The roofing company guys took a look at our leaking roof while my wife, Laurel, was away. Then I took the dog for a walk. When I came home, Laurel had returned. She asked, "How did the roof inspection turn out?"
I said, "I've got some disturbing news about that. Well, more accurately the news is disturbing for me. You were right."
Now, I readily admit this is a common occurrence for me, as it is for all husbands. When we disagree about something, especially when it involves our home, my wife often is right.
(She'd substitute usually for often, but, hey, I'm the one writing this blog post, and Laurel isn't looking over my shoulder. So even though I may be wrong about which word to use, I shall follow the adage, "If a man speaks in the forest, and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?" Answer: probably.)
So if I'm so used to being wrong, why did it bother me when Laurel was correct about the cause of the leak in our roof?
Probably because like nineteenth century European nations, we each have our spheres of domestic influence.
I'm much more likely to be right about computer issues than my wife is. And she, not surprisingly, is much more right about choosing a new couch, doing the laundry so clothes come out of the washer and dryer looking pretty much the same as when they went in (just cleaner), and adjusting our dog's diet so the family canine loses the six pounds that our vet has decreed must happen.
The roof, though, is my territory. My wife has never been up on it. I blow out the gutters with our backpack leaf blower. I put on moss killer in the spring and fall. I remove branches that blow onto the roof in an Oregon storm.
So when water started slowly dripping out of our wood-clad living room ceiling, manifesting on a damp paper towel after several days of heavy rains (it was a slow leak), naturally I was the one who got out a ladder and climbed up on the roof to try to figure out what was going on.
Breck, a college student relative of Laurel's, was visiting us at the time. He's a construction management major at Texas A&M who is in Portland on a paid internship at the Nike headquarters. He's a handy guy with home remodeling experience. Thus when the two of us clambered onto the roof and looked over the area where the leak must be coming from, two male minds came to a common conclusion.
Some missing grout on the top of a ridge must be the culprit. The ridge was right in line with the leak. Water must be getting in through the groutless area and working its way down through the underlayment until it found a opening and came through our wood ceiling.
Otherwise, the roof looked completely normal to both Breck's expert eyes and my homeowner eyes. At my request Laurel found a piece of plastic and some small rocks. She put them in a bucket which Breck handed up to me. I put the plastic over the groutless area and secured it with the rocks.
I went back inside, put a dry paper towel sheet down, and waited for the drip to stop.
Which, it didn't.
The slow dripping continued... slowly. Then I had another idea. No, of course it wasn't "Call the company that put a new roof on our house 11 years ago." That's the sort of idea my wife would have, just as she would be the one to ask for directions if we appeared to be lost.
My idea was to try out the next possible reason for the leak that popped into my head: moss that had grown on the ridge area. I'd noticed this when Breck and I were looking at the roof. I figured that the moss could be wicking rain under the shingles. Some Googling showed that moss can indeed be a cause of roof leaks. Bingo!
With a screwdriver I carefully scraped away moss from the undersides of shingles on the ridge area that was "downstream" of the groutless area. Then I went back inside, put a dry paper towel sheet down, and waited again for the drip to stop.
Which, it didn't.
But this failed to make me think I was wrong. It just made me think that I hadn't pursued my rightness with enough fervor. When Laurel asked what we should do now, I said, "When it stops raining I'll put grout on the groutless area. Maybe water somehow is getting under the plastic. I'll also spray moss killer on the ridge."
My wife had a different idea: "Let's have the roofing company take a look at the leak."
I wasn't thrilled with that ridiculous notion, since I obviously had a good plan for dealing with the problem. Breck and I had concluded that aside from some missing grout, the roof was sound. End of story.
Not to Laurel, though.
She phoned the roofing company and left a message. When they called back, she answered the phone and, before I could stop her from making a horrendous mistake, my wife had told them to come out and inspect our roof. She told me that if they found a problem related to their previous work, they'd fix it for free. But if the leak had a different cause -- like moss! -- it would be $150 an hour, or whatever, for the two roofing guys.
When they arrived, I did the "just doing what the wife wants" thing. I told them that I was pretty sure the roof was fine, and the leak was being caused by excessive moss growth, or maybe the missing grout. "But my wife said she'd feel better if you guys took a look at the roof."
They were up on the roof for quite a while. That made me start to suspect that, damn it!, Laurel could have been right to have them come out. After a while the doorbell rang. One of the guys showed me photos he'd taken with his smart phone.
"We replaced the missing grout," he said. "However, here's the real problems. Some staples weren't sealed. Grout had flaked away from these nailheads. These shingles should have had flashing under them, so we added some. Rain could blow into the ridge from the other side of the house, where a open channel carried water. And yes, you should keep moss off of the roof, but this wasn't really the problem."
So my wife was right.
Even though she'd never been up on the roof.
What she was right about wasn't what was causing the leak. She was right about recognizing that she didn't know what was causing the leak, and probably I didn't either, even though I believed that I did. So Laurel was willing to call an expert, and I was reluctant to do this, since I thought I could handle the situation.
I've spent a lot of words getting to a simple truth: women are much more likely to reach out for help than men are. Us males like to think that we're in control, that we can handle it, that we've got a firm grasp of what needs to be done.
Even when we don't.
OK, I know this. Yet I also know that the next time there's some sort of household problem that I feel is in my sphere of influence to fix, I'll plug away at it until my wife says, "Let's call an expert." I'll think she's wrong.
But she'll probably be right. I'll hate that when it turns out to be true. I'll also love it that Laurel and I are such different people, a woman and man with complementary strengths and weaknesses, one of us much more willing to seek out expert help/advice, one of us much more independently minded.
Yin and yang. It makes the world go 'round. Opposites attract, and make a better whole than either alone. Especially when it comes to a man trying to fix something that he doesn't really know much about.