My parents had tried to warn me about those ‘fixer-upper-type homes’. First it was chiseling off the laminate backsplash in the kitchen, then painting the cabinets. Now, I had gotten the bright idea to cover the pink laminate counters with faux concrete. As always, Mark was game.
After dusting the entire house, running the vacuum nonstop, and a week of work, the counters were finally ready for sealing.
“You can’t use the stove, Mark,” I said one day in passing. “The sealant needs 72 hours before it’s cured.”
“Got it,” Mark said, nodding.
It was no more than five hours later that I saw the stain– greasy splotches all over my beautiful concrete counters and right by the stove. I screamed and scrubbed the stains with a rag, pleading for them to lift. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” I kept saying.
“What’s wrong?” Mark said, turning into the kitchen.
“The counters,” I cried. “Did you use the stove?!”
He pulled back, a sheepish expression covering his features. “Well, yeah… why?”
“Why? The counters! I told you not to use the stove.”
Mark lifted his hands, warding me away. “Now wait a second. You said not to use the counter for three more days.”
“Mark!” I dropped my face in my hands. “I said not to use the stove.” Tears slipped down my cheeks. The exhaustion of the week caught up to me, the physical and emotional toll finally making itself known.
“Don’t worry. I can fix this. It’s easy. I’ll just do another layer of concrete. Don’t cry. It’s going to be just fine,” he said, darting toward the back door.
He spent the afternoon trying to patch over the stain, but nothing worked. It only got worse and grew to the size of a beach ball. I became an emotional (possibly PMSing) mess. I forgot how much better our kitchen looked than before. I forgot how much fun we’d had DIYing together.
I spent the next week grumbling each time I passed the stain. My perfect counters were blemished, and it could have been avoided! If only Mark had paid attention to me. I stewed, and I stewed, until it got to the point where I would bring the counter up in any marital conversation about communication. “You have to listen to me. Remember the counter?”
Two months later.
“Let’s just finish the grout tonight,” I plead. We were so close.
“I’m too tired,” he said. “Let’s finish in the morning. We’ve got all day tomorrow.”
I huffed. “Maaaaarrrrk.”
Then I saw his eyes, his bloodshot and puffy eyes. He had worked all day cutting and laying the backsplash. What right did I have to ask for more? I had only stood around critiquing– “A little to the left”, “that edge isn’t straight”, blah blah blah.
“Go to bed, Sweetheart. I’ll finish up the grout myself.”
“By yourself? Are you sure you can do that?” he asked, sniffling. The family cold had caught up to him. “I have to go to bed. I don’t feel well. Are you sure you can do it by yourself?”
“Sure. It’ll be a breeze. I’ve watched Fixer Upper and Property Brothers enough to know how to do grout! Just go to bed,” I said, giving him a quick squeeze. “And thanks for all your hard work today. It looks great,” I said.
I went to work, mixing the grout and slathering it over the tiles and into the cracks. I waited the allotted time, then grabbed my sponge to clear off the extra. Piece of cake.
Except for it wasn’t. It was hard. The grout was hardening too quickly. I scrubbed until my knuckles were literally bleeding, and I had only cleaned off 1/6 of the grouted tile. Tears formed at my eyes, and I scrubbed harder, longer.
I scrubbed and cried until it was clear I needed help, and fast. It was 2 am. I was only a half of the way done. I had been working for 3 hours. The grout felt like concrete at this point.
It took setting aside all my pride to wake Mark. With tear-filled eyes, I begged. “Mark, I’m so sorry to wake you up. I know how tired you are. I know you have a cold. But, I need help.”
He squinted at the sight of the hall light.
I came closer, repeating myself.
He saw my tears, my bloodied hands, and he got up right away.
He finished cleaning the concrete-hard grout in 30 minutes, without a single complaint. “It’s okay, Heather,” he said when I kept apologizing.
The next morning, I walked past the stove. The grease stain from Mark’s mistake months ago shone back at me. I had held it over his head for the last two months, unwilling to forgive such a stupid mistake. And yet, Mark had dealt with my tile disaster without a single rebuke, a single guilt-inducing comment.
I ran my fingers across the stain and smiled. I would forever love that stain, for all it represented. I would never hold onto such a silly grudge again. It wasn’t worth it. I turned to the backsplash on the opposite wall. Instead, I would try to be more like my husband, willing to help at a moment’s notice. I would forgive always.