Opinion: The handyman’s tale


Last week, I looked back on our longtime handyman who became a good friend. When he passed in 2005 of cancer, I wrote this:

I once told Steve he was the greatest handyman east of the Mississippi. Steve said he could easily be the best handyman west of the Mississippi, also. I think he considered moving to Utah just to prove his point.

Steve’s approach to fixing things was methodical. He would analyze the problem, list the options, mull the alternatives, formulate a plan and fix the broken item.

Here’s how I would approach the issue: Analyze the problem, list the options, mull the alternatives, formulate a plan and call Steve. As you can see, our approaches were almost identical.

I can never replace Steve as a friend, but I do have to find another fix-it guy. Over the past year, as Steve’s condition worsened, my garage door fell apart, the molding on a kitchen cabinet peeled off, the toilet seat broke and the garbage disposal stopped working.

Because I was loyal to Steve and felt certain he would recover from his illness, I left things broken. Knowing him, I thought he’d be at my front door again very soon. Steve knew better. He was very practical and realistic about things. That’s why he was such a good handyman.

I will miss Steve chiding me for being totally useless. When Steve fixed something, he made it look easy. But here were some of his favorite expressions while wielding a putty knife:

“It’s a good thing you called me.”

“Thank goodness you didn’t try to do this yourself.”

“I got here just in time.”

“You’d have paid twice as much for a plumber.”

Now that Steve is gone, my wife fears I may try to fix something without professional help — which in the past has proven to be very costly.

“Can’t you call someone?” she asked the other day. “The hanging rod in my closet has been broken for a week.”

“Who am I going to call, Mary Ellen? There will never be another Steve.”

“Dick, you know everyone. That’s what you do for a living. For example, don’t you know someone who taught his llamas to square dance?”

“They never miss a step.”

“And what about the guest who had a collection of 300 stolen manhole covers?”

“A lovely woman.”

“And the man who eats earthworms for his daily protein?”

“I had dinner with his entire family.”

“And with all those people you have met, an entire computer file filled with talented individuals, you can’t find a handyman as good as Steve?”

“I don’t think I can, Mary Ellen.”

“I don’t think you can, either. We’ll start looking for a new house tomorrow.”

It took more than 5,000 tomorrows for us to find another fix-it guy who could make our old house good as new, and then help us transition to our final nesting place. Randy is upstairs now fixing an electrical outlet. Mary Ellen is fixing dinner. Somewhere, I suspect, someone is fixing the November elections. Our neighbor is off to the vet to have his dog fixed. I don’t plan to ever fix anything. And that’s a promise that will never be broken.