“Two Happy Days Are Seldom Brothers”

A toy man holding a wrench and carrying a tool box.

âš½I got out of bed on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago and went through my normal routine of getting ready for my day’s journey: down the hall to power up my old pal Einstein (my PC), then off to get my daily cup of “Morning Joe.† My wife came by my desk a little later on her way to the garage and we spoke briefly before I turned back to the task at hand.  A few moments later she came back and, with dread in her voice, said, “Tommy, the water heater in the garage is leaking.† As most of you know, your heart immediately sinks when you hear these words because you know it can’t be good. 

So out I head to our attached garage with a flashlight in my hand.  I looked in the closet where the hot water tank is that supplies our kitchen, laundry room, and guest bathroom, and sure enough, there was water on the floor.  We then surmised, without a doubt, that it needed replacing.  I turned off the water valve and walked over to the electric panel to throw the breaker that sends over electricity so it can perform its magic, then I walked around to the back of the house for a water hose, which I attached to the faucet at the bottom of the tank to begin draining it out into the yard.

I did some research and found a highly rated plumber, called him on the phone, and he informed me that he would come over immediately and give me an estimate on how much it would cost.  A few hours later he arrived, looked things over, and said it would cost $1,200.  That seemed a little high, but I reluctantly said okay.  He informed me that it cannot be done the following day because it’s a holiday (Memorial Day) but said he can do it the next day (Tuesday).  Fortunately, we have another hot water unit at the other end of the house so we can still shower when needed.  On the appointed day, he arrived and busily sets about working his magic.  Within a few hours the task was completed, I pay him, and he leaves.  As he drove away, I calmly reached into the jar I keep by the door, rummaged around, and pull out my happy face.  Within a couple of hours, our faucets were filled with hot water and life got back to normal.  With that I am reminded of an old Bulgarian proverb, “Two happy days are seldom brothersâ€.   

The pastor of our church asked us during his Sunday sermon if we remembered our very first job interview (my wife and I were watching his sermon online).  Pastor Jeff is exceptionally good at engaging his congregation with thought-provoking questions.  As I pondered the question, my mind went back to when I was 15 and a job came open at a Chrysler dealership about 10 miles away from our home.  It was in the small village of Royal City and the owner needed someone to do odd jobs around his repair shop.  I walked up to him and asked if I could have Elwood’s job, whom he had fired just a few days earlier.  “How do you know Elwood?†he asked, and I responded, “He’s my cousin.† He said, “If you’re anything like him, I don’t need you!† That caused panic to race through my heart because I needed this job!  I immediately answered him by saying, “Let me work for you for one week and if you don’t like what I’ve done, then you don’t owe me a dime.†  That was a deal he couldn’t turn down and he promptly told me to start work on the following Monday.  I worked the entire summer at that dealership, repairing flat tires, washing cars, sweeping garage floors, and helping the mechanics.  When the summer was over and my last day on the job was ending, the staff gave me a little farewell party and wished me well.  As I left the shop and walked across the road, I stuck out my thumb to hitch a ride home.  I felt good about myself.  I was paid 50¢ an hour, worked ten hours each day, six days a week, and gave half of my money to Mom.  She was grateful and put it to good use.  Dad controlled the purse strings in our home, and she had little discretionary income.  Back then, purchases were put on your tab and were paid by the husband on payday. 

I haven’t had a lot of job interviews in my lifetime because I served four years in the US Air Force and then 43 at our local shipyard.  I am aware that the big “Interview†is yet to come, which will happen when I transition over to the other side and Saint Peter kindly asks me, “Why should we let you pass through the Gates of Heaven?† I’m thinking about responding, “Let me in for a week and…† Somehow, I kind of think that’s not how it works. 😊   

Martin E.P Seligman said so eloquently in his book, Flourish that “very little of what is positive is solitary.  Laugh uproariously, have indescribable joy, and it will always take place around other people.† He goes on to say that people are part of the solution to the ups and downs of life, and the single most reliable up.  His theory is that doing kindness produces the most dependable increase in the sense of well-being. 

Upon reflection, I agree with him.  I have a hard time thinking of anything positive that I did alone.  There was always someone in my life to share it with.  When my first wife and I divorced, I immersed myself in doing things for others but, because I had no one to share those experiences with, the feeling of self-worth dissipated quickly.  Am I trying to say that it’s necessary to be in a relationship in order to have a meaningful life?  Absolutely not!  But in my opinion, to encourage that feeling to hang around longer you need someone to share it with.  Why write a book if no one reads it, why play a musical instrument if nobody wants to listen to your music? 

We all need people in our lives to help us handle the curve balls that come our way, to cover our backs when needed, and to give advice when wanted.  As a young boy growing slowly into adulthood, my go-to person was my Mom.  Being a father of two children, I know I played an important part in my children’s lives, but I also know their mother played a greater and more important part.  She was the first person they went to with their problems, and it only came my way if money was part of the solution.  With my Mom, it wasn’t the money thing, because I knew she didn’t have any, but rather it was the “what do I need to do to solve this dilemma?†type of problem.  True, she was the gateway to Dad if money was involved, or if I was going to be away from home overnight.  He was always very insistent on my younger brother (Jerry) and I being home at bedtime every night.  I can remember my Mom having to plead with him to allow us to spend the night with our friends.  I could never figure out why he was like that.  I tried not to be that way with my kids, but I would never allow them to stay with a family we didn’t know, or if the parents weren’t going to be home. 

My son told me shortly before he passed away, in the summer of 2018 with pancreatic cancer, that I was the best dad he could have ever wanted.  I was glad he told me.  You should never assume that a person feels that way about themselves.  I was unaware that he felt that way about me.  I always knew that he loved me, but I thought it was in spite of my warts.  To my surprise, he didn’t think I had any warts!  As much as I loved my dad, I would never have said that to him.  He wasn’t mean to us, he just caused us a lot of unnecessary worry.  But I should have said it to my mother and I didn’t.  I will always regret that.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.† Personally, I couldn’t agree more.