Our front door handle fell off a couple of weeks ago. As I pulled the door open, the screws released and the entire piece came free in my hand.
The house remodel has a two year warranty, so I texted Blair, our project manager. “I can come tomorrow,” he said, “but you can reattach it yourself, easily, with an allen wrench.”
A slight pause in the telephone conversation…
“What’s an allen wrench?” I ask.
Mark and I had disagreed about the allocation (or misallocation, as I saw it) of the work associated with maintaining our household. I would get frustrated and accuse him of doing only about twenty percent of the chores. He wouldn’t dispute that he didn’t do half, but he called the split more of sixty-forty. I still think I was right.
But, now that he’s not here, I’m at a hundred percent, and that added twenty percent is weighing on me.
Mark wasn’t much handier around the house than I am, but he would have known what an allen wrench is. He might have fussed and complained, but he would have reattached the door handle. I think I know a lot about many things, but those things have never included tools.
So, first I do my research: “An allen wrench is an L-shaped metal bar with a hexagonal head at each end, named for its manufacturer, the Allen Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut.” Simple enough. Off I go to Lowe’s, where unfortunately I encounter one of the nasty employees.
Lowe’s employees seem to come in two categories: Some are charming and helpful, sometimes condescending (but I can deal with that). Others are totally disdainful of a clueless woman trying to figure out a simple task.
I got one of the latter. He glared at me over his glasses and jabbed his finger towards a set of bins. “Over there,” he said.
The bins were filled with collections of small tools, but nothing was labeled as an allen wrench. He watched me stare from bin to bin but he didn’t come over to help me. I gave up and went back to him. “I don’t know which one is the allen wrench,” I had to confess.
With a deep sigh he walked to the bins and pointed out the folding hex key sets. But one bin had red ones and one bin had blue ones. “Why are they different colors?” I asked.
Another deep exasperated sigh. “Because one is SAE and one is metric.”
Having no idea what I needed, but unable to tolerate any more of the conversation, I just got one of each.
None of this stuff is hard. It’s a good thing to know about tools and how to make minor repairs. I’m sure I’ll be a better person (at least a more competent one) when I learn all this. It’s just that there’s a lot of it.
Like replacing the furnace filter…Easy-peasy, once you’ve done it. But the first time you have to figure out the right filter and where to get it. (Amazon is the answer to the last question. Amazon makes it so easy I can’t resist buying from them any longer. Boxes arrive magically on my doorstep.) Then you have to find the furnace manual for instructions, and hope that the whole thing won’t blow up in your face as you snap the old filter out. What’s the big deal, you ask? The answer is that it isn’t a big deal at all, but the first time it was…scary. Furnaces are serious pieces of equipment.
On the other hand, I’m darned proud of myself each time I figure something out. Wonder Woman here!
Chris and I attended a hospice seminar about getting through the holidays. About twenty of us clustered around a rectangle of conference tables, boxes of tissues strategically placed in front of us.
We introduced ourselves by reciting our losses. Deaths of mothers, fathers, wives and husbands, our voices stumbling over our words.
Most of the seminar information wasn’t new to us. I’ve read about the stages of grief, and what to expect as time passes. I know each person’s journey is different in nature and in pace. I know that the only way out of grief is through it. Nevertheless, it was comforting and reassuring to hear the words said aloud. I didn’t think I would get emotional, but there was so much feeling in the room that I needed that box of tissues.
The best advice from the seminar? Think about the holiday traditions that are important for you to keep, and don’t be afraid to let go of the ones that won’t work for you now.
So we didn’t put up a tree this year. The idea of opening those boxes of decorations floored me. The handmade ornaments Chris made in school, now falling apart as the white glue dries and flakes and the cottony Santa beards thread away—memories of other happy holidays. Each year Mark would buy me an ornament that was reminiscent of the year that just passed, the year that we had spent together. When I was pregnant the ornament was a gold baby carriage. The year we skied in Austria, it was a silver snow flake. Those memories need to stay in the box a little while longer.
But we did decide to have a big dinner Christmas Eve with friends, the way we always had in the past. The extension leaves were popped into the big table and I pulled out the reindeer candelabra with the tall red candles. Friends arrived with wine and gifts and good cheer. The smell of roasting prime rib filled the house. We toasted Christmas with glasses of champagne. Yes, I was wistful, but I was happy too. It was a good decision.
My Wedding Ring
I’ve stopped wearing my wedding ring. After Mark died, it was of great comfort to me, and I couldn’t imagine ever taking it off. But then, at some point, it became a symbol of my loss. I would twirl it around my finger and grieve afresh for all that’s gone. I’ve seen some of my friends glance at my bare finger and they must wonder, but no one has asked about it. I’ve put the ring away in a safe place. From time to time, I’ve felt the urge to put it back on, but I’m not going to. I don’t know where my life is leading, but as much as I love and miss Mark, I’m on my own now.