The photo is from 1978. My son, his truck. Behind him, my truck.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Revelation of Ladders

Sunday, December 8, 1980

The father was fourteen feet up the aluminum extension ladder in his own house when he felt himself go.  There was no warning. 

He had the sensation of floating.  One moment he was standing there getting ready to drill; the next he was floating.  Falling.  Flying. 

He dropped the drill and grabbed for a ceiling beam, a four by twelve.  He couldn't reach the top of the beam but somehow managed to grip the bottom.  The wood was smooth except for one notch in the side: a termite hole.  Just the size of a thumb.
    Bless you
    dead termites
He was holding his weight with only his thumb, bent at the knuckle.

The ladder crashed to the floor.  The drill struck the cast iron kitchen sink and broke into six pieces.  The father would be next.

The mother came running.  Lifting almost beyond her strength, she hoisted the ladder and held it while he swung his feet to the side — swung his body, a hundred and sixty pounds — until the feet found the ladder, and he was safe.

When he got to the floor, he was out of breath.  Between gulps of air he said to his wife: "I was hanging by my thumb."

"How could you do that?"

"I couldn't."  He shook his head, amazed.  "But I did."

A child was crying.  The mother went to comfort him.

The father cleaned up the broken pieces of drill.  He could buy a new one.  He lowered the ladder and carried it outside.  Next time, he'd brace it better. 

Sometimes you discover a power that is hidden, dormant, in your body.  Sometimes you amaze yourself.

The thumb was sore for weeks.

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