There’s a new man in my life. He is full of good advice, but he’s a good listener, too. He knows a lot of people and how to do a lot of things, including how to negotiate a good deal. He can build you up after you’ve been taken down. Some days he brings me good news and on others, he won’t respond to my calls or e-mails. He’s not my boyfriend. He’s my contractor and probably the most important person in my life right now outside of my family.
I first met Mark five days after the fire. The insurance appraiser recommended him because they had worked together in the past. I didn’t have to use his recommendation, he told me several times, but I decided to go ahead and meet Mark before making up my mind. Besides, in those early days after the fire, I wasn’t sure what to do or who to call. My brother also has a small contracting company and he offered right away to help out. It can be awkward hiring relatives, though. How would I push back if I was dissatisfied about work? Would I really be able to fire my brother, if necessary? Not that I thought the situation would come to that, but I had to consider it. So while I planned to throw as much work as possible his way, I wanted someone neutral and unrelated to me to guide the overall process.
My contractor specializes in house restoration after fires, floods, and other disasters. I found out later that he had worked as a firefighter in his younger years, so rebuilding houses after a fire seems like a natural career progression. Firefighters’ bodies take a lot of abuse, he told me one day when he painfully hobbled into my rental house for a meeting; it’s a job for the young. He’s still paying for some of the injuries he picked up then. When you’re young, you just brush them off, he said, but they catch up with you eventually.
Mark’s a good-natured guy and can be a calming influence when I get anxious about the whole insurance and rebuilding process. He’s been through it many times before with others. He’s got a pretty good relationship with Bruce, my insurance appraiser, too. In the beginning, I worried that Mark might team up more with the insurance side instead of with me, but I’ve seen how he’s pushed back a few times about costs, so I feel more confident that he’s looking after my interests. He’s the one who urged me to itemize my pantry supplies and describe my personal property to get the best reimbursement value. He works with my realtor and me to create the most marketable house we can within the budget. He’s done it all before, so he understands this journey more than I do. Of course, were this ever to happen again, I’d be an old hand at this rebuilding business, but I sure hope I never need to go through this experience again.