmas, it was the first Christmas I didn’t spend with my dad.  However, I believe he is always here with me, watching after me.  I had an accident recently and his words of wisdom popped into my head and helped me to avoid a tragic ending to my life.  You see, as Dad became older, every now and then, he would lose his balance and fall.  Each time he told me about his fall, I would say, “Dad, are okay?  How did you fall?”  And each time he would chuckle and say, “Yes, I am fine.  Over the years, I have learned to fall softly.”  The first time he told me this, I asked, “How can anyone fall softly?”  He told me: “When I lose my balance or footing, I wrap my hands around my head to protect it and roll my body up into a ball.  That way when you hit the ground, you won’t break anything; you’ll just roll.”  I remember thinking how funny that comment was and I never took it seriously.  But, I knew whatever he did work because he never hurt himself when he fell.

Anyway, I started a new project right before Christmas.  I know that two weeks before Christmas is no time to start a remodeling project, but when I get something in my head, I just have to do it. So, two weeks before Christmas, I decided that I was going to redo the kitchen.  One morning before LP went to work, I said, “Today is the day.  I’m going to start taking this ugly wallpaper down and paint.”  Then I pointed to the wall adjoining the living room and said, “I’m going to tear down that wall too.”  LP said, “Well, before you start tearing down any walls, you better call someone who knows what they are doing to help you.  Knowing you, the entire house will fall down.”   LP told me goodbye and good luck with the wall paper and walked out the backdoor and headed off to work.  I sat at the kitchen table finishing my morning Diet Mountain Dew and thought about what LP had said.  And, I agreed; with my luck, I would tear out the main support wall and the house would come crumbling down.  So, I called my buddy George to see if he could help me.

George is a really nice guy and he had done a couple of other jobs for us in the past, and we were always pleased with his work.  So, I found his phone number and gave him a call.  When he answered, I said, “George, this is CJ.  I need your help.”  George said, “Ah oh, that’s never good to hear; what are you into now?”  I started laughing and told George that I wanted to remove the wall adjoining the kitchen and the living room and I wasn’t sure I could do it by myself.   He laughed and then asked, “How soon do you want it done?”  I said, “Today.”  George was busy that day, but promised he would come by the next afternoon.  After I finished talking to George and explaining what I wanted, I went the utility closet and grabbed an empty spray bottle and a jug of fabric softener.  I put some fabric softener in the spray bottle and filled the rest of the bottle up with hot water.  Then I proceeded to spray the mixture on the outdated wallpaper.

I started with the wall closest to the one that would be torn down.  I let the mixture sit on the wall for about a minute, and then started trying to peel the paper off with my fingernails.  The paper wouldn’t come off.  So, I sprayed the edge of the wallpaper closest to the ceiling.  After twenty minutes and one broken fingernail, I was able to remove a small portion about the size of quarter.  By that time, I knew it was time to call in reinforcement, so I got a putty knife out of the tool chest.  I continued spraying the wall and started letting it soak for about thirty minutes before trying to peel and scrap it off.  After about three hours of working on the eight foot by three foot section, I was finished.  Well, finished with that section anyway.  Then I started on the next section.  I would spray a while, then I would scrap and peel a while.  I worked on getting that wallpaper off for damn near five hours and I was getting very frustrated.  I thought to myself, “Whoever has put wallpaper up has never had to take it down.”   And I came to the conclusion that whoever had put this particular wallpaper up, had attached it with Super Glue.  After six hours, I was getting very tired, or should I say “disgusted”, so I decided to quit for the day.  I put everything away and cleaned up the mess, and then I sat down at the kitchen table to evaluate my progress.

I was one-third of the way finished removing the wallpaper, and I was looking around thinking about where I should start the next day.  Then I noticed that there was a little section above the kitchen’s double windows that I had missed.  I said, “Crap!”   I didn’t want to get the step-ladder back out, so I pulled a kitchen chair over to the window.  As I started to stand on the seat of the chair and I could tell that the chair was propped on something because it wasn’t level.  I looked down at the floor and saw that I had placed one of the chair legs on the decorative wooden air vent.  I thought, “I better move the chair because LP is always telling me not to put anything on these vents.”  Then I looked at the strip of wallpaper and thought, “Ah it won’t take but a second.”  I stood in the seat of the chair and just as I pulled the paper off with my fingernails, I heard a cracking noise.

I felt one leg of the chair drop about four inches and it startled me and I tried to keep my balance.  My right foot slid forward when the chair leg dropped another couple of inches.  Now, I have never been surfing in the ocean before, but I believe what was happening to me at that moment in time was just like trying to “Hang 10”.  I was trying my best to balance on that chair to keep from crashing through the kitchen window or smashing my head on the kitchen countertop.  While I was moving back and forth using my arms and legs as balancing tools, I heard another crack and I knew the inevitable was about to happen.  To me, this entire incident appeared to be happening in slow motion.  What probably took less than thirty seconds, seemed to take thirty minutes.

All sorts of things were running through my mind as I was waving my arms and trying not to fall.  I remember thinking that chair leg had broken.  Then I thought, “I’ve gained a couple of pounds, but I’m not heavy enough to break a chair.”  And then I thought, “Damn air vent!  I knew better!”  First I started falling forward and I saw that I would flip over the back of the chair, so I quickly lean back to balance, and the chair dropped for the last time.  At that moment, I had no choice in the matter because I was falling backwards right toward the hard kitchen counter.  On my way down, I remember looking out the kitchen window and screaming a four letter word that starts with the letter “S” and thinking, “This is going hurt!”  I closed my eyes and braced myself for the impact.  And right then, I heard my dad say, “Fall softly!”  It was too late to grab my head to protect it, but I did manage to curl up as tight as I could.  I felt the first impact on my right thigh; then on the lower left side of my head and then my elbow.  I hit so hard I thought, “Holy crap!  I am dead!”

It seemed like an eternity before I came to my senses and realize that I wasn’t dead.  I believe this was the first time in my life that I had ever been knocked senseless.  I laid on the floor for a long time before I could move and I kept saying, “I’m okay; I’m okay.  Just take it slow and easy.  I’m okay.”  Before I moved too much, I checked to make sure I could move my toes and my fingers.  Then I moved my arms and then my legs.  Then I felt of my aching head to determine whether it was bleeding or not.  It wasn’t, but I was very light-headed and dizzy.  I thought, “I am so stupid sometimes!”  After I made sure I didn’t have any broken bones and made sure that I wasn’t bleeding, I slowly sat up.  I performed a quick test to make sure I didn’t have amnesia or any kind of brain damage:  I stated my full name, my address and phone number three or four times.  Once I had gathered myself, I looked over my shoulder to see what I had hit my head on because I was certain that it wasn’t the countertop.   When I saw the blow to my head had come from the Rubbermaid trashcan, I thought, “I sure am glad we didn’t buy that stainless steel trashcan we’ve been looking at.”

I did manage to remove the rest of the wallpaper, and George came the next day as he had promised and removed that one wall for me.  LP helped with the spackling and sanding of the walls, and once all the prep work was done, I painted the walls purple.  The kitchen looks so much better now, and I am very proud that I was able to finish my project before Christmas.  My head was tender to touch for six or seven days, and I had a huge bruise on my thigh that just recently went away.  A couple of days after my accident, LP was picking at me and said, “CJ, it’s a miracle that you didn’t kill yourself.  I guess you should have taken lessons from your daddy and learned how to fall softly.”  I snarled and shot a mean look at LP and said, “Well, believe me, for someone who hasn’t had much practice falling, I fell as softly as I could.”  Then we both just died laughing.  😛

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