Thursday, June 11, 2020

At long last, we’re in Surf City.

We arrived yesterday morning at 1030, and the movers were here waiting for us, 30 minutes earlier than expected. And they were a super efficient and nice crew of 3 gents. 90 minutes later, furniture and tons of boxes were in the house, ready for unpacking and organizing.

Pattie spent the day cleaning some things, unpacking a ton. I mostly worked on repairing a few things around here. The workmanship we found was spotty; some things done very, very well, and other things done quite poorly. My main task yesterday was to fix very leaky shower/tub faucets. Two trips to Lowes (one for advice, one for parts), which then led me to Wilmington to a plumbing supply store, and three attempts to rebuild the faucet cartridge and, success. With one of the two faucets. This morning, now that i know how to do this and have the parts, i should get the second faucet (leaking only a tiny bit) done in an hour or so.

As i sit here, having coffee and looking out a very dirty deck window at the beach (have to repair the faucet leading to the hose on the deck so that we can clean these windows), i am happy to watch the waves, to hear the surf’s roar. The sun’s now up, it’s plenty light out, though cloudy, and i am happy to get to the day.

As i look back into the apartment, there’s a long list of to-dos. There are many, many little jobs–plumbing, electrical, putting up curtain rods, towel/t.p. holders, mounting tvs and routing/hiding cables, and generally fixing whatever Pattie finds in her cleaning and organizing today.

I see all that needs doing, and I immediately flash back 45-50 years, to a time when such chores meant a morning/day spent with dad. Usually such days began with assessing things; looking at the problem, taking measurements, gathering whatever information we could so that a stop at the hardware store would give the clerk a fighting chance at finding the right parts for us. [Now, of course, I take pictures/video to show someone at Lowes; I search the web to find parts catalogs and parts numbers…so much easier.] Then, the trip to the hardware store, where dad would often get assistance from gents he was sending work to as real estate manager. It may seem odd, but learning to describe a problem to someone, hearing them ask questions to help narrow down the issue…the back and forth discussion/inquiry taught me alot about efficient questioning, efficient answering, efficient follow-up. It taught me to hone the type of communication I use as a teacher (in addition to handyman); and taught me how to guide students towards focused analysis of problems.

Then, following the hardware store stops, there was the requisite breakfast/diner stop. Nothing like a greasy spoon for breakfast, and though I don’t do it much any more, I know that I did so with Joe when he was young. And he shares my love of a diner breakfast, making for something nice to share. What I think I recall from such meals with dad (it was a long time ago, so I’m fuzzy on this) is the ‘planning conversation.’ What steps come next in our repair job; what materials do we need to gather; what do we lay out to prevent messes; what safety precautions (cutting electricity, turning off water, etc.)…organizing so that as soon as we finished our b’fast, we had a game plan. There are countless ways this strategy has helped me, not just in home repair, of course. From thinking out a musical problem that needs solving, to writing an assignment, to preparing to teach a class online, this is a strategy is an every day.

Then, of course, is the memory that very rarely did things go as planned. This was the biggest challenge for both of us. I was a kid, learning how to deal with plans not going as anticipated, easily frustrated; dad wanted to get through the chore, and on to the next one. But again, I learned how to analysis problems and look for solutions. What dad was particularly good at was improvising fixes. These fixes were often temporary, but this is where I saw dad’s creativity, his ability to figure out what sort of material(s) we needed to complete the fix, and to look around our own house to find some that we could make do. It’s not at all hard to see this skill and perspective in brother Allan or, at an exceptionally high level, in brother Bob, the inventor.

I am able to do these jobs, or I have the wherewithal/confidence to figure out how to do these jobs. And that’s a big and positive part of what dad instilled. Thankfully, these lessons stuck far more than some of the more negative things he modeled, and I am so grateful this is part of my foundation.

Especially today, as I take on each home repair job, dad’ll be by my side, whispering in my ear, saying “you can do this, you can figure this out; good job.”