Susan wrote about him pottering around in her home for a few months, building the most beautiful kitchen amongst other things.
There was the usual disruption, but great results. He's kind of low impact, highly skilled, gratifyingly cost-conscious, and excellent at making a plan. I looked at what she had and thought: "I want some of that!"
The summer entertainment season approached, and my home was bleating to be gussied up a bit. "He's slow," she warned me, "and he has PTSD." You can't frighten me: if tuberculosis is our national disease, post-traumatic stress disorder is our national syndrome: apparently about a quarter of us suffer from it.
There might be the odd need for a steadying cup of tea after the Noonday Gun went off, of course, but hey. Now I don't know what Susan has that I don't, but after behaving impeccably on her job, Pat the builder lost it on mine For instance, one day something – who knows what – unseated him completely, and he crashed around my kitchen shattering things, had a beer or three to settle his nerves, and then went to sleep in a pile of debris and pool of sugar soap. It was very ugly.
But I'm a great believer in giving people – especially damaged people – a shot at redemption, and he said it was all because he had run out of his medications. Health24 writer Ilse Pauw has trained the team thoroughly in the nuances of the stigma that attaches to mental illness.
So a couple of days later, contrite and well-drugged again, he was back on the job. As I said, he does beautiful, meticulous, thoughtful work. Things that had been bugging me for years were resolved. I was happy. Yesterday, however, I came home to the cops in my living room. Perhaps Pat's pills had run out again. It appears his eyes had lit upon the power tools next door, and he'd helped himself to a couple of sets, along with a few other choice items.
Then he'd used one of the drills in full view of the people he'd taken them from – a clear indication he wasn't joining the dots – before storing the whole lot in my linen cupboard. There wasn't much to say, really, once he owned up and returned the tools.
I gave him a glass of water, told him to breathe, and suggested our relationship might have run its course. The wonderful policewoman in charge hung around murmuring reassurances while he packed his boxes and shunted himself, his skills and the possibility of redemption out into the street.
Susan came around later with a bottle of red – from the Bon Courage estate, very thoughtful – admired the work Pat had done, and then we settled in and drank steadily as the light died. It seemed like the best prophylaxis against me developing my own PTSD.
If you've got a worse builder story, I'd love to hear it.
(Heather parker, Health24, December 2010)