My husband said those three little words. It was perfect timing, just when I needed to hear them the most. Most women long to hear “I love you” or “You’ve lost weight,” (a close second and heartily welcomed comment).
But my three words usually come an hour after my husband has been to retrieve the toolbox. And without fail, I hear those three little words: “Call a professional.”
You see, my husband likes to try to fix things. When he goes for the toolbox, I keep the phone nearby, programmed to 911, the plumber, the electrician, and the handyman. He means well and even looks like he knows what he is doing, until he picks up a tool. Then all hell breaks loose.
Now don’t get me wrong, my husband is an intelligent, athletic, and talented man. He is a medical professional, a specialist in his field. He rides his mountain bike over technical terrain. He plays the drums. But put a screwdriver in his hand and you don’t know what might get broken next.
I made the mistake of assuming that fixing things was a male trait, a dominant gene thing. Growing up, my dad was an eclectic fixer, he could fix anything. I incorrectly assumed that my husband possessed this ability, a useful skill, unlike his savant-like aptitude to recite stats for any year of Major League Baseball. I remember the first time I asked him to look at the washing machine when it had quit working. He stood there studying it with concentration.
He jiggled the knobs, opened and closed the lid twice, shrugged his shoulders and announced “it’s broken.” I probably looked as puzzled as he did. “Well, fix it,” I suggested.
My husband is proof of the nurture side of the argument in the nature/nurture debate of the fix-it world. He is proof that you must be raised around a fixer to be one. So I can’t hold this against him. He can’t help it, it’s in his DNA. His dad is a non-fixer who only has a hammer and a screwdriver, not even a toolbox to keep them in. I think in reality there is a state law that prohibits him from possessing more.
The fixing endeavors at our house start with a festive atmosphere. “C’mon boys,” he announces with a smile. My sons visibly cringe right along with me now when Dad goes to get the toolbox. They look at me to see if I am going to stop him this time. I nod at them to go to on with Dad. At least until the profanity begins.
My husband is a calm and patient man. But the toolbox brings out a Jekyll and Hyde response in him, where no holds are barred on the language. Once the fixing begins, I shoo them out of the room and preferably out of the county. As he gets into his project, his eyes glaze over and his personality transforms. With a hammer in his hand, he works in profanity like a potter works in clay. He crafts masterful descriptions all rated “M” for Mature. He speaks in ampersands, exclamations and pound signs.
Our most recent disaster occurred on his day off, the most frightening time, when I am not there to direct him to a more helpful task, such as watching ESPN. He was replacing the leaky kitchen faucet when I found him under the sink, discarded tools strewn around his legs, the sound of metal against metal with a bass undertone of profanity as a backbeat.
“Finished!” he announced triumphantly. As he reached for the faucet I reached for the phone. When he flipped on the faucet, some water did flow out of the tap. But most flowed out from under the sink in a current that would rival the nearby Yellowstone River. He looked puzzled, turned the water off, and scooted back under the sink. An hour later, he reemerged looking slightly wet and defeated then uttered those magic words: “Call a professional.”
Later, we stood in the kitchen watching the plumber. “I thought I had it fixed,” he muttered apologetically. Suddenly, I was talking to a player on the underdog team. I wanted to swat him on the rear end and tell him to get back in there. “You’ll get it next time,” I told him. After fifteen years of marriage, even I wanted to believe it. But I won’t reprogram the phone anytime soon.