Adventure

image source:jalopyaustin

image source:jalopyaustin

Tried a new eye doctor this week.  Not sure why as I decided to make a change from one discount store doctor to another discount store doctor; just had one of those itches to do something different.  Turns out it was a good change as the new doctor thinks my astigmatism has corrected and she knows of a lens that should perform better than the one my last doctor prescribed.

That’s not the only change.  One of my nieces is changing cities, states and jobs because her old position has been phased out.  It will mean leaving the city and state where she’s lived for at least a couple of decades which includes leaving her daughter and son-in-law as well as two of her sisters, one of whom will have to find a new place to live, since they shared an apartment.

I remember those days of feeling footloose enough that if I wanted, I could change jobs, change cities, change friends, leave extended family in one city and fully believe that I could do whatever it took to make sure the distance would not erode the bond between us.

To borrow a phrase, it felt like the call of the wild.  The lure of the unknown, the new experience, new town, new apartment, new roads to drive, new shopping centers to find, new churches, new libraries and new museums, new friends to make and of course, a new job to finance all this newness.  The possibilities were bright and shiny, the road trip adventurous and stimulating, every curve along the winding highway a glimpse closer to an elusive dream that I was sure was not a mirage; the pull palpable, the satisfaction rich on the tongue.  New.  New and different drew me on.

You get what I mean, right?  It’s like an adventure around every bend, a way to try new possibilities, to hope there is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, to believe that glow that shimmers in the desert when you’re flying through the night towards Las Vegas will turn out to be nothing but good luck.  You just have to go and find out, am I right?

Before one of my moves across the country, Mother asked, “When are you going to settle down and stay in one place?”

I could see worry, concern and disbelief on her face while she moved around the kitchen making the salad and brewing loose tea leaves for sweet tea.

Daddy just smiled and looked proud and I knew he was confident that I was in God’s hands so wherever I went, it would be ok.  I pulled open the silverware drawer and took knives, forks and spoons to set the table for dinner.

“Where’s the fun in that?” I asked back, “Besides, it’s your fault for moving us so much that I went to six different grade schools.”  That did nothing to lessen Mother’s stress but Daddy smiled again.

I was excited by my decision to move, to be independent, to try my wings at this new job and this new place to live, yet there was always some underlying tug that said part of my job in life was to make Mother comfortable and secure.  I always had to find a way to alleviate her anxiety.  I was torn between the need to be me, free and strong, and the need to take care of Mother.

I wasn’t torn enough to stay in town, though, because I’d learned that wherever I followed that lure of a new adventure, I always took me with me and that me could be just as concerned about Mother’s well-being in a new place as I could when living in the old place.  So, I would be upbeat and confident and hope that my positive emotions would rub off on Mother.

These days Mother is content with being table surrounded by familiar things and her everyday routine.  These days I’m the one watching other people glasses take the risk to go someplace new.  I’m settled now.  Settled into Mother’s spot, Mother’s house, Mother’s routine.  It chaffed at first and I struggled against the tethers but the choice for me to settle dance had to be made since there’s no money to pay for a retirement community for Mother.  I couldn’t do that to fence her nor could my siblings, even if there was money for that type of care.  I began to feel my age.  The age it said on my driver’s license instead of the age I felt inside.  Was this it?  The end of the road to things new and unknown?

image source:cathyday

image source:cathyday

Not the end of the road as it turns out.  Oh, I’m settled here but I find myself straining less against the confines as instead I explore a whole new, magical and breathtaking world of letters and words and lines and pages that fly across my mind, swirl in the wind and coalesce into journal entries and flash fiction and short stories and novels.  This adventure just might be one of the best.

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Wrenched

image:theonion

image:theonion

I spent the first part of the day playing plumber.  Or trying to.  Collected tools and gloves in hand, I tried to turn off the water at the hot water heater by the back porch, but that did nothing for the cold water, so in the front yard I lifted the concrete lid off the house water main in the median between the sidewalk and the street.  I always feel like an exhibitionist when in the front of the house.  It’s like the whole street is watching.

Down on my knees, I leaned into the hole and cleaned off all the mud so that I could see the pipe that brings water from the city, the gauge in the middle that measures outflow and the pipe that takes the water on into the house.  The lever on the house pipe side was substantial.  I was in luck, I thought, but pulling then pushing then pulling again did nothing to change the position of the value.  I am not horse enough to turn it off or on.  And the only thing my exhibition did was to put grass and dirt on my pants and make my knee ache.

Ok, then.  On to Plan B.  Off to Home Depot with the bathroom hot water faucet stem that needs replacing.  That’s always a crap shoot.  Either I find a real plumber or I get the kid whose parents are no doubt thrilled he has a job, but he has no real world experience.  At least he can point me to the right aisle for bathroom fixture parts.  Once there I find a real plumber and it didn’t take him long to determine they did not carry the part I needed.

“So who does, do you think?”

The sixty something, fuzzy, white haired guy in his orange apron scratches his head, thinks, then says, “Ferguson’s across the street.”

“There’s a retail store at that large warehouse complex?”

“They do all sorts of plumbing so they should have it.”

Sure enough, I follow directions to drive beyond all the loading docks and turn the corner to find what appears to be a side entrance marked, “Ferguson Express.”

This huge one room shop appears to be the real deal.  Working guys sitting at the counters ordering parts while guys behind the counter look in catalogs and head to the back for parts, then ring up the sale.  I’m the only woman in the place.

Thirty minutes later and help from four guys leaves me where I started.  They don’t carry the part that looks like a Delta but is marked a Price Pfister.

“Four more exits down the 60 is PartsMaster,” says the clean-cut young guy, who readily admitted he had no hands on experience in replacing faucet stems and washers but who tried his best and now gives me printed driving directions, “they do nothing but parts so they should have it.”

Fine.  Except I’m hungry, I need to check on Mother and before I go on another wild goose chase I’ll call first.

I’m getting no satisfaction.  Where is it?  I could take satisfaction is knowing I tried to be frugally responsible, I suppose.  Seems like faking it if the three leaking faucets are still leaking after all this effort that ate up hours of time, when I could have been writing or reading or whatever.

Does satisfaction arrive only if the end results are a repaired bathroom faucet; a back yard lawn spigot that no longer keeps the ground around it well watered, and an ancient u-shaped kitchen sink faucet that no longer drips water from the center where there is no nut or screw to loosen so that a strategic washer could be inserted?

Somewhere out there in plumbing land is a guy who does get satisfaction turning water levers, matching up parts, carries the right tools and is horse enough to get the job done.  I just hope he’s clean and good looking.  If I have to pay for satisfaction, it better be worth it.

And in this corner…….

image:alsplumbing

image:alsplumbing

The hot water faucet in Mother’s bathroom sink has been dripping for weeks.  Other urgent projects have filled my days and pushed this one aside, not that I can ever forget it.  The water bill reminds me as does Mother at least once a day.  But now, house clean, out of town guests come and gone, I can concentrate on this task.

Best to start by looking at an online video of how to repair a leaking faucet that appears simple enough, so I find pliers and head to the bathroom.  Getting it apart is not as simple as the video appears but after several trips back and forth to get additional tools, another look at the video, tries of various washers from a box of assorted items to repair leaky faucets, I finally get the whole thing back together.  It’s no longer dripping; now it runs a constant small stream.  My determination to be fiscally responsible and frugal has been met with failure.  My frustration at being thwarted is at the boiling point.  I will not give up.  I will get satisfaction from overcoming the obstacles of a ninety year old house.

 “Mother, I’ve turned the hot water off under your bathroom sink,” pliers, wrench, screwdrivers and rubber gloves fill my hands.

“How will I wash my face and teeth before I go to bed?”  She stops stirring the pot of Great White Northern Beans and stares at me.

“I’ll go to Home Depot tomorrow but until then, I can turn it back on for you.”  I dump all the tools back in the small catch-all box under the kitchen sink.

One of the art experts on “Antiques Roadshow” is talking about a platinum and diamond bracelet and Mother forgets the turned-off hot water in her bathroom.

I staggered out of bed earlier today to take a pill and remembered Mother’s faucet but when I opened the cabinet to turn the valve off, I realized the faucet wasn’t dripping.  She must have turned it off after I went to bed.  Hours later, I’m engrossed in an online discussion with other writers over pieces we’ve each submitted when I hear a faint sound.  High pitched, like a child.  I listen hard.  Is that my name?

“Vicky.  Vicky.”

I jump up and hurry from the office, through the kitchen, then the dining room and into the hall towards Mother’s closed bathroom door.  The closer I get, I can tell it’s her calling me.  “Vicky. Vicky.”  It sounds almost a wailing, like a small child calling for a parent.

I expect the worst as I throw open the bathroom door.  Mother is half sitting-half lying on the floor, her feet tangled in the pink bathroom rug, the sink cabinet doors open, the hot water faucet running just as it was yesterday.

“Did you fall?”  I reach down to help her steady into a sitting position.

“No.  I was trying to turn off the water.  I tried to bend down, but I couldn’t reach under the sink and now I can’t get up.”  She keeps struggling, trying to get her feet under her.

“Ok.  Breathe deeply.  Sit still until I can get a small stool to put under your bum.”  We’ve been here before.  Once she’s down, she has no strength in her legs and arms to get herself up and I can’t lift her, so she has to come up in stages.

She’s finally up and with a snack and some Royal Jelly nutrient to calm her nerves, she has stopped shaking.

“I can’t believe that wore me out so badly.”

“No more getting down anywhere, Mother.”  I clean out the faucet aerator on her sink, which was going to be her next project, if she had been able to unscrew it from the faucet.

My frustration does battle with my determination.  I will persevere.  I will conquer the tasks that need doing in this old house.  I will emerge triumphant.  I don’t have the skills or the right tools, but I will not be defeated.

“For who knows but what you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14) comes to mind; a statement from Mordecai to his niece Esther, as he reminded her that she might have to die in order to stand up for doing the right thing.  I doubt it will be that serious, but then, moving beyond frustrations and limitations can be a type of death; the type that leads to freedom and satisfaction at a job achieved and well done.  If only I can hang on that long, which of course I will for it is God who is at work within me, so as to will and to work for His good pleasure  (Ph 2:3).  So take that, frustration.

DESIGN

image:google images

image:google images

“You said you had this worked out,” Wilson threw the bolt tight against the door and lurched around on his one good leg, dragging the other mangled stump behind him.

Billy was making trails through the dirt as he pulled a heavy wooden workbench across the concrete floor.

“I did.  It was.  I mean, you saw the plan,”

With a final shove the workbench was up against the door.

A few feet away, Wilson had eased himself down behind a metal rimmed, wooden barrel.

“Ok, genius, what’s your new plan?”

“My six shooter’s gone,” Billy said as he squatted down behind a half wall of an old stall.  “Just gotta find something we can use to defend ourselves.”

The sound, Wilson thought, was sort of like buzzing bees or the far-off low murmur of a gaggle of geese and it was coming closer; headed their way.  He pressed his hands up and down his mangled leg, taking stock of the damage.

“They don’t sound too reasonable.”  Why couldn’t he feel anything?

“Who don’t sound reasonable?”

Still squatting, Billy ran his hand along the wall to get his bearings.

Wilson could see the light begin to seep through the cracks in the walls of the old barn.  It gave shape to the unused farm tools stacked in the large, open area and made strange shadows as it bounced off wooden boxes and barrels.

The sounds, like a rustling of movement and a low chanting, were closer now.  They pressed up against the door then spread out sideways until the barn was surrounded.

As he left the corner and made his way slowly along the wall, Billy squinted, then opened his eyes wide, then tried squinting again.  He couldn’t see much and bumped into barrels and boxes, his hands moving jerkily, searching for some sort of weapon.

“That was my favorite six shooter.  It was the fall that made me lose it.”

“You ever heared a choir, Billy?”  Wilson slid down flat on the floor.  Perhaps that would stop the dizziness, and the light, and the sound.

“Maybe.  Back before I started riding rough.”

Wilson’s eyes almost hurt, the light was now so bright.  It glowed.  Or they glowed, Wilson wasn’t sure, but the light had faces, and hands that reached out to him.  Was he floating?

Billy stumbled as his foot hit against Wilson.  He hunkered down and patted what he thought was Wilson’s arm.

“Wilson, you hang on.  I’ll design a new plan to get us out of this.”

“There’s somebody else designing this, Billy.”

“Wilson.  Wilson, don’t you go leaving me.  Wilson?”