One day I woke up and recalled that I had left a load of laundry in the washing machine overnight. Whoops. Next I realized that despite mashing the button repeatedly, the dryer had quit working. Damn! Janelle and I used the local laundromat as a stopgap solution, but we were unsure of what to do. Should we buy a new energy efficient model on credit? Perhaps find a $100 used dryer on Craigslist? What would we do with the old one? Luckily, Janelle’s parents came to visit and my father-in-law, Mike, convinced me that “It’s probably just the belt.” Ok, let’s take this stuff apart!
It was indeed the belt, it slithered out like a skinny garter snake once the panels were removed from the appliance. Mike and I bonded over tension wheels, the mechanics of rotating drums, transcribing part numbers and hoping that I would be able to reassemble the machine once the belt (ordered online) arrived. My mind wandered to other projects over the years with my step-dad and my dad, and the inevitability of helping my children with such things down the road. Who knows, maybe by then I will be better at pretending I know what I am doing.
The belt was still in transit when the lowest pressure system in local meteorological history (behaving like a hurricane does over open water) blew through Moorhead, throwing another home maintenance crisis toward this not so handy man. The gutters were plugged and the rain was making its way inexorably down through my wooden house rather than taking the pre-approved metallic route, dripping water into our spare bedroom and front entry. Heroic action was required, our house was depending on me.
Dylan understood my urgency as I placed Baby Julia in her crib/baby jail and crawled out onto the roof on my belly, instantly soaked and buffeted by the high speed winds of the storm. Risking injury and the wrath of my children I was able to unplug the gutters, yet the damage was done. The towel in our entry was replaced by a bucket and my sense of elation at battling the elements was doused by the shame of visible water damage.
The following day, the UPS guy knockdropped a dryer belt at my door. I read the instructions and waited patiently for one of my two children to fall asleep. While it is difficult to repair something with one child awake, it would be tempting disaster to start such a project with two eager assistants. Julia nodded off, Dylan “helped” me for ten minutes and then was whisked off to Neverland with Peter Pan and Captain Hook while I replaced the part and reassembled the dryer, enjoying my newfound understanding of how the thing actually works.
I spent the remainder of the day in an unsettled mood as I wavered from the thrill of empowerment to the despair of futility. The dryer was fixed, but the water damage remained. I finally found some comfort in subterfuge as I stealthily laundered the accumulated dirty clothes without telling my wife about my handyman exploits and savored her reaction when she found out I fixed something. Some day I will be the relative expert when stuff goes wrong, and I thank my fathers for showing me the way.