My father was disappointed, when my brothers built a fence that fell over the first time a pig leaned against it. In their defense, Portia was one hefty pig, but even before the fence collapsed, it shook with the slightest breeze. Dad had spent time teaching them basic carpentry skills, but it seemed a wasted investment. No one thought about teaching me. Even I didn’t envision the day, when a hundred year old house would require lots of home maintenance skills.
When that day arrived, I joined the school of hard knocks and eventually learned how to replace glass, repair walls, build steps and make basic plumbing repairs. It was a proud day, when I installed a new faucet unit on the laundry room sink. I’d been forced into the job, when I tried to turn on the water and the handle flew off, followed by a torrent of steadily flowing water. Since there was no shutoff at the sink, I had to turn off water to the whole house. I paid a visit to the hardware store and found a new faucet that installed in “three easy steps”. The first was to remove the old faucet. Easy? The pipes were less than an inch from the wall. I could barely move my wrench a quarter turn before hitting it. I persevered, motivated by the thought of a home without water. Four hours later I victoriously lifted the old faucet off from the sink. Thankfully, the rest of the process was easy, marred only by a washer that flew into the air and vanished. If the faucet had leaked, I would have fetched one from the box of odd washers in the tool shed. When I turned on the water, however, it worked perfectly. I basked in the glow of my newly acquired skill.
About six months later, the flow of cold water decreased suddenly. It took forever to fill the washing machine. I avoided the issue and it suddenly disappeared. It happened a couple more times in the next few weeks. When my parents came for a visit, I asked for my father’s advice. Less than an hour later, he held the missing washer in his hand, retrieved from inside the cold water pipe. The cold water flowed freely again.
My father said it could happen to anyone. He also explained why I shouldn’t leave washers out of the installation process. He even bought me a special wrench that would have removed the old faucet in minutes rather than hours. In the years to come, he also did most of my plumbing. I was happy to let him.