May 15, 2020

Replaced and Repaired

As we get older there are two ever-present conditions we find ourselves: being slowly replaced and constantly being repaired.


Fixing the clog under the sink, taking care of the lawn, putting on a new closet door...the types of things we have done most of our lives are being  parceled out to others. Simple maintenance chores now trigger a call to a handyman half our age. Cleaning the house? Others more nimble can do a better, quicker job.

The thought of replacing a toilet (what is a wax seal?) or putting in a disposal that actually grinds up food triggers an anxiety attack. 

We are mature enough to know what we can do and what would not be wise to tackle. Maybe 15-20 years ago putting up a new ceiling fan would be a simple, hour-long weekend project. Now, the thought of climbing a ladder, trying to not electrocute ourselves, and getting the fan to not wobble like a college student on a Friday night....too much.

The other condition is one of constant repair and maintenance. Doctor visits, clinic stops, pharmacies that politely give us our own parking spot. Eye exams that confirm the street signs are not at fault for being out of focus. The dentists who remark on how good our gums look for our age. 

The annual checkups. let's not forget the "procedure" that is strongly recommended (think colonoscopy).

The human body is an amazingly complex machine, that comes with annoying flaws: a best if used by date (unknown to us but still there), and obsolescence of all the various parts and abilities. Think of our bodies as a out-of-date computer. It still functions but is much slower and prone to glitches now and then. Eventually, you flip the power switch and ...nothing.

Is our state of replacement by others more competent at something, and repair of a body that is designed to ultimately stop working depressing? Do these "facts" cause us to pull into a shell and bemoan our fate?

To some people, yes. But, to the people I know best, no way. This is the hand we were dealt. There are no "mulligans," no redeals, no reshuffles, no reboot. So, our task is to make the absolute most of every moment, every opportunity, every day. 

Hiring someone else to do something we once did and using what assists are available to keep our body functioning are as much a part of life as learning to walk, use the toilet, figure out calculus, and interact with other human beings.

Just remember one very important caveat: each of us brings a uniqueness to the game that cannot be replaced or repaired in a way that changes who we are.


20 comments:

  1. With the extra time found in our current circumstance, I have taken to YouTube and other sources to learn how to accomplish some home maintenance tasks I might have otherwise hired out. Decidedly mixed results, but I am learning a lot--not the least of which is that I can do more than I thought I could.

    I am also looking to take advantage of this opportunity to concentrate on improving my health. Yoga DVDs have now replaced the morning news. And I am now on a strict plant-based diet. I think we have to look for opportunities amidst the chaos.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. The thought occurred to me while writing this post that the extra at home time would allow some brave folks to try basic repairs that are normally done by others. Example? I repaired a leaking drip line that feeds 5 plants. $200 from a handyman, $20 in parts for me!

      YouTube is quite a resource for this type of info. Good suggestion, Rick.

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  2. Timely post for us. One of the reasons we are selling and downsizing to a condo is the ongoing maintenance of an acre+ yard and extensive gardens. We had hoped to sell earlier, but with the pandemic lockdown, we ended up doing spring mulch again. Eight yards of mulch preceded by hours of weeding - five hard days of work. We did it, but we don't want to do it again. DH has a riding mower, but would rather spend those two hours on a golf course. It took me a while to convince him we should downsize (I'm the gardener most of the time and it was taking a toll), but this last go round was the clincher. I love the way the gardens look when they're pristine, but it takes hours and hours of hard work to keep them up. Time to let someone else enjoy them - the good and the bad.

    DH still does some of the repair and upkeep here, but we are indeed hiring more things done, especially things that involve ladders. We both realize we don't have the stamina we used to. It is hard to admit but we are realists. Good healthcare and maintenance appointments are so important. They really have kept us here, as we have great healthcare right now.

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    1. The ice maker in my refrigerator stopped working a few days before our stay at home order. So, for the past few months I have been making a weekly trip to the convenience store for a bag of ice.

      According to some YouTube videos I should be able to fix it myself by replacing the water inlet valve. But, with all that food in the freezer, I am not willing to risk messing something up so everything stops! In another few weeks we will feel comfortable enough to have a repair person come inside the house.

      WE have maintained a rather extensive backyard of plants and bushes in previous houses, but decided this time around to put in some low maintenance plants and not try to maintain flowers during a Phoenix summer. That decision was a wise one.

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    2. I have to say, fixing anything related to an appliance is off our list. A good appliance repair person is worth a lot. Ours just went back to work last week. Luckily we don't need him right now. But I fear we would make any problem worse and then the ultimate fix would just cost more. :-)

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  3. Youtube has always been my default for doing many things these days. There is so much content on every topic you can imagine. Our only investment is time to complete the task at hand. Who's in a hurry anyway? with all the home time these days. Make the most of everyday and smile.

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    1. See my comment above about the ice maker! But, your point is spot on: YouTube is an amazing resource.

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  4. All I can say is, Oh my aching bones! For the past two months I've been doing the work we usually hire out -- and for all my pains, I don't get as good a job done either.

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    1. We had to let our house cleaning service go...just too big a risk to let two or three women in the house at this time. Betty and I tackle it now - not our first choice, but we appreciate what we have lost so much more.

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  5. My husband is very handy so he still does most of the home repairs (along with his trusty sidekick... me). When I suggest that we hire out the work, he says that he can do a better job, and he is usually right. I think doing these repairs makes him feel good about himself and gives him a sense of pride. I'm sure that, one of these days, we'll have to rely on the "experts" but, until then, we will continue to hold our house together ourselves one repair at a time. Just like with our physical health, it's important to keep moving and challenging ourselves or we risk atrophy.

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    1. Betty and I had to be semi-handy with repairs when we owned some rental homes. Luckily, that phase is a decade or so behind us.

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  6. When we bought our home the owner told us her husband did not need to be on ladders and on the roof anymore. I am now the age he was when we bought it. I see her point.

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    1. I risk life and limb to occasionally clean out the gutters and trim the lower branches of trees. But, that is the extent of my ladder use.

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  7. It is true Bob, time marches on and age isn't just a number no matter what people would like to think. I am not saying "act your age" but rather it's good to be cognisant that there is a best before date so don't waste the time that you do have. For example, we have a window cleaning service that once a month cleans the exterior side of all our windows. I could do it but it takes me all day going up and down the ladder carrying a bucket of water but the window cleaners do it in 20 minutes and it's a better job - not a streak or smear anywhere. Even for such a seemingly simple task having the right tools and the right skills makes a difference.

    I try to understand myself well enough to figure out when I should attempt DIY or if I should call in a professional. More and more these days it seems like I am helping the economy by creating jobs for others.

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    1. I always enjoy seeing someone who is good at a job or task, regardless of what it is. Your window cleaning example is a good case in point. They do a simple task well and efficiently, saving you time, and keeping them working. Sounds like a very fair bargain.

      I think of the Kenny Rodgers song lyric about knowing when to hold them and know when to fold them.

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  8. Ken grew up in a working class family where his Dad learned to do just about every home repair needed and taught his boys. Ken is the only brother of the 4 who still does almost ALL his own repairs..he is always tinkering with SOMETHING around here!! (But enjoys it as a hobby..) He tried to teach our son, but Andrew prefers to pick up the phone and get help and pay them to fix stuff... .. actually, he now rents and feels he is done with home ownership and repairs!! I say do what you can, and what you enjoy that does not make you crazy.When you work, you can pay people to help.In retirement, well.. I am very glad Ken is so handy! He saved us HUNDREDS of dollars on a spa repair this year, and just overall can fix so many things! The nicest thing is, when we don't want to do it ourselves, we can help our economy by hiring LOCALS to do the work for us..and that's a VERY good thing!!!!! ESPECIALLY now...

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    1. My dad had problems knowing what end of a screwdriver to use, so repair skills were not passed down to his three sons. I have always been envious of people who could repair anything. Betty knows when I go to Lowes for a part I will always need to make at least three trips back and forth to get either the right size or additional parts.

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  9. Like Janis and Madeline, I have a husband who handles most of our home repairs and projects. Alan can usually figure out why something is not working properly and exactly what needs to be done to fix it in short order. I've accepted the fact that our minds work differently, and I'll never be able to plan projects or handle a repair like he does. As with Janis and her husband, Alan and I work together on many projects; Alan's always the Chief Project Engineer and I'm the hired help. I have to admit that I worry what will happen when we age out of home improvements, repairs and maintenance. This is a guy who thrives on indoor and outdoor projects, and I'm seriously hoping he'll be able to transition to something just as rewarding to him. His talents are a blessing, and have saved us a great deal of money over the years. Predictably, two common questions in our house are, "Alan, can you please take a look at this?" followed by, "What did you break now?"

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    1. I am pretty sure my mom learned very early in their 63 year marriage to abandon the concept of a "honey-do" list. I just used the excuse I travelled a lot and Betty was best off hiring someone for whatever needed to be done.

      Your lifestyle, with lots of RV trips and camping pretty much requires at least one of you be handy with tools and repairs. I managed a few basic fix-its during the 5 years we owned one, but the big stuff required a few days at the RV repair shop.

      Frankly, one of the reasons we stopped RVing was the awareness that RVs tend to break or need something fixed with alarming frequency, and those repairs are expensive when someone else does them.

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