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A toast to Al

I have been a homeowner for less than a week, and I'm already considering selling it and moving back to a rented life.

I won't, of course -- there's a golf course in my backyard and a fish pond across the street. (Plus it is just 5.5 miles from The Mirror offices.) I couldn't have picked a better location.

But I'm amazed at the work that can go into renovating a home.

For example, I went in my house a half-dozen times before Miriam and I bought it. For some reason I never realized the carpet in the living room, dining room and master bedroom was baby blue. We'd picked out fabric and furniture thinking the carpet was cream colored. Well, it will be in the next few days.

And I've learned I'm a terrible judge of the scope of a project. For example, I told my father that caulking the den would only take a few minutes. It took him five hours.

Now maybe he understands why I think my den gets larger every time I go in there with a paint brush. Speaking of painting, I'm sick of it. Any volunteers -- especially those I have dirt on from years of babysitting -- can just show up. I'll put you to work, and I'll forget about the time you watered all your mother's plants with orange juice.

Another thing you can help with is removing vinyl wallpaper -- it will come off, it just takes patience, warm water and a colorful vocabulary. (I think my mother has sworn to never touch wallpaper again. At least, I'm pretty sure she swore.)

Still, the high spots of the last week -- not including a sub-90 round at the Augusta National -- have been wonderful. From Barbara Dell Poston's unexpected visit to Linda Grisham's palm tree-infused house warming gift, there's been plenty to smile and laugh about.

And then there's Uncle Al's contributions.

I'm not really related to Al McGaw, but I might as well be. He's the closest thing I've got to a grandfather these days.

He turned 89 Tuesday, but you'd never know it. He's in much better shape than people half his age -- and in some cases (like a certain newspaper editor), a third of his age.

Al has already dropped off loads of painting and wallpaper supplies, tools and goodies. He's volunteered to help cut and hang chair railing and crown molding. And he's offered loads of solicited and unsolicited advice.

I'm sure he has no idea how much his help on this project -- not to mention countless others on Ware Street -- mean to my family. He's become our go-to guy. If Al can't fix it, no one can, and it probably shouldn't be fixed.

So in honor of his 89 years, I'll raise a glass of Guinness for Al. And I'll make the toast to his wonderful wife, Markie, for putting up with him for most of them.

Web posted on Thursday, June 3, 2004

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