My husband’s name is listed first on our mortgage. We co-own the house, we paid for it together. When the loan documents were drawn up, somebody’s name had to be listed first. Could have been his, could have been mine. It was his. I noticed it at the time, shrugging it off as both archaic and possibly alphabetical. Then there were property taxes; then there was homeowners insurance. These list Tony’s name first, because our mortgage lists his name first. OK. Sure. Fine. It’s habit. Man before woman. Adam before Eve. It doesn’t matter. Except when something happens, and I need to file a claim for with the homeowner’s insurance. I call them. They call the first name on the account, which— no matter how many times I request they update their records— is not me.
We recently suffered hail damage to our roof in a harrowing storm that woke the whole family up at one-thirty in the morning. Brando came to the bedroom door and whined, and Tony and I climbed out of bed to stand guard (see: slump on the sofa half-asleep) beside him as he huddled between us, his eyes wide and watery. He was shaking. The rain hitting the roof grew so loud I regretted that skylight in the kitchen. The truth is, I was scared, too.
“Do you think that’s hail?” I asked.
“It could be acorns,” Tony said.
There’s an oak tree whose branches stretch over the roof, and every August all of the acorns drop onto the skylight in startling plinks and plunks. This storm seemed to be shaking the all loose in a matter of minutes. I know that’s not ideal, but it’s a really old tree. Older than the house, and I refuse to cut it down.
Two days later, a guy drove through our neighborhood in a pickup truck with a ladder in the back and a stack of informational folders in the passenger seat. We were on our way out for a walk when he pulled up and stopped Tony, asking if we’d like him to climb up and assess the damage. We said yes. When he climbed down and said, “This is some of the best I’ve seen.”
“The best?” I asked.
“Well, not for you. For me.”
That was that. Our roof, which I don’t want to replace, because it’s not terribly old, was damaged. I did what you do. Got a second opinion, confirmed what we were told. Then I called in the claim, and the project was off and running.
Two days after I filed the claim, the insurance company called Tony with a billing issue. He mentioned the roof. Gravely concerned that filing a claim so soon after our last (chimney fire last year, another headache) would increase our premiums, they wanted an estimate prior to our filing the claim. This was all very ominous to Tony, who called me in the middle of a work day, clearly freaked out.
“Will you just talk to her, please? Just talk to this woman. I’m not sure we did it right.”
So I, who have already taken care of this, got on the phone with Vanessa from West Bend to have a conversation I have already had, all for the purpose of reassuring my husband. Who I love and so want to reassure.
“Well, the issue is that if it’s not a very big claim, your premiums could go up for a repair that you really could have afforded for yourself.”
“Are you in the Twin Cities?” I asked her.
“Remember that really scary storm a few nights ago?”
“We have hail damage. We need a new roof. I don’t have an exact estimate, but I had two different companies look at it. They agreed: new roof. That’s expensive. That’s worth a claim.”
“Tony didn’t tell me that. He really didn’t seem to know what was going on.”
“I know. These things fall under my purview.”
“I have a similar situation at my house.”
I wanted to ask: are you the primary contact? Do insurance companies call you? Talk to you? Acknowledge you? When contractors or mortar restorers or roofers come to your house and quote you some ungodly number that you can’t commit to without talking to your husband, do they nod as if they understand you’re just the intermediary? Do they treat you like you’re asking for permission?
“You know, since it sounds like you handle everything, why don’t I go ahead and make you the primary contact on the account. Would you like that?”
I felt so seen by her, I closed my eyes.
“Yes, Vanessa. That would be great.”