If I ever write a book about married life, the title will be Don’t Ever Ask Your Husband If He Knows How to Install a Dishwasher. This partially explains why my dishwasher has been periodically falling out of the cabinetry for the past five years. I thought that I might save a little money on installation fees. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. My husband Ron must have installed the dishwasher using Binford Tools (motto: Real Men Don’t Need Instructions); you know, Tim Allen’s infamous weapons of home destruction from that TV Show Home Improvements. When I run the dishwasher, it usually sounds more like it’s breaking the dishes than washing them. However, I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with the installation. I should have bought one with a silencer on it.
This puts me in mind of a story about a plumbing repair episode that occurred in the 1980s (we have been married a long time). Here is an account of the incident that I wrote a few years ago. This took place during a time when both of us worked outside the home and we had a two-year-old and a five-year-old.
One Tuesday evening (week night) after dinner, Ron informed me that he needed to repair a small plumbing leak he had discovered in the basement. “I have to turn the water off for a few minutes,” he said.
“Can it wait until the weekend?” I asked. “I want to bathe the children and get them into bed.” He assured me it would only take a few minutes. He shut off the water to the house.
The children took out their wooden blocks and built a tower. I stacked the dinner dishes in the sink, unpacked the children’s lunch boxes and repacked them for the next day, and fed the cats. No sign of my husband. No water. I sat on the couch with the children and we read Green Eggs and Ham.
“Where’s Daddy?” my daughter asked. I tried to calculate how long ago Daddy had descended to the basement. At that moment, Daddy ripped past us like the Roadrunner on a mission to humiliate Wiley Coyote. He was soaked from head to toe. I mean drenched, sopping, water-logged. I mean he was wet. He offered no word of explanation, instead making a beeline for the cupboard in the front hallway where he kept his tools. He yanked the cupboard open and pulled everything out, flinging sandpaper, steel wool, string, socket wrench set, electrical tape, golf clubs, surf board, lawn mower, pruning ladder, chainsaw, and Makita drill in every direction. OK, I exaggerate. I like to exaggerate sometimes. He doesn’t play golf.
“Is there a problem, honey?” I asked in my best neutral voice.
The two-year-old piped up, “Daddy’s wet.”
“No, no problem,” he replied as he raced back through the house, calling over his shoulder, “Why do you ask?”
“No particular reason,” I said; but he had already pounded back downstairs with a monkey wrench in one hand and a small tub of putty in the other, leaving only a trail of mist behind him.
I gave the children a “bird bath” with bottled water, helped them brush their teeth, and changed them into their pajamas. Throughout these bedtime preparations, my husband whizzed through the house several more times, tracking water in puddles behind him, his sneakers squishing. I imagined a geyser erupting in my basement.
I was reading the children a bedtime story when he made another one of his mad dashes through the house. “Sweetie,” I called to him, “should I see if I can find a 24-hour plumbing service?”
“No!” He stopped briefly, looking daggers. “But thanks for the vote of confidence. See if you can find a 24-hour plumbing parts store.”
“Is Daddy OK?” my daughter asked me. My son looked worried.
“Yes, he’s fine,” I reassured the children, “he’s just a little wet.” I turned out the lights and wished the children sweet dreams. Then I got out the phone book to look for an all-night plumbing parts store, wondering how it might be listed in the yellow pages. I tried “W” for water emergency. I was tempted to look for an all-night therapeutic services provider.
Two hours and fifteen minutes after my husband first headed to the basement, he entered the kitchen and turned on the faucet. Water came out. “You fixed it?” I asked hopefully.
“No, but it’ll hold until tomorrow,” he replied. “Thank goodness for potatoes and baling wire.”
The one drawback to my otherwise idyllic married life is that I have to live with a man. Yesterday I discovered that instead of replacing the battery in my car key, he managed to lose the replacement battery I bought earlier this week. I was going to replace it as soon as I had a chance to go out to the garage and find a jewelry screwdriver the right size. That’s more complicated than it sounds because one wall of the garage is a graphic representation of the inside of Ron’s brain; i.e., it looks like it was hit by a typhoon and a tsunami at once, and then someone decided to use the space to start an all-night plumbing parts store before abandoning the idea. (Probably because apparently all you need in an all-night plumbing parts store is potatoes.) He meant well. He was going to change the battery for me. What a sweetheart. Unfortunately he also has to track down the right little jewelry screwdriver to do it.
Since he lost the battery, he decided to go out to buy me another one. So I asked him if he would mind stopping at Coop Natural Foods to pick up some peanut butter so I could make spicy peanut sauce to go with dinner. “Sure,” he said. I instructed him to grind the peanut butter fresh in the machine near the bulk foods section. He replied, “OK, what kind of nuts should I use?” Well, hmmm. Peanuts? When he returned home with the peanut butter, I asked him if he found the grinding machine OK. Mind you, I have always done the shopping and he has never fetched peanut butter from the Coop. He said that he couldn’t figure out how to get the peanut butter grinder to work and he had disassembled the spigot before asking for assistance from a clerk, who showed him the on/off button and gently asked him to reassemble the machine. I felt guilty setting him loose in the Coop. Real men don’t need instructions because, seriously, they really are from Mars.
A few years ago, Ron made a typo in an email to me and wrote “I live you” instead of “I love you.” The expression stuck. Whenever I am forced to put up with the inimitable Ron-ness of Ron, I tell him “I live you.” But I am willing to sit through dude-flicks about guys on a road trip and to forgive him for beating me at cards night after night (you would not believe his luck), because, let’s face it, without him I wouldn’t be able to open a bottle of mouthwash (push down, squeeze, and twist all at once) or turn on my TV to watch a football game. (Does everyone have fourteen remote control gizmos or is that just us?) Moreover, he makes the best damn gluten-free pancakes on the planet. Yesterday he made a persimmon pancake that took the physics of a pancake to the quantum level. If making pancakes was an Olympic sport he’d have a gold.
The other night, as our Book Group was breaking up for the evening, our friend Annie divvied up the leftover frozen desserts with Ron. Annie kept putting partially full cartons in my freezer and I kept taking them out and putting them back in her bag. “Only leave us two,” I told her. “Otherwise Ron will eat all of it and get fat.” My friend Helen, whose beloved husband of 40 years died in an incomprehensibly bizarre accident about two years ago, said, smiling wistfully, “Oh Amy, you’re reminding me of married life.” After witnessing Helen and a number of other dear friends suffer the trauma of losing their life partner in recent years, I remain grateful for the good fortune that keeps this aggravating man, who bangs around my house disrupting my tidy domain, at my side. When I told him I was going to blog about married life he said, “You love it, right? Think carefully. There’s a right answer and a wrong answer.”
[Full disclosure: In all fairness to Ron, I will admit that I have stretched the truth once again for the sake of humor (see my blog entitled “For the Sake of Humor”); so in order to set the record straight, I confess that the reason the dishwasher is falling out of the cabinetry has nothing to do with Ron’s installation, but is a result of a problem with the wood under the counter top to which the dishwasher is attached—the wood needs to be replaced in order to properly secure the dishwasher. I think we could do that with the aid of a potato and a jewelry screwdriver.]
This is the kind of machine they have at the Coop. Notice the on/off switch to the left.