After Jeff died, a friend gave me a book written by a widow for fellow widows about the practical aspects of widowhood and how to adjust to this unfortunate lifestyle. A chapter on home maintenance and repair warned me that within a year of my husband's death, at least three major appliances would require substantial repairs or replacement. Apparently, it's the Widows' Law and there's no use trying to avoid it. The book advised that one could replace the word "appliance" with any major home component such as "roof" and the law would still hold true.
I thought this was pure superstition when I read it. Now, I'm a believer. Here is a partial list of all the things that have gone wrong on the home maintenance front just since January 1st of this year:
1. My basement was ruined in a natural flood which required me to replace the entire basement carpet and undertake flood remediation consisting of treating the cement floor with an antimicrobial.
2. Jeff's laptop computer (that I use as a home computer), was infiltrated by a particularly nasty virus which necessitated 7 back-up disks, installation of a new antivirus program, installation of a new battery, and comprehensive diagnostic and repair work to all affected systems. The total cost was almost more than the cost of a new computer. However, (and this is a BIG however, in my opinion) all of Jeff's writings are saved on the hard-drive of this computer. And not just the articles he wrote professionally, but all of his creative writings consisting of dozens of completed and partial stories, poems, essays, screenplays, etc. He willed these writings to the kids and because I have not printed them--salvaging the computer at any cost was my only option! As an interesting side note--I read another widow's blog and she mentioned coming across a bunch of old e-mails that her husband had sent her before he died. Out of curiosity, I looked though my various e-mail accounts and was surprised and disheartened to find I only saved THREE e-mails from Jeff--total. THREE. I honestly can't believe that despite his illness and prognosis I only saw fit to save three e-mails from him. And they weren't even particularly personal or meaningful. Two of them were messages he forwarded from other people who had sent him treatment options he wanted me to research. I guess I'm just not much of a pack-rat. But, THREE?? What the hell was I thinking?
3. My microwave suddenly stopped working due to a broken magnetron. We have a built-in unit of specific dimensions. I finally found a suitable replacement, but it cannot be installed until next WEDNESDAY. Ugh!
4. My humidifier likewise stopped working. One day it was fine. Now it's not.
5. I had an unexplained flat tire that was unable to be fixed and had to be replaced.
6. And last, but not least: Finn broke my coffee pot! I have a very reliable Black and Decker coffee maker that has loyally served me for years. The coffee pot broke several years ago and was nearly impossible to replace because it is an odd size (10 cups instead of 12) and is "shorter" than most coffee pots and is even different than most Black and Decker models. We finally found one on the internet. Now, I am having no such luck, so I will likely have to replace my entire coffee maker. In the meantime, I am making coffee like a hobo: I put a funnel in the coffee cup and then place a coffee filter in the funnel with enough coffee in it for one cup. Then I pour hot water over the coffee which filters through the funnel. It works great, but I can only make one cup at a time. This creates a minor inconvenience in my house because (brace yourselves for this confession . . .) I let my kids drink coffee. That is why Finn broke the coffee pot. He was trying to pour himself more coffee because I've created a little monster ever since I first let him drink it as a baby. Now, before you call social services on me--allow me to explain. Everyone in my family drinks coffee without exception. We were introduced to it as small children when it was initially served laden with sugar and cream. Since then, we have each developed our own unique "recipes" or preferences, but I remain very true to the original. For my kids, I allow them to fill the cup half full of coffee (it is a small cup) and they then add sugar and fill the rest with milk, so it is cool enough to drink. They don't get refills. Except for Finn who apparently tried to breach this rule--hence the broken coffee pot. As another side note--when the kids try to order coffee in restaurants I act appropriately appalled and protest within ear-shot of the waitress and anyone who looks offended: "You don't drink coffee! Who let's you drink coffee? That's terrible. What kind of mother would let her kids do that? Why, I would NEVER." They then roll their eyes at my feigned disgust and order chocolate milk. And just because Jeff is dead, doesn't mean he can't share some of the blame--he taught them all to drink hot tea as babies too. He would make up pot of tea Irish-style and let them drink it with milk. So, we mutually corrupted them.
There are many other maintenance-related issues that require attention (e.g. the inconsistent garage door opener; the muddled surround sound on the basement T.V.; the broken hinge on the china cabinet door; the loose faucet handle; the loose kitchen tile; the broken stair moulding; etc.) but these are very minor and Jeff--who was very diligent and attentive regarding home maintenance--left me strict instructions to hire professionals to address them. Under no circumstances am I to allow anyone to "jerryrig" house repairs (his words). However, I have already broken this rule by asking Jeff's Dad to do a couple of small projects. (Jeff trusted no one to care for the house--except maybe his friend, Dale).
And on an unrelated note--I have a funny, but poignant, anecdote. I received an interesting piece of mail from a woman I used to work with (and who I believed was aware of my circumstances based upon e-mails and cards she previously sent me). It was a heartfelt letter about how she and her husband had just returned from a Marriage Encounter weekend and that she thought Jeff and I were such a great couple we would really benefit from a Marriage Encounter experience etc. etc. Included with her letter was a gift certificate for Jeff and I to attend a retreat. Good thing I'm not the sensitive type or that might have really ruined my day. Instead, I returned the gift certificate with a note of thanks and news of Jeff's death. I don't mind mentioning it here because she obviously doesn't read the blog--but I share the story in thanks to the rest of you who have been very sensitive to my situation and who have politely addressed mail to me (and not to Jeff) and who have discreetly modified your records to reflect our loss (e.g. the kids' schools immediately started sending things to me alone and no longer list Jeff as a parent or contact--sad, but accurate and necessary).
Well--this post has gotten far too long and boring. Even for me. So, I'll spare you anymore and bid you good night! I'm sure I'll have more exciting news next time . . .