***A Master of None

 

That’s me.  A jack of no trades and a master of none.

Some people should not be turned loose with a screwdriver…or hammer.  Some people should not be allowed to open a circuit box…or change a washer, or make any household repairs no matter how simple.

Simple?  There is no such thing.  As you can guess I have odd jobs to complete.  Maybe I won’t burn down the house or flood the bathroom.

When in doubt, call the plumber.  Call the electrician.  I should always be in doubt.

Some men are born without the “jack of all trades” handyman genes.  I am one of those men.  I am not a handyman.  I am lucky to still have all of my fingers.  I am also stupid because I still try to lose them.

I know my way around a screwdriver, hammer, or wrench…even a drill.  I know which end to use and after that…I’ve found I’m pretty much useless…worse than useless.  A disaster looking for a place to happen.

“How to” YouTube videos suddenly become Godzilla movies in real life as I wreak havoc on unsuspecting circuit boards or faucet valves and innocent pieces of wood.  Can you be arrested for “wood slaughter” or nail bending?

I should have thought of my shortcomings before moving into a house that is a century and a quarter old…well…the older home does seem to be better put together than the newer edition.  They really don’t make things like they used to…I’m a walking example of that.

Wood?  It was made to burn.

I think I got my destructive gene honestly.  My dad fixed looms in a cotton mill but when he got home…not so much.  To his defense, we had no looms at home.

The memory of my Dad is not being too much of a “handy guy.”  Like me, maybe replacing a washer or pull cord on a lawnmower, but Ernest also ruined more lumber than he ever put up.  I have turned a lot of good wood into kindling over the years.

I can’t drive a nail or cut a board straight with a nailgun held to my head.  Well, I can drive it straight if it doesn’t matter what it looks like but just as soon as I try to put that tee tiny finishing nail in…I find not only have I ruined the nail but the board I’m trying to put it into.  Trim work?  Surely you jest.  They ain’t made enough wood filler yet.

There is a certain amount of pressure to perform.  Do the “manly” things of life.  My wife standing by, watching my every move.  Patting her toe, her fists clenched and resting on her hips does not help.

“So, you really want me to use this pipe wrench?  Do you have the plumber’s telephone number close by?  You know, just in case.

It is her dad’s fault.  Ole Ralph Bolt would try anything right up to microsurgery.  No job too hard or too complicated.  Not that he was any more successful, he just knew how to hide his catastrophes better than I do.

He reminded me of an organ grinder’s monkey…not in looks but actions.  He was small and light on his feet…and fearless.  Scrambling up and down ladders or across the roof.  Even into his eighties, he was willing to climb up scaffolding or step over to the edge of an overhang to drive a nail.

Banging away he would pause after miss hitting, eyeball the nail before exclaiming either, “Shi…” and reversing the hammerhead to draw the nail out or giving it the side-eye, “Well, that’s okay for ‘gubmint’ work.”

Maybe that is my problem.  I’m trying to be to pleasing…too perfect.  It just needs to be good enough for ‘gubmint’ work.  I don’t know, I think not.

I have nightmares about whether that switch I replaced is just waiting to short out and burn down our house or the valve on the water tank will fail, causing the flood of the century.

From YouTube, The Talking Heads, Burning Down the House.  Released in 1983 on the album Speaking in Tongues.

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0wlB0DlAkqvTEshPUaqSmD10vEAKU1T70bzCJ6nhfEgrOqh3J-TAFTvNs

The image of the burning house from Photo by kolyaeg via Pixababy.

On Father’s Day

As I contemplate my own fatherhood on Father’s Day, awaiting a luncheon with darlin’ daughter, son-in-law, and grandbabies, I can’t help but think about my father.  I don’t have enough memories…I’ve now outlived him by ten years.  He died when I was twenty-six as I was just beginning my own pathway to adulthood, a sometimes twisting, bumpy pathway that he might have been able to smooth and straighten out.

“Foss” was a small man who, at least in my own memories, cast a much larger shadow…a shadow that gets larger as I get older I’m sure.  He was five feet six in his shoes but now seems much taller.

A member of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”, he left my mother to be and went off to fight fascism and militarism with MacArthur’s army in the Philippines.  Like everything he did in his life, he did it the best way he could, with a wrench in his hand instead of a rifle, keeping landing craft afloat and moving troops and material to the beachheads.  Not very heroic or as flashy as a Thompson sub-machine gun but just as necessary.

After the war, he made a living the same way, with a wrench, as a loom fixer for Spring Mills, toiling in grease, lint, and heat.  I still have the thirty-year pen he proudly wore on his suit coat lapel.  He and my mother provided a home and everything that was necessary for my good life…not everything I wanted, but everything I needed.  A good life I find myself meandering back toward as I approach my own autumn years.

I’m most proud of the way he treated my mother…yes, they had their battles, she was a red-headed Scot-Irish lass and had the stereotypical temper to go with the hair.  Her explosions were thunderclaps that abated quickly, and Ernest usually absorbed them stoically.  I was always surprised when he didn’t…whether it was reacting to her or something stupid that I had done.  While I never heard him say it, I’m sure he loved her.

Later, when she was diagnosed with ALS, he was there.  Physically and emotionally, he supported her every way he could while attempting to keep body and soul intact.  He didn’t do it alone, but he was there for us all and I’m proud of his efforts.

I shouldn’t make this sound like our relationship was idyllic…there were moments, especially after he remarried.  I have a note he left me, a cherished bit of memorabilia.  It stated simply, “The lawn mower has been in the front yard for a week.  Either use it or put it up.”  He was a man of few words and actions did speak louder than words…although when he sat me down for a “talking to” I would have rather he just hit me and get it over with.

It’s been forty-eight years since he died, literally in the cotton mill he worked in.  I remember the phone call from my brother.  Like most sons, there was much I wish I had told him when I had time…I just didn’t take the time.  I did receive a bit of closure.  In a codeine-fueled battle with pneumonia, he came to me in a dream.  With him sitting at the foot of my bed we talked.  I was able to tell him things I had not.  I was able to tell him I loved him.  The dream was too real to have just been a dream.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM