Shortly after we were married, my wife and I went shopping for outdoor grills. As I meandered toward the selection of gas powered options, she cleared her throat to catch my attention. “My father grills with charcoal”, she noted. My meander immediately changed directions to the Weber section. I’ve been grilling with charcoal happily ever since. In fact, I’m more masculine as a result.
My father-in-law, Gary, never chooses the easy way out. He’s from a generation that is more capable than ours. They know how to work with their hands. As you might imagine, the bar he set for me in the home maintenance department borders on unreasonable. Seriously, I grew up playing violin.
For starters, he was part of the crew that built the house he still lives in to this day. This was not the first time that he framed, roofed or laid down electrical. He was a contributing member of the team. Over the past fifty years, despite replacements of nearly every joint in his body, the first person he calls when something breaks in his home is himself. (You might too if you still had an answering machine.)
As frequently happens with guests, stuff started breaking during one of Gary’s visits to Austin. In particular, both the garbage disposal and our guest toilet crapped out. This was a moment of truth for me, both as a home owner and a son-in-law. Too basic to require professional help, but complex enough to require a trip to Lowe’s, Gary and I fired up our testosterone and went on a shopping trip together. I pretended to know what I was doing as I picked out toilet parts and a new disposal. Gary’s poker face gave no indication as to whether or not I was passing the test.
This was a moment of truth for me, both as a home owner and a son-in-law.
Back home, we attacked each job. Gary played nurse, I played doctor. He handed me tools and shined the flashlight. I honestly don’t know what happened to me that day, but I was able to complete each repair with minimal challenge. Maybe it was divine intervention. Perhaps it was basking in the presence of home care greatness. Or maybe, just maybe, basic home repairs aren’t as difficult as many of us make them out to be. Kind of like math; scarier in theory than reality.
“You’re like me,” Gary said after we wrapped, “you like to fix things and see a final result.” Maybe the best compliment I have ever received? That day, and those words, changed me. I won’t be building a home anytime soon, but I’ll give it the old college try the next time a doorknob falls off. And of course, I only grill with charcoal.