Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When Things Fall Apart: a little story of home (and life) repair


This morning the bathroom doorknob came off in my hand. Unfortunately the door was latched. Fortunately I was on the bedroom side of the door and not stuck in the bathroom. This is a really pretty crystal doorknob that fits perfectly with the d├ęcor of my 1928 remodeled lake cottage. As we know “pretty does not make perfect” and this doorknob had been giving me trouble. We’d been limping along, with me having to constantly retighten it. It had fallen clean out once before but that wasn’t problematic because the door was not latched, and I was able to reinstall it into the prior wobbly state of installation. This morning, however, the door was latched when the knob came off in my hand.

First I tried to pop it over the shaft from the knob on the other side but that just pushed the other side out and I heard that knob fall to the inside floor. I got my flashlight and a screwdriver and tried to jiggle the door open sans knob but no such luck. Then I looked for the hinges, in case I had to take off the door. Hinges are on the bathroom side of the door. That plan got tossed. Then I gave thanks that I was not stuck on the inside of the door. My mind wandered to another scenario where I would be stuck on the inside of the door with no tools and no phone to call for help. MacGyver inspired resourcefulness had me daydreaming about eating toothpaste while fashioning some door knocking explosives by creating sparks from razor stubble and explosive gasses from aerosol cans of hairspray. Those scenarios gave way to playing Rapunzzel through the bathroom window, either lowering myself down from the second story to my patio below, shimmying down a rope of tied together towel strips. Or perhaps hanging out until one of my neighbors on the way to their car could be persuaded to work with me in direction to getting the key hidden outside for just such an episode. Then of course they’d be on the other side of the door without a knob and would get to help me puzzle it out.

Back to the problem at hand from the bedroom side of the door…I tried and tried with the screwdriver but there was no progress what so ever. I unscrewed the knob face plate but that didn’t give me access to anything more than I had with the plate on. I thought about calling a handful of men who have helped me with projects in the past. I did not think about calling my wasband (that is what I refer to my ex as) to give him the opportunity to be my knight in shining armor. I thought about calling a lock smith so that I would not have to put anybody out. Then I went to the basement and retrieved my toolbox. This toolbox was a gift from my son, Andy, the first Christmas we had moved out of the family home and on to our own. I love my tool box, if for nothing more than my son gave it to me with the unsaid message that he thought me resourceful enough to take care of him on my own if I had the right set of tools. Bless him for that symbol of faith.

I set up in front of the door and opened my tool box and grabbed the awl first. I took it and poked and pried at the inner mechanisms of the knob and latch. Nothing moved. Then I grabbed the needle nose pliers and stuck them in the hole, opened them up and twirled. The door swung open. Hallelujah! I opened it. All by myself. I didn’t panic…almost, but didn’t.

Previously I replaced the ballcock in the toilet of our rental, where we lived before I bought this cottage. I’ve learned to install molly bolts and securely hung a towel bar in the same bathroom from the scene of my MacGyver daydreams. I single handedly disconnected and reconnected washers and dryers when we moved. I’ve changed light bulbs. (I only mention that as an accomplishment because my ex-mother-in-law used to have my wasband change her bulbs when they burned out. I would hate to need a man every time a light bulb burned out.) It is good to be able to put things back together when things fall apart.

When I think about how pleased it makes me to be able to successfully accomplish some home repair chore I need to pause and feel the same sense of pride and accomplishment in putting my life back in order after my marriage fell apart. There were moments when I did not think I’d make it. I thought the tasks at hand were potentially beyond me: finding a place to live; finding a way to feed and clothe my son on my own; learning to juggle everything needed to run a house without help while working full time; hanging on to a job and clients when I could hardly put two words together in a sentence; learning to get through every day without completely melting down and being carted off to the mental ward. There were days I felt utterly alone and overwhelmed to the point of wanting to throw in the towel. If I had thought there was someone there to catch that towel I probably would have done it. Somehow, despite the despair, we get through. Days march forward, we build our skills, stretch our capacity, test our limits and then one day we find ourselves going for a tool box instead of crawling back into bed. We recognize that it is the toilet or the doorknob that has fallen apart, not us. We stretch beyond a feeling of dependence to the joy of independence and resourcefulness. And then we reach out to those who have grown along side of us and remind them how far they too have come from when things fell apart.

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