Get out of the way son . . . it’s for your own good

When I was a young boy, growing up in New London, Connecticut, we were a family of four: my father and mother, older brother, and yours truly. Even though my brother is only three years older than I am, I try to convince him that there was at least a decade between our births. In one way, there may as well have been. When it came time to repair something around the house, my father usually did it by himself. However, if the project at hand required at least three (hands, not people), my brother was called into action. Sometimes, I felt that my father would rather have summoned Attila the Hun to assist than ask his younger son. When an emergency arose, my mother would call upstairs, “Bruce, your father needs you.” While she never said, “Mark, don’t even think about it,” the implication was clear.

Jump ahead fifty years or so. Until recently, my brother has done much of the work in his house. He’s built a wall in his living room, painted the house, done basic plumbing, and even a little electrical work. During my thirty-five years of home ownership, I have mowed the lawn twice, changed a bunch of light bulbs, hung dozens of pictures, and wrapped the garbage weekly. If a roof is leaking, I’m quick with the telephone. A faulty pipe or electrical outlet, you ask? Bill Hickock would be envious at my speed with a wallet. 

My pulse quickens when I think about the money I would have saved by doing much of this stuff myself. Readers may be tempted to say, ‘why don’t you try it now? It isn’t too late’. The response is simple: 1) I like things done very well and in a timely fashion; and 2) I don’t do things like that very well and in a timely fashion.  For example, one day, I decided to put a new door on a coal bin in our basement. I struggled with a sheet of wood and several nails for over an hour. By chance, a carpenter we had hired for a larger project saw me struggling with the bin. Frustrated, I offered to pay him to complete the job for me. Less than one minute later, he had hung the door, filed his nails, and plowed the back forty. That was my last effort at carpentry. 

The point is, if you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew, give her/him the opportunity to help. By providing the next generation with the rudiments of house care, or house work for that matter, you may be raising a progenitor who doesn’t reach for a saw to screw in a nail.

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2 Comments on “Get out of the way son . . . it’s for your own good

  1. Very entertaining story! A tendency to “think outside the box” sometimes helps with jobs around the house. In my case, instead of plugging a hole left in my knotty pine floor by a misplaced dishwasher, with a nicely carved out knot to match; I stuck in a piece of steel wool. It matches the floor (looked like a knot) and served the purpose well, all with just a pair of scissors! Look at it this way, if you did everything yourself around the house, the local carpenters, electricians, plumbers would go out of business! You’re helping the economy by hiring rather than by doing yourself; and probably saving your wife from hearing a lot of swear words! Keep up the good work!!

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