You can tell a lot about a person based on what they request as a gift on special occasions like graduations, anniversaries or birthdays. Last week, for instance, marked the completion of my 56th tour around the sun.
Our little celebration would have to be hurried—I would arrive home, as usual, at 5:30 and had to drive Abby to a choir practice at 5:50. I also had a date to play tennis with three friends at 6:30. Consequently, I figured we’d toss some casual food down our respective gullets, the amigos and Krista would issue a hasty “Happy Birthday” in my direction, and we’d scatter in the directions our obligations mandated. I was wrong.
In the midst of her ridiculously busy schedule that day, Krista still managed to prepare a wonderful meal, including one of my favorite “summery” dessert combinations—chocolate brownies topped with peppermint ice cream. To top off my surprise, each of the kids had picked out and purchased one simple gift they knew I would enjoy: Luke selected a package of gourmet coffee, Daniel picked a jumbo sized “car cup” of chewing gum, and Abby tapped a DVD movie (“La La Land”). The latter selection, I suspect, bore the heavy influence of her mother and her, ahem, respect for Ryan Gosling’s acting talents, but still: Despite having only 20 minutes to consume the food, open the presents, light the candles, and sing an enthusiastic-if-slightly-off-key version of the birthday standard, it was a wonderful and thoughtful celebration.
Two days before my birthday was Mother’s Day. A week or so earlier than that, I asked Krista “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”
“I’d like my van cleaned really well, inside and out, and I want three new seats for our toilets.” She explained her reason for the toilet seat request, but I’m exercising an editorial prerogative and leaving that out for the moment. Let’s just say it calls to mind a story I read of a kindergarten teacher who introduced her male students to their assigned restroom on the first day of school. After escorting them there and showing them the facilities, she offered them one piece of advice. “Gentlemen, aim well.”
In any event, I quickly considered Krista’s Mother’s Day wish and thought, “My dear wife asks for so little…and, by golly, I’m just the man to deliver it!” On the Saturday afternoon before Mother’s Day I drove her van to the car wash and handed the attendant my credit card. “A ‘Gold,’ my good man,” I announced. “My wife deserves the best! Well, next to the best, anyway. I mean, I know the ‘Platinum’ is one step up, but, you know, no sense going crazy or anything.” After receiving the proper “Gold” treatment, I pulled the van around to the vacuuming station and worked on the inside. After a half an hour of sweeping the floor and polishing the dash, I was satisfied that Krista would be pleased. It even smelled good.
I then began step two of “operation mother’s day.” I brought a few tools up to our master bathroom and began to take off the toilet seat. At the last juncture of the disassembly, however, I ran into a snag. The nut on the left hand bolt was stuck, secured by a layer of rust and who-knows-what. I tried to get a better look so that I could secure the wrench to the edges of the stubborn nut, but the space between the toilet bowl and our tub was so small I temporarily got stuck. “Oh, Lord,” I thought, “please allow me to escape the indignity of being permanently affixed to the underside of this john!”
God granted me this petition a few seconds and much squirming later, and I eventually figured out a way to get the bolt off. Score one for dad! I then walked downstairs and easily removed toilet seat # 2 from its perch. At this point, I was feeling pleased and confident. I left the third toilet seat (in the amigos’ bathroom) intact so that folks could do their business if need be while I worked on the others. I drove to Lowe’s and purchased three pristine, white, and sturdy seats for my wife. After one minor snafu, I installed seats #1 and #2 in a grand total of 5 minutes. All hail dad!
I then moved to the kids’ bathroom. The right hand nut came off the bolt with very little resistance. The left hand nut, however, was terribly stuck. I struggled to slip the wrench on, and had no way to see what I was doing because the gap between the wall and the toilet bowl was miniscule. I repeatedly tried to feel my way, but each time I succeeded (usually after minutes of trying) in securing the nut I failed to hold fast the bolt head on top, a process which resulted in the entire assembly spinning—leaving me no better off than I’d been before. I began sweating profusely in exasperation. I yelled at the kids to leave the house—“Go outside! Get outta here! Do something productive!” I screamed stupidly. I swore and muttered and generally acted like a churlish moron.
After nearly an hour of fruitless attempts, I gave up and called a good and handy friend to help. Bud, ever willing and very able, arrived a few hours later and the two of us managed to defeat the pesky, rusty nut/bolt team with a little elbow grease and serendipity.
What does it say about my wife that she wanted a clean car and a few new toilet seats for Mother’s Day? What does it say about her that she married such a dolt? I’ve pondered these questions and have a few theories, but before coming to any firm conclusions I’ve decided to sit back, relax a little, and just enjoy the ride a bit. Pass the popcorn, honey, and let’s watch Ryan Gosling together.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.