Finally, the kitchen walls are up, painted and ready for cabinets, which have been sitting in our garage since we moved them there five months earlier. Our contractor promises his best cabinet installer will show up the next Saturday to get started.
With every weekend consumed by the remodel, my husband has seen only two of our younger son’s soccer games and one of our older son’s water polo tournaments. I scurry to sporting events while he stays home working alongside the various subcontractors and construction workers. It looks like the coming weekend will be more of the same. We try not to be disappointed and focus instead on this big step of progress.
I get up early for my younger son’s soccer game while my husband prepares for the workers to install the cabinets. I call to check in mid-morning and he responds with no emotion: “The cabinet installer can’t come until Wednesday. I asked the contractor if he knew how to do it and when he said ‘yes,’ I told him he needed to grab his tools and come over to get started.” Under the calm tone of voice, he’s obviously fuming.
I arrive home to find my husband and the contractor working silently in our house on different projects. There is tension in the air, but no one acknowledges it. We drop off cleats and shin guards from soccer and grab a swimsuit and towel as we head out to a water polo tournament for my older son.
The boys and I don’t arrive home until seven o’clock that evening. I’m not surprised to see our contractor is just leaving. He’s done his penance for messing up by putting in a full day’s work. He assures us he’ll continue coming back every day until his installer can start. I’m betting we won’t see him on Monday.
Sure enough, that Monday, no one comes to work. My husband arrives home early to meet the electrician, who works for us as a “side job” on weekends and evenings. Beyond exasperated by the contractor’s failure to show up, my husband finally gets a hold of him and is told he can’t make it due to a “personal issue.” We’ve heard so many explanations over the course of the project that we’re never sure what to believe. The number of hospitalizations, deaths, robberies, doctors’ appointments and car accidents seem almost too much to fathom. I hate that I’m getting so cynical and lacking compassion. We’re just never sure what to believe at this point.
Workers do show up Tuesday and the cabinet installer comes Wednesday, as promised. The job picks up steam again and it’s fun to see the progress of our cabinets being hung in the kitchen. The dream we envisioned so long ago is actually taking shape.
That Friday we finally sit down to meet with the contractor. All week he’s been alluding to the fact that he wants to explain his absence on Monday. Honestly, we’re so used to his broken promises that we don’t even feel the need to meet. As we sit down, he shares that his wife has asked for a separation. He also confesses that he’s out of money and will need to track down a loan to cover the cost of payroll. We’re nearing the end of the amount we agreed to pay. Life is unraveling for him, both personally and professionally.
The following Monday he takes the day off to “secure financing.” On Tuesday, workers show up without him. He sends a text to my husband asking for a “loan.” A text! We are beside ourselves wondering how to respond. After much thought and prayer, we feel that even if he doesn’t pay back the “loan” it will cost less time and money than starting over with someone new. As much as he frustrates us, things are in motion and we don’t want to see them screech to a halt. We are in crisis mode and choosing the lesser of two evils.
We write terms and print an agreement for him to sign. He arrives the following day with his signature on the paper and a renewed commitment to finish well. He agrees to be at the house every day. We’re amazed at how quickly things progress when he works alongside his crew. He is showing up consistently, answering his phone and even returning our calls. The situation in his personal life seems to have woken him up to all of the ways he’s been letting people down- including us.
Making my own mistakes has taught me to judge less and extend grace more freely. It is easy to be critical of people for making bad decisions, but more complicated to look at all the angles and then provide the support they truly need. And this is part of the reason why we’ve continued to give our contractor second chances, even when it looks absurd from the outside. This person who causes so much frustration in our lives is also a husband and father trying to muddle through his own mess. He has made mistakes. So have we. We want to give him a chance to prove himself. Only time will tell if what we’ve done shows how naïve or compassionate we are. It all depends on the point of view. We pray for wisdom walking the line between having healthy boundaries and showing empathy. Our only choice is to move forward trusting God to lead us through the physical, emotional and financial upheaval this remodel continues to cause.