Friday, January 11, 2019


So the downstairs toilet wasn't working. When I depressed the metal gizmo so that it would flush, it didn't.  When I opened up the tank and manually lifted the chain that should be lifted when you depress the metal gizmo, it flushed.  But that's the only way it would flush.

Probably not a big deal to fix, I thought.  But then I noticed that the water did not stop pouring into the tank after I flushed it manually. The rod that links to the ball had broken away.

So, I couldn't flush the toilet unless I removed the top of the tank, but once I did that I had to turn the water off, and only turn it back on when one of us needed to flush again. Terrific.

I went to home depot. Why I went is a good question. My grandfather was the handiest guy you could ever meet. My father was the opposite. I am in Dad's camp.  So me going to home depot to get the tools to fix the toilet, is like an illiterate buying a word processor to write a novel.

I called a buddy of mine who told me it is easy to fix this problem. And that is what the fellow in home depot said as well. The fellow with the orange apron, pointed to the directions on the plastic covering of the toilet fixer upper all in one package.  "All you have to do is follow these instructions."


It was my intent to give it a whack this morning, but after thirty seconds of eyeballing the tank and the materials I had bought from home depot, I started calling plumbers.  They all were too busy and all told me I could do it myself.

I remembered that several years ago a very kind man who works for the city had come by. He told me that after we had done the renovation, he no longer could read the water meter.  I realized that when the new siding went up on the house, the person who installed it must have taken the meter down.  The fellow told me that I was paying through the nose because they could not read the water meter. He offered to reinstall the meter for a modest fee. And he did, and it was a modest fee.  So, I thought of him this morning and gave a call. He was available.

This is the kind of fellow who could probably fix anything. Capable, self-effacing despite his skill, and affable. Whenever he got to what seemed to be to be a tough spot, and I asked if there was trouble, he said--"I think I can figure it out" which is just what I wanted to hear.  It took him about two hours to do the job. It would have taken me two days and at that point neither of us would be able to flush the toilet.

The handyman and I got to talking and he asked me how my new years was. I told him. And then I asked him.

He paused for a few moments and then told me.  He had lost his partner of sixteen years to cancer just a few months prior.  She had been misdiagnosed and when they finally got the diagnosis right, she was given only three months to live.  My new friend was venting, not overbearingly so, but he had gone through a tough stretch. Her family had been beyond unsupportive--and I believed the rendition the fellow was relaying.  He said that he and his partner were about to retire and were looking forward to time together. However, the time together when they both hit their mid 60s was spent with her failing and he being her caretaker.  He told me what I am sure he learned over the past year, that the body withers because the cancer eats up the calories you consume faster than one typically does. He also told me that when there is nothing left to eat, the cancer cells go for the muscle. And the atrophy is tough to endure and witness.

All this came with the backdrop of me reading a book about a woman who is married to a man and the two of them are engaged in a cold war related to the parenting of a troubled son.  I'm not finished with the book, but a recent exchange went like this. She: "This is so stupid. Either you really live with me or don't at all." He "You're right, I am pretty stupid, to hang around here and take this crap. It's time I found another place." She "Yes! I really wish you would." He: "Don't worry. I'll be out of here tomorrow." She: "Good"

My handyman now bereft is clearly in pain.  He was concerned that now, in his mid 60s, he was not in shape to meet anyone. It wouldn't be fair, he commented, because right now he was so off center. I had the sense that if he were reading the book I am reading, he would tell the two characters, that they are fools for separating.

In the throes of loss, any type of union can seem preferable. And maybe most unions are preferable to ones that have minor flaws.

It is, however, a matter of whether the toilet is fixable.

Can you repair it so that you can flush, or is the plumbing so far gone, that no matter what you do, the waste will be a constant condition and can only be temporarily purged.

And what you wind up doing is flushing manually and regularly and living with the smell.

I feel for my new friend, the handyman.  But I also feel for the characters in this novel.

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