The Handyman Can

For most of my life, nearly all of my life, no one would confuse me with being a handyman.

My dad, he built an entire room from the ground up when I was a kid. He had a garage full of tools, some of which he had inherited from his father, my grandfather, who made toys for his children. From scratch. Lincoln logs and blocks and who knows what else. Better than you could buy from the store. My grandfather had a basement full of tools.  Saws and lathes and drills and hammers and sanders and chisels and things which have names that I do not know.

If he wanted to, I am certain with his set up down there that he could have built Sputnik in a race with the entire Soviet empire. But let’s face it, homemade Lincoln logs are much cooler and more practical.

I have neither a garage, nor a basement. Maybe that’s my problem.The cause of so many years of my lack of handyman-ness

I would mix my little organizing drawers full of woods screws and sheet metal screws and sheetrock nails and tiny screwdrivers and drill bits. Orphan parts left over from too many attempted IKEA projects went here and there, making friends with Allen wrenches and odd bits of sandpaper and used single serving crazy glue containers. My kitchen cabinet glassware is organized by size, material, and use.  Every wrongly placed cup or mug is immediately re-shelved. There are no cures for this, only a doctoral thesis waiting to be written. One look at my kitchen and my tool room and one hundred people surveyed would agree: this man is no handyman, but he can find a coffee mug when he needs one

 I am not a handyman, and unfortunately things break.

Lawn sprinklers get run over or mowed over or accidently shoveled. Washers and driers and stoves fizzle and stop working. Lights and electrical switches fail to answer the call. Doors fall off their hinges. The dishwasher gives up the ghost. The garbage disposal actually eats itself.

When Piper and I first got married the running joke was that I loved folding laundry and she loved power tools. To some that was a match made in heaven. The truth is that (a) I still believe we are a match made in heaven (b) That even at a young age, anxiety and self-doubt kept me away from most common tools and simple repairs.  I might venture to change the AC filter or a light bulb, but the one time I tried to hang curtain rods resulted in enough extra holes to require an entire tub of spackling. It is a testament to our strong marriage that we survived such an early test. At least when I hung pictures in our new home I could hide the holes until we moved.

Two years into this whole therapy and depression/anxiety medication thing, I am really starting to reap some benefits besides saying goodbye to the whole “hides in the house and doesn’t think he will ever be happy again” life. The “take a defensive posture for everything” life. The “cries at sappy sitcoms, sappy commercials, sappy songs and over lunch catching up with friends that he hasn’t seen in 30 years” life (Sorry about that S. I am much better now).

That “self-doubt, paralyzing doubt, doubting everything doubting all, doubting life,” life can kiss my ass.

Two years in and with my two new friends “youtube” and HomeDepot, projects that I once dismissed as impossible, I tackle with zeal and the Internet. Everything I listed back in paragraph three, I have fixed.  It wasn’t brain surgery. I didn’t build a room or half a house or replace an electrical panel or finish a basement or tear out a bathroom and start over. But when an electrician charges a couple of hundred bucks to replace the burner on a smooth top stove and I did it with fifteen minutes, a quick check of a video on my cell phone, and a $50 part, I’ll take it.

Here is truth, raw and honest: Anxiety-bred self-doubt desiccates one’s life.

I never lived until I re-wired my first electric light switch (with a master electrician on facetime the whole time). And after four attempts, I finally threw the switch and the light went on. And then I made it go off. Then on. Then off. I felt powerful. Complete. Handy.

Half a dozen years ago our 50 something year-old bedroom door, hanging on to its hinges by a few too many coats of paint and a prayer  was declared “unfixable.” We were told to live with it. Today it opens and closes.  To be honest, it isn’t pretty. It is a little too tight. But the first time I shut it and it stayed shut after four hours with an electric drill, wood chisel, hammer, and utility knife, I smiled. I texted friends. Sent a photo to my wife. I threw out my back in the process and haven’t been able to sleep a full night in bed even after anti-inflammatory drugs, ever since,  but that is not important.

I was being handy.

A big masking tape “X” outside our front door reminds me that our doorbell hasn’t worked in seven years. Yep, I googled the troubleshooting steps. I really don’t want a working doorbell, but it is broken. And I fix broken things. With help.

I think I need an intervention. And a dishwasher full of assorted cups and mugs. Stat.



2 thoughts on “The Handyman Can

  1. You know you’ve really gone down the rabbit hole when you start re-wiring things. Clanky stuff is pretty primitive and ingrained, but when you start dabbling with that magical electric string, well you’re up there with the elites.


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