Do It Yourself? Inner Voice Says No

Until last month, I had only a passing acquaintance with the electrical fixtures and drain pipes at our house. I had changed bulbs and used a plunger.

But now I’m fully trained in the art of home repair, thanks to the only benefit I’ve found so far from widowhood: a free two-part course on plumbing and electrical repairs called “The Nuts and Bolts of Grief.”

Now I can clear the trap under the sink. I can replace a light switch. I can even flush the system with a garden hose.

It’s true. Two guys, the Click and Clack of home repair, laid it all out on two long tables: toilet plungers with flaps, flapless plungers, snakes that would be the envy of Roto-Rooter, toilet handles, fill valves, flush valves, and little washers. And that was just the first week: Plumbing.

“You can save yourself some money with a little know-how and the right equipment,” one advised, while they other held up the tools of the trade and a hand-drawn picture of a toilet.

You can also make a mighty big mess, said a little voice in my head, probably my late husband, who would have blanched at the thought of me – who could not paint a room without painting myself – sticking a garden hose through the kitchen plumbing.

“Just remember to turn off the water first at the main shut-off valve,” said Click.

“It’s probably in your basement,” said Clack.

Oh, please, shut off the water, said the little voice. Remember when we had to replace the hardwood floors?”

At Session #1, they dispensed amazing information. We don’t need anyone to hold a flashlight because there are hats with headlights we can wear. We can protect the faucet from a wrench by wrapping a towel or a piece of tape around it. We should soak plumbing parts in vinegar to remove calcium deposits.

“Except for unbolting the toilet from the floor,” I told my daughter when I got home. “There’s not much I can’t do. And next week, we’ll be working with electricity.”

Her look of pride quickly morphed into a look of panic. I think I saw her mouth the word “orphan.”
I must confess that Session #2 was more confusing, with Click talking about silver screws and brass screws and Clack holding up little pieces of white and black and green wire and using the word “hot” to describe some, but I can’t remember which.

“Just remember to shut off the right breaker before you start,” said Click, who held up several devices to test which breaker was connected to which outlet or switch.

“It’s in your basement,” added Clack.

Oh, please don’t try this, said the little voice.

And so far I haven’t. I’ve simply called my younger son, the handy one, who lives in town, and regaled him with my newfound knowledge.

“I can pretty much do it all but replace a toilet,” I said. “Except I’m not so sure about those hot wires, and have you ever heard of a breaker box?”

At that point, the little voice became the big voice.

“Don’t you have me on speed dial?” he asked.

Best course I ever took.

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