Years ago when I was a little kid, my mom saw a stove that she wanted to buy. It was very expensive and it wasn’t within the family budget. My mom didn’t give up but instead decided that we were old enough that she could abandon us and return to the work force. She saved and bought a Litton Micro-matic in the 1970’s.
I still remember the new stove arriving and how different it looked from the old gas stove. It had a smooth glass top that would glow orange under the little markings that labeled the area for the burners. The best part was that it combined a microwave with a traditional oven. We could use the microwave to reheat or it could be set to microwave and bake at the same time. My mom could roast a turkey faster than anyone else on the block.
In the days before microwaves were the norm, this was pretty exciting stuff.
That Litton oven lasted for over thirty-five years before quitting for good. My dad found a nice replacement and put it in last weekend. The replacement is a gas convection oven. The gas line had been taken out when the Litton went in so my dad ran a new gas line. My sister lives in the house with my dad and she was really nervous about the gas. She called me to share her concerns.
Lynne- "You know how he does things. Remember the last time he had to light the furnace and he got those burns? I remember when that happened to Grandma and I think her dress was on fire. Like that time I caught my dress on fire..."
We have already established that my sister tends to be a little wacky but when it comes to my dad and things that can catch fire, well, she kind of has reason to be fearful.
My dad is one of those guys that can fix anything. He can fix cars, build anything and has the tools to prove it. I grew up with the idea that was how all men were. I learned that wasn't true. When I ask C to fix something in the house it doesn't work the way it does with my dad. What C does is call me over to the area needing the repair and then try to explain to me why it can't be fixed. Not just by him but by anyone because it is physically impossible to fix.
When I was eight months pregnant with Marin, I decided that I had to update the downstairs bathroom. I painted the bathroom. My dad came and took out the old toilet,then cut and installed the ceramic tile. He had to leave before the grout was in so that left me to do that job. I had never mixed grout before so my dad talked me through it on the phone. As I was mixing the grout C came in to critique my technique. He explained that it was too thick and I ignored him. My position is that if you aren't helping then you should just shut your pie hole. I managed to grout and seal the bathroom floor all by myself at eight months pregnant. The thing that I didn't anticipate was that the bathroom door would no longer fit due to the increased height of the flooring.
After I finished grouting, I asked C to put the bathroom door back on the hinges. He marched me over to show me why that wouldn't work. I suggested that the door would have to be cut at the bottom. C responded with more reasons why that wouldn't work either and put the door out on the back porch. A week later the door was still on the back porch. C didn't seem to think that it was that much of an inconvenience to use the upstairs bathroom. Which brings us back to the fact that I was eight months pregnant. Walking upstairs one hundred times a day was not working for me. My friend Andrea and I came up with a plan.
We borrowed a power saw from Dave. Dave asked if we were certain that we knew what we were doing and we assured him that we did. We didn't.
We waited for C to leave for a few hours so he couldn't put a stop to our plan and we started measuring. We carefully measured and marked the door. Then we bickered about who was going to have to use the saw. Andrea lost because I'm more afraid of power tools than she is. Plus I had the pregnancy card. Then we couldn't get the saw turned on and had to call Dave. Dave said he would come over and show us how it worked.
Once he was here he asked if we wanted him to go ahead and cut it. We were relieved.
Dave- "Now are you sure you measured it right?"
Andrea- "Yes. We measured it twice."
Me- "Yeah. We measured it twice and we both checked it. We're positive."
Dave made the cut and then left Andrea and me to put it back on the hinges. That's when we discovered that we had marked the wrong end of the door.
This is why I have to get my dad to help. I no longer have clearance for projects that require more than duct tape. Or Elmer's glue.
My dad is a perfectionist when working for other people. He’s a contractor and most people can’t work for him for long before he screams at them for being incompetent and runs them off the job. But when he is doing things for family it is a whole different story. Half-assed is good enough.
When we first moved into our current house, my dad came and helped with a lot of projects. I hired a handy man to put up some ceiling fans. The handy man was pretty old and not very fast but he did get several fans installed. There were a couple of fans that were beyond what he was comfortable with because they had remote controls. My dad got the job.
I remember my dad opening the box and announcing that we didn’t need those remotes anyway and tossing them aside. Evidently the wiring is a bit more complicated and he didn’t want to read the instructions. One of the ceiling fans is now off balance and can only be used on low because of the rattling. It can’t be balanced because my dad threw that stuff out, along with the remotes. You get what you pay for I guess.
My dad has helped with many other things though and saved us a ton of money. But sometimes things are a little off. The garage had to have a new door in order to be usable. We have a very large garage that also has inside stairs leading to a second floor storage area. The garage job cost over two thousand dollars. We hired someone that quoted half that to do the job. The guy that did it had to install some kind of huge beam under the second story and that’s why it ended up being twice the price. When he put the beam in he failed to measure where the garage door opener needed to be and as a result the opener couldn’t be installed. I was unhappy and called my dad to tell him what happened. This is how the conversation went.
Me- “The beam is in the way of where the track needs to run. We can’t get the garage door opener installed now. I am so mad. I’m going to call that guy and make him come move that beam. Two thousand dollars and I have to open the garage door myself? I don't think so.”
Dad- “Ain’t no big deal. I’ll take care of it.”
Me- “But he was paid to do it right.”
Dad- “Don’t call him. He’s a good old boy. I’ll fix it.”
Me- “Well, ok. But I still want to call.”
My dad kept his word and came over to fix it. Instead of the beam being moved he cut a hole in the floor of the second story. Now when I go get Christmas paper out of the garage I have to be very careful to make sure I don’t fall in the hole and land on the lawn mower. But the door works fine.
My dad has done some wiring in my house. An electrician would have charged four thousand for the job my dad did for us. My dad is competent but we’re back to cutting corners for family. I remember when he was in the attic running some wire. I heard a loud "pop" in one of the bedrooms. I was afraid he had killed himself in the attic. I was really worried because the attic is accessible through a trap door in a bathroom and I didn’t really want to go in after him. I think it's probably really dirty up there and there are probably spiders.
I yelled to confirm that he was still among the living.
“Are you ok?”
“Are you ok? I heard a loud pop!”
“I’m fine. I didn’t hear anything.”
We later discovered a melted surge protector and an area with charred carpeting in the bedroom with the pop. I didn’t bother telling my dad because I knew he would just say it wasn’t anything.
The next summer one of the home repairs was installing a new pump in our well in the back yard. There are several houses in our neighborhood that have wells. I wanted it working for the garden since it’s convenient and free water. My dad and William pulled out the old pump and replaced it with a new one. It had been some time since the well had been working and for some reason there was no longer any power to it. My dad being the can-do guy he is, went and rented a trencher at a local business, and prepared to run an electrical line to the well.
C and I were both working that day so we left the girls in the house with Andrea to supervise. I remember coming home and Andrea telling me all about the work being done in the yard.
Andrea- “I was in the living room watching. He’s really fast on that trencher thing.”
Me- “Oh yeah?”
Andrea- “Yeah. But then when your dad was doing something with wires all of a sudden there was fire. There were flames shooting up the side of the house right by the window.”
Me- “Oh my God!”
Andrea- “I know. I was getting ready to call 911 but then he put it out with the hose.”
Me- “Let me guess. Then he said ‘ain’t no big deal’?”
Me- “Man, every time he does stuff with wiring there’s fire.”
Andrea- “Tell me about it.”
I saved a lot of money having my dad do the wiring but invested more in smoke alarms and fire extinguishers that what others might think necessary. I'm a little worried that some of the wiring might be held together with duct tape…