The Handy Man


The Handy Man

I believe I am on my way to Sainthood. Although I do not claim to be as worthy as say Mother Theresa, I do think I have paved my way to a solid seat behind the pearly gates. My mother used to tell me “Karen, you have the patience of Job.” At the time I had no idea who Job was exactly but it was said with such reverence that I automatically took it as a compliment. Having since read Job’s story I think my mother’s compliment was a bit misplaced but we’ll chalk it up to that enigma of motherhood that causes us to see our children in sometimes a much glossier way than what is the true reality.

Needless to say, I think 15 years of marriage to a wanna-be handy –man/ carpenter has since rendered me “Job-like” and thus a clear nomination for Sainthood. At the beginning of our marriage it became clear that my husband was willing to tackle nearly any project. I was aware of his skill as a painter. “Tape? You don’t need tape if you paint right.” He never uses tape along windows or baseboards. He also never uses a tarp or protective layer on the floor and he never needs to. He does an impeccable job. Painting, however, is not on the same scale as completely over hauling a room.

On one rainy day in March 11 years ago, I discovered his desire for his skills to go beyond painting without tape or tarp. While our 18 month old son and I were playing on the living room floor, we heard a horrible crash come from the main bathroom. I went running to see my husband, sledge hammer in hand smashing away at the 1960’s pale yellow tile that went half way up the wall of the bathroom. Now we had of course discussed renovating the bathroom. Discussion, I discovered, means two different things to my husband and me. For me it translates to a plan of action. For my husband it translates to action. The only problem with this course of action was there was no plan that went along with demolition. It was our main bathroom in a two bathroom house. It held the only tub and our son was too big to be bathed in a sink, as was I. I haven’t bathed in a sink since the summer of 1970.

I would also like to point out that smashing away at the tile would also mean replacing drywall. Removing the tile floor would mean replacing it with new tile. He was really having so much fun smashing away at the tile I could hardly bring myself to point these things out to him. Even so I did and I was waved away with a non-gloved hand (you don’t need gloves if you use the sledge hammer correctly, in case you didn’t know) in a gesture I was becoming very familiar with. The “you worry too much, I got this” gesture. Which has also been followed on occasion but the “how soon can you get me to the ED?” gesture.

Once the fun of demolition was about done he realized we needed a plan. His reasoning was actually pretty sound. He decided to take action so we would have to basically take action. He knew (as he still does) that it was hard for me to part with money. He also knew we would only keep talking if one of us didn’t do something a bit drastic. But even so at the time I was ready to divorce him. Yes I said divorce. Because, you see, sadly at the beginning of our marriage I had only the ability to see faults and not just in my husband but in most everyone around me. Somehow it seemed easier to play the part of Job but actually be a Pharisee, in essence I talked the talked but behind closed doors I wasn’t walking the walk.

A year before the bathroom renovation, I went to Florida mid-winter to visit my parents and my husband stayed home. When I came home our out dated kitchen had virtually transformed to a sleek white vision, straight from a magazine. I am not sure I showed my gratitude to the extent I should have. It was no small feat to paint old cabinets but I certainly did not appreciate his effort at the time.

Ten years ago we moved from that quaint little Cape that my husband lovingly renovated into a larger house in the country. It held all the charm of a cardboard box but over the years my husband has proved his ability to be a decent carpenter, adding crown molding and putting in wood floors. We had walls removed (done by a professional with a plan).

A couple weeks back my husband decided it was time to move our washer and dryer from our crowded first floor bathroom to the basement. For the last ten years I have washed and re-washed clothes since the washer and dryer sat so close to the toilet I was constantly dropping things either directly into the toilet or close enough to make me gag and decide to throw them back into the washer. This became a priority on my husband’s list. I would prefer to replace the kitchen cabinets falling off my wall but he just could not longer stand the sight of his clothes falling precariously close to the toilet.

We had an electrician and a plumber come and do what they needed in order to move the appliances downstairs. Both came on separate days while I was at work. My husband, who works at home, let them in and let them do their thing. I honestly did not pay much attention. On the day we moved the appliances down stairs, my husband put the washing machine on the dolly and pulled it forward and torrent of water came rushing out of the tube so much so that I thought it wasn’t going to stop. It did and when moved revealed a wall of mold. I tried to wash it away using a solution I found on the internet but when I went to wash the wall my hand went through it. My husband sighed and added “drywall the bathroom” to his list.

We brought the washer downstairs and moved on to the dryer which took a little more finagling as it was tucked behind the toilet. But without too much trouble we moved it out of the bathroom. My husband headed through the garage and around the back yard, which has a steep slope. I ran down the stairs to get the door opened for him and heard him yell and heard something go thump. I ran out to see my dryer lying face down on my lawn. My husband shrugged and said,” It’s kind of big and awkward to hold onto.” I held my tongue and decided not to remind him I had suggested calling one our friends to help with this. We righted the large machine and got it into the basement. We then set about setting them up. My husband pushed the washing machine into place and pulled the drain tube up to the pipe on the wall. It didn’t reach. I glanced at him and he looked completely befuddled. He looked at it from every angle. He looked below the pipe, above the pipe, to the left and to the right. He silently walked to his work bench, a few feet away and came back with a saw. He took a few passes over the pipe, worked up a sweat and said, “I don’t think that is going to work.” I held my tongue. He moved on to putting the dryer into place. It looked good until we tried to plug it in. Apparently we have a dinosaur of a dryer and our ten year old dryer doesn’t fit the new sockets with its old plug. We didn’t know this so my husband called the electrician who explained things changed in the last ten years and he didn’t realize we had such an old dryer. It was an easy fix, we could buy an adapter, he said. We added it to the list for the hardware store. We pushed the dryer into place and stood back, feeling like we had accomplished something. I moved forward and opened the dryer door and my heart sank. The door was opening out to the washer instead of away from it. My husband smiled and said he would just switch the door. After an hour of trying he came to the conclusion he couldn’t just switch the door.

I had to get our daughter to a birthday party so I Ieft him to the puzzle. I strategically placed a large basket of laundry where he might trip over it, just as a gentle reminder. When I returned two hours later he said, “You are good to go.” Because remember wives, it is all our laundry we are doing. When I got to the basement I was speechless, mostly because I didn’t want to yell, “Are you kidding me?” There before me was my washing machine…perched on cement blocks, a solid foot of cement. I looked at my husband. I looked back at the washing machine. I would need a step stool to load that thing. I gave him a demonstration. He shrugged his shoulders. He was done with this project.

So now I get a work out when I do my laundry. My right foot balances on the step stool as load the laundry in and my left leg gets a stretch as I stretch to the left in a lunge to put the clothes into the dryer. I was concerned in the beginning I would have a grotesquely large right calf, offset by a rather tight left butt cheek but a little cross training on Saturday mornings with my good friend Mr.Pelton seems to be off-setting my rather awkward daily work out.

I will be honest my mind had many things to say and not many of them were kind. But I held my tongue and thanked my husband for spending the better part of his day moving the appliances. I realized it wasn’t how he wanted to spend his day. He was doing something he thought would make life a little easier. So I thanked him as I should have 11 years ago when he beautified my kitchen and bathroom. I didn’t harp on the cement blocks. I could have, my tongue was a bit sore for biting down on it. I have learned one lesson over the years, being grateful and being thankful for what someone can do far outweighs pointing out what they can’t or don’t do.

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