When Silent Bob and I bought the house I live in, it had been abandoned for over 2 years. Sitting higher up than all of the other houses on the street, at the back of the northwest Houston neighborhood, it was a somewhat imposing no-eaves, three-dormers-jutting-from-its-front, two-story house. Because of its peculiar architecture the roof leaked. Like in leaked in a lot of places. In a city where a lot of rain happens year around.
It also had a large swimming pool in the backyard, filled with thick, green water.
In the 33 years we’ve owned the house, the only consistent use of the pool was Moses and Red (our large, double hair coated dogs), cooling off in the oppressive summer heat. The stink of damp dog hair filled with chlorine was impressive. The sons swam on swim team and had little desire to come home and swim more. There were a few odd pool parties early on. SB and I used the pool like every pool owner has.
In the end, I am not sure who hated the pool more, SB or I. It was our own personal money pit. Nothing at the pool store was ever under 100 bucks. The trees that framed its perimeter were as valuable to potential resale value as the pool itself. Or at least this is the flawed logic we held on to every time the pool motor bearings went out, the continual rotation of tree reproduction clogged the filter with pollen, gumballs or leaves, or leaks sprang up in the scabbed-on PVC that SB and I used to repair.
And then about 15 years ago, from a place I don’t remember, along came Ignacio.
Tall and lanky with kind brown eyes, he took one look at the pool and with confidence said, in a quiet Spanish lilt, “I can fix it. Don’t worry.”
Two weeks later after every other day ministrations on his part, the pool water was a light almost opalescent green. The days he hadn’t come I had spent hours replacing the diatomaceous earth in the filter, bags and bags of it. Using some kind of suction hose thingy SB had found at Home Depot, I stuck it in every water inlet or outlet I could find and turned the water on full blast, wondering if the pool we had bought was somehow cursed. Besides me doing that.
My intuition was telling me that Ignacio was just about to throw in the towel.
He came along the beginning of the third week, carrying the tools of his trade in his hands and over his shoulder and caught me forcing a sewer pipe drain snake down the water intake of the pool.
I had formed the opinion, the image firmly in my mind, that a huge clog of gum balls lay somewhere between the pool and the pump amongst the intricate maze of PVC that lay in the ground. In my head, it was a bit like a booger you can’t get out of your child’s nose.
But my sons will tell you that those kinds of situations are not ones where I typically give in to.
Ignacio quietly without any judgement or condemnation, and certainly no “I quit” notice quietly given, went to work with me.
Three days later, the water looked like you could drink it.
I wouldn’t have though.
About 6 months later, the pool having retained its pristine look, I went out to thank Ignacio. I apologized for interrupting him, as his long arms pushed a brush along the sides of the pool, efficiently and effectively.
He stopped and looked directly at me.
“I was ready to quit, you know,” he said, “That day I found you trying to fix this pool.”
“Yes,” I said, “I know.”
“I said to myself, if she is willing to try this hard, I can’t give up either,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “We didn’t, did we?
Ignacio has taken care of my pool for decades now. I know very little about his family or his dreams. I do however, know a whole lot about his character and the kind of man he is. I know about his level of commitment and his steadiness. I know he is quiet. I know he is also observant. In the strangest of ways he is a part of my family. He has witnessed our tragedy. He has watched my mother’s health decline and then rebound. And with eyes of concern, gently expresses support. He has seen me at my worst, and I have tried to see when he is having a day of difficulty. But that is hard. He is a quiet man.
A neighbor had asked me if I would recommend him. I know her to be difficult to please, difficult to work with. I asked him if he wanted to add her, thinking from a business standpoint it was advantageous to him. She is close. But I made sure I sufficiently warned him
“I can handle it,” he said.
About a month ago I asked him how it was going.
“She’s fired me three times,” he said, his eyes giving way to the sly smile that spread slowing across his face.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “I can handle it.”
Last Sunday my church opened for in person worship. To be honest, I did not want to go. Whether you believe COVID is real or not, this has changed society. If me, a person, who survives solely because I am aware of my place in my Creators universe, doesn’t want to go to church when the doors finally open, what’s the future like? Where is the line going to be drawn between living the Instagram life and the human need for real touch and talk? Where are we going to find our purpose, if we aren’t in touch with people, really?
It’s a great question.
A gentle reminder came wafting across my text message, of a friend excited about song and praise, and it pushed into my heart. I got up, got dressed (as in put on a dress, yoga pants on the floor), curled my hair and headed out the door.
Igancio was coming up the drive. (No matter the weather, he always parks on the street. Never blocks the drive. Never. No matter how much equipment he totes back and forth.)
“Good morning, Igancio,” I said.
“Morning,” he said. “You look beautiful today.”
He smiled as he said it, and his words warmed my heart. Because I know he wasn’t talking about physical beauty, I’d never claim to that. But Ignacio has watched me leave for Sunday worship for almost two decades. He’s seen my family at the worst times and on occasion at our best. We have never shared a meal or talked about life over a beer. I don’t know if he wishes he could go to church, because he’s at my house on Sunday mornings. But I know this. His heart wanted to encourage me and he wasn’t bashful or motivated through self-interest. Just like he and I have worked together to keep the green out of my backyard money pit, he was working with me on life. He was supporting me with words. For doing the right thing. The right thing that he has seen me do for many Sundays. He recognized the joy on my face. He knows first-hand what that kind of heart joy feels like because you’ve done something right.
These are difficult times. Really difficult. Do the right thing. There are a lot of right things we can do that might seem little. Or maybe there are big things you can do. Do them. And I pray someone tells you how beautiful you are. Or even better, you get to tell someone.