"Honey," my wife said, giving me her sweetest smile. "I need you to fix the shower curtain in dad's bathroom."
"Again?" I questioned.
"Again," she confirmed.
"But I just fixed it," I griped.
"Well, fix it again," she countered.
"It can't be broken," I insisted.
"And yet it is," she insisted back.
"Again?" I mumbled to myself, because I knew the only one in this room interested in hearing my complaints was me.
I must have fixed that darn thing-what?-eight, nine, ten times? It seems I retired from a job I enjoyed just to spend that retirement fixing my father's shower curtain. It's not that it's hard to fix, because it's not, but that's not the problem.
"The problem," I explained to my wife, "is that dad uses the curtain for support when he gets out of the shower. We have the same kind of rod in our shower, and how many times has it fallen? ZERO times."
"I know," my wife agreed.
That ended the conversation, because how do you argue with someone who's agreeing with you? What she left out, however, was, "He's your dad." My wife is good that way. She never tells me, "He's your dad." She just tells me to fix the things he breaks.
That's the funny thing. At one time my father could fix anything, and I mean anything. During World War Two, when he was stationed in the Philippines, he built a washing machine while fighting the Japanese. Well, not exactly while he was fighting the Japanese, but in between fighting the Japanese.
I know that story is true, because I've seen pictures of the washing machine. It was essentially a barrel rigged to the front wheel of an Army Jeep. Crude, but effective.
Had washing machines even been invented yet in the 1940s, or was this an original invention of his? That seems like too much work to look up, so let's just say they weren't. I'd rather continue writing this story than spend my time looking up unnecessary facts.
Just then, my father walked into the kitchen and sat down, ready for breakfast.
"What happened to the shower curtain, dad?" I asked him, putting aside the book I was reading, the one I told you about in my October column. It's called "The Joke Man: Bow To Stern," and it's written by my favorite comedian, Jackie Martling. I had ordered it on , and it was shipped out on the 24th of that same month. I got the book a few days after, but haven't been able to find the time to read it.
I've been too busy fixing shower curtain rods.
Hmm… maybe I should have ordered a book on home repair instead.
My father looked over his shoulder to see if my wife was on her way with his food. She wisely kept her back to us.
"What?" he said, turning back.
"The shower curtain," I repeated.
"It's broken," he said.
"What happened?" I asked him.
"It just fell. I could fix it, but I know you like to take care of this stuff."
I don't know where he got the idea I like to fix things, because I don't. I remember, back when I knew everything, I told him that when I grew up I was going to hire handymen to do all my work for me. He laughed at that. When I grew up, I understood why he laughed, even though I was offended at the time.
"It sure does break a lot," I told him.
"Yeah," my dad said. "It sure does." I guess he felt the need to say something else, because he added, "They just don't make things the way they used to."
I tried to arch an eyebrow the way my wife does when she's irritated with me, but I probably only managed to look like Popeye the Sailor, rather than a skeptical son.
"They sure don't," I agreed, sarcastically.
My wife put a plate of food in front of him, and my father began to eat with the enthusiasm of a man who doesn't have to constantly fix the things he breaks and leaves behind.
"The problem is," my dad continued, pointing a forkful of scrambled egg at me, "there's something wrong with the rod in the shower area, it keeps falling."
My father emphasized his point by doing his David Copperfield impersonation and making the egg on his fork disappear.
"Yeah, they just don't make things like they used to," he repeated, chewing his breakfast. "Stuff, nowadays, is cheap. Those characters that built this house knew they were using cheap materials. That's why the rods keep falling by themselves."
"Not the 'rods,' dad," I wanted to tell him. "The rod in my shower is fine."
My wife glanced over her shoulder to see my reaction. It reminded me to keep my temper. I take issue with my dad telling me we live in a cheap house. My house is not cheap. Just the garage is probably worth more than the house I grew up in. I'd tell you how much it cost me, but I don't want any recently unemployed former Chicago community organizers showing up at my front door.
So I fixed it.
What's the big deal?
And three more times, before the month was out, I had to fix it again.