Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Handyman Dan (Not!)

I came home today and found Joyce painting a wall. As I type, I'm inhaling the fresh aroma of fresh paint--I'm sure that's healthful. I suppose I should feel some shame--I mean, I didn't do a thing to help or contribute--but I don't, and I don't think Joyce feels (much) resentment for my lack of participation, either: After all, she knows how useless I am around the house. It has been ever thus.

Let's blame my dad.

Although he grew up on a farm in Oregon (nearly a dozen in the family), he was never very much good around the house. Oh, he owned some tools, but the result was not usually very good after he wielded them. Occasionally, he would roust me (why not brother Richard? why not brother Dave?) out of bed on a Saturday morning to help him with some pointless project or another. His efforts often required some subsequent remediation from someone who actually knew what he was doing.

When I was in eighth grade in the Hiram (Ohio) Schools (1957-58), the boys all had to take "shop"--guess what the girls had to take? The teacher was Walter Lohr, who also did some coaching (I had him for 7th grade basketball). I did learn the difference between a crosscut and a rip saw in his class; I got to watch him use the table saw (we, I think, were not allowed--though maybe he kept only me away from it? wise choice), the band saw, the jigsaw. We all had various projects--I remember a bird house (mine offered accommodations even the most self-loathing bird never would have accepted), and I made some kind of little cedar storage chest that my mother kept around until she thought I'd forgotten about it. Then ... out it went. (Can't say that I blame her.)

I just checked my Hiram Schools transcript: my semester grades for Shop: C+, B-. Mr. Lohr seems to have been generous

That was the extent of my manual training, Mr. Lohr's class. Later--out on my own--I always needed others to help me. Jim Wright, a colleague at the Aurora Schools, helped me early in my career whenever I needed someone to hook up a washing machine or do some other household task. He was great about helping--though he must have thought I was ... challenged. (He was right.)

Jim kept helping, even in the early years of our marriage, and I think I was wise not to let Joyce know how "handy" I was before we married. She's, of course, learned by now. About the most complicated thing I do is hang pictures on the wall (does that count?)--or turn down the temp on the hot-water heater when we're going to be away for a while. Anything else ... Joyce has to do. Or we have to hire someone. (We know some good folks around Hudson to help out--though I have seen in the faces of some of them a sort of sour disrespect (for me!) when they see how trivial the job will be.)

Our son (now 42) evinced no special handyman gifts when he was a boy (other than cutting himself accidentally with a knife), but in his adulthood he has proved to surpass his Old Man--by far. In his home in Green he's done ceramic tile floors and all sorts of things I don't understand. When we were visiting my mom in western Mass., I watched him dig around in his car to replace an entire headlight assembly. I couldn't have done it if the fate of the world relied on my doing so.

It ain't gonna get no better. As I age and weaken and become forgetful and ever more clumsy, getting involved in a home-improvement project would be disastrous--totally inconsistent with the term home-improvement.

So ... it's a good thing that Joyce is fearless about doing things--about doing it all herself. She does not seem to have lost too much respect for me as a result--but you'll have to ask her for the truth. After all, one of her majors in college was theater. Acting.

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