A fool’s wrong tools

This week, I replaced our shower head.

In principle, this should be a simple procedure, but it took me more effort than necessary.

After purchasing the shower head itself, I came home to realize that my one wrench was insufficiently large enough. Upon my second return from the hardware store, gripping my new wrench’s padded handle, I spent entirely too much time turning it in the wrong direction and broke off part of the old shower head. Not a big deal, technically, because the old head was destined for the garbage heap anyway; but this was after much frustratingly cumbersome twisting, as my wrench handle had continuously been bumping against the faucet at every single turn. I can’t recall how many times I’d had to loosen and retighten the wrench for another twist.

This shower head replacement operation was only the most recent in a series of fix-it adventures that went somewhat awry. Let’s not speak of the door handle that needed to be replaced and the hole in the door that unexpectedly needed to be widened so that the lock would fit. Let’s not speak of the lights above the bathroom mirror that required me to go back and forth to the hardware store until I finally figured out which bulbs, boxes, and wires I actually needed. Let’s not speak of the curtain rod that broke and my poor attempt at screwing a new one to the bathroom wall. Let’s not speak of the various other home improvement adventures that I’ve been avoiding because I hate doing them. Because I’m bad at repairing things. Because I hate doing things poorly.

Papa’s tools

I am so unlike my father.

He had a room full of tools, and he knew how to use all of them. When he hammered nails into the walls, they never got bent sideways the way mine do every single time.

Years and years ago, when I was a teenager, my father was repairing our deck in the backyard while my aunt and uncle happened to be visiting us from Israel. My uncle offered to help him, and together the two of them got the job done. I saw them working on the deck, but it did not occur to me to help them… I didn’t know how to do such things well, and it seemed to me that they had everything under control. I seem to recall going upstairs to read a book in the meantime. Later, to my surprise at the time, Papa expressed his deep disappointment in me for not offering to help to them.

Next week, Mama will be permanently moving out of the house that she has lived in since 2000. My parents lived longer in that house than any other home they’d ever had, and Papa amassed a trove of tools and machines over those years, on top of the ones he’d already had, which are now being left behind for the new owners who are probably more than happy to inherit them.

Living as I do, across the ocean, in a small, rented apartment, I couldn’t take Papa’s tools even if I wanted them… but what would I do with them, even if I could keep them?

I’m pretty much only good for handling a keyboard.

61 thoughts on “A fool’s wrong tools”

  1. Seamus Heaney’s poem Digging fits in perfectly with your story ..a fool’s wrong tools. Im a little taken aback by the harshness in the title. I’ve also had to sort through a whole lot of tools tbis year, lucky for me i was moving to a home with a big garage, but i also prepared my box with tge moat memorable of tools. The ones i can use i side the house.
    Funny, i also change the shower head, in fact my daughter bought me a new one and im loving the different pressures of the hand held gun. Perfect for muscle spasms. Hot and cold water really works well,
    You have different tools ben, your squat pen, which require a lot of deep digging, and we appreciate that. In a long tradition of spades it is an important contribution to the garden work that needs to be maintained in the history of your life and others. Your gardens are blooming.

    1. Yes, I know, thank you.

      It’s just really hard for me not to compare myself to my Papa, even though I know it’s completely irrational. Maybe that’s why I’m a fool πŸ˜‰

      Shabbat shalom,

      1. Beautiful evening, this side of the world. An unspeakable silence veils the day amidst the hustle and bustle that usually accompanies a Friday evening.
        Nothing irrational, he is your mirror, enjoy the wonderful positive similarities and well we are all tasked to work on the other stuff.

        Have a good Friday ahead.

  2. This is so good David, I particularly enjoyed this due to the fact I can relate.
    I am a better builder/repairman than writer! That is most of my life’s work. This world is fun when you recognize such things. You should attempt more repairs with the mindset that- I have only become so adept at fixing things because I have HAD an even more incredible talent for breaking them! Life is good when you see that you are given the “hard” tasks to build upon our weaknesses. FF approves this. Your keyboard skills most certainly account for your perceived shortcomings, anywhere else!
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Ha! My father didn’t teach me any practical skills; it was me who fixed things, painted walls and so on. Mind you, I’m no plumber nor electrician!

  4. I know a few men with similar feelings… the father is/was so good at something, but not as good at teaching and including… that’s how this feels to me anyway, as I try to read between the lines. My grandfather was amazing at all this fixit stuff, but far too impatient to teach my dad… my dad was good (out of necessity, and having access to all the tools) but not great like him at fixing things, but he was a great teacher, and “includer”… so somehow even I (a girl, kind of unusual at the time) gained a few skills… and he bought my sister and I each our own sets of high-quality tools… that was our gift from him each year at Christmas… I could name other similar examples within my own family network as well… of kids that didn’t/don’t receive quite the same level of benefit, that is.

    Lovingly expressed, and skillfully, yes. :)) Hugs to you David, and for sharing yet another lovely work with us, thank you. πŸ’›

    1. Lia, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

      Another thing that I have been thinking about is the respective ages and cultures that my father and I grew up in. Growing up in the comfort of suburban USA was different than the USSR of the mid-20th c.

      Shabbat shalom,

      1. Ah yes, true… that gives it a whole other perspective, too.
        And for the shabbat shalom, thank you, and likewise πŸ˜ŠπŸ™

  5. David, so relatable. πŸ™‚ Luckily, Robert is handy! I wish I were more like my grandmother, who helped my grandfather flip houses for many years. She painted, wallpapered, plastered, upholstered, refinished, gardened, made rugs, quilts, and curtains… I don’t think she wrote any poems. πŸ™‚ I hope you are enjoying your Chanukah holidays.

    1. Cheryl,

      My Papa wasn’t just handy – he was also a brilliant mathematician. Other than my writing, I think he was basically better than me at just about everything, TBH πŸ™‚


    1. For me, yes… but I have a good friend who’s amazing with his hands. Even when he hires somebody else to do renovations, he can understand what they’re doing and lay out his expectations clearly. (on the flip side, he doesn’t write poetry πŸ˜‰ )


  6. Some have a knack for it others not. Practice it enough and you get good at it, but you have to have patience. If a child has a willing (and patient) teacher, the child with interest will learn. My dad wasn’t that kind of handyman but he taught me neat little things, like how to change a bike tire, how to walk on stilts, and how to drive a stick shift. You’re right though, in tough times in Russia you had to know how to do them as a matter of survival. Was his dad a handyman also?

    1. Lisa,
      Actually, no…. I think my grandfather was somewhere on the autism spectrum – he was like a human calculator – able to do equations with vast numbers in his mind, and very good at chess…. but definitely not a handyman!

  7. I felt like I was reading the same fix it misadventures in my life. The silver lining is that you are not alone… best of luck with your next adventure

  8. I feel this way with how my mama always had the touch to make any space perfectly organized instantly. It takew her 10 minutes to do what takes me 30! Haha oh well. We learn as we get wiser.

  9. I’ve had many similar experiences with this sort of thing. Many of the men in my family are able to fix homes and cars, and I have no earthly idea how they do that. I’m sorry you’ve been frustrated, but I feel relieved at not being the only guy to think β€œoh, they’ve got this handled.”

  10. Having the right tools is a big part of being able to do something well. Another big chunk of it is knowing handy workarounds to prepare the materials. I’m constantly impressed by the workarounds my husband knows / thinks of.

    But it’s so frustrating not being able to do DIY stuff, I agree.

    I hope the new people will enjoy the tools.

  11. My father, definitely a bit autistic (pure mathematician) was completely hopeless with tools. At one point my husband was building a storage cabinet into my parents kitchen for them and had forgotten his tool box – he asked for to borrow a hammer and was told “We have a rock. I’s nice and round and with flat sides.” I’ll never forget the look on his face… Maybe these things skip a generation – my brother and I are both fairly handy. Although that may be a response to my parents, and father in particular.

    1. Kate,

      It very well may skip a generation… that said, I think a lot of my father’s best traits skipped me… although I don’t think they skipped my brother as much. 🀷🏻

      Maybe they skip half a generation πŸ€ͺ


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