My throat tenses. My stomach flip-flops. My hands get clammy. My overall wooziness quotient rises.
And, I tend to freeze. Can’t go forward. Can’t go back.
I just cling.
To the ladder. To the tree limb. To the tractor bucket.
Basically, my body puts on the brakes and tries its best to convince my brain that getting down would be a far healthier course of action and might even lead to a long life.
In contrast, my husband, Kevin, is as nimble as a goat. Periodically, he’ll climb out an upstairs window to clean the gutters and fearlessly scamper from roof to roof removing leaves and other detritous. Before I know he’s even out there, he’s back inside safe and sound.
He assures me that there’s no reason to fear.
It’s not as if I control my reactions.
Earlier this spring, Kevin envisioned an alternative way to grow our pole beans: Let them climb up twine attached to the roofline at the back of the house. They could grow as tall as they pleased all summer long, creating a wall of greenery that might even serve to cool the kitchen and laundry room, which tend to bake when the Dog Days linger.
In fall, when the pods have dried, we can cut down the vines and shell delicious beans for soups and casseroles.
I was intrigued, but I left the logistics to him.
We bought strong hemp twine and sturdy screw-eye hooks. Kevin measured the distance from eaves to peak to eaves and calculated how far apart to space the hooks.
He gathered his tools and materials — awl, measuring tape, screw eyes — and asked: “Can you come out and help me?”
I knew it’d be tough for him to juggle all of those things while reaching over the roof edge ... so I agreed.
We always help each other. It’s what we do.
So out I climbed through the window onto the flat roof over the sunporch. Not so bad, I thought. I can do this.
Then he clambered onto the roof over the dining room. (He had brought a chair out for me to serve as a step up over the gutter to the next level of the staggered roof, chivalrous man.)
Up I went.
I could feel my shoes grip the shingles as I followed him and neared the peak.
Soon he was at the edge and settled himself down.
My throat was tensing. My stomach was flip-flopping. My hands were growing clammy. And, my head was lightening as my feet stopped moving.
I sat down beside the chimney, about halfway across the roof.
There was no going forward. There was no going back.
One look and he knew, dear man, that this was the end of the line.
“I’m sorry,” I offered.
And managed to affix 26 screw eyes while I watched helplessly from 10 feet away.
I’m not great at heights.
Thank goodness Kevin is.