The Farmer was not a Plumber

Today the plumber, Steve, fixed the hot water dispenser and the running toilet. I believe he is a saint. He, of course, would not see the accomplishment of two very minor tasks as reason enough for elevation to sainthood but it is all in your perspective.

I was a nervous wreck. This is hard for me to admit since I have worked hard in the past few years to calm myself internally with a wide array of tactics from meditation to horseback riding. All of my skills and sense of centeredness fall by the wayside in the face of drips and clogged drains. Perhaps I will find some closure in remembering that the farmer was not a plumber.

Anyone having spent even a few minutes around a farmer will quickly recognize the confidence, independence and multi-talented nature of this vanishing breed. These are people who often live far away from stores and services. It never occurs to them that they can’t fix whatever breaks and they do not entertain the notion of instruction books or experts even if they have exhausted their skills and resources. Even then the problem is likely to be set aside until they come up with another idea. To their credit this usually works – they eventually get “the fix” and the self-fulfilling prophesy is once again achieved and of course strengthened for the next challenge.

My terror about plumbing comes directly from my experience as a farmer’s wife. I am now an ex-wife due in part to the disconnect of being a city-raised kid steeped in the tradition of using convenient services and valuing professionals. In retrospect, it is easy to see that it was not a match made in heaven when livelihood meant returning to the family farm in a homogeneous, traditional and rural community. In my defense I married the college student and as we all know love is blind. Two beautiful children resulted from this adventure of city meets country. That being said…some of my most painful married experiences revolved around water pumps going out, drains being clogged, drips, and worst of all toilets. My farmer was not a plumber.

This mild-mannered, skilled, jack-of-all trades guy would morph before my eyes into a maniac with increasingly ugly language. From my standpoint the plumbing challenge would increase exponentially as one component involved would be found broken, requiring a trip to town for a part. Depending on the part, this could represent a half hour to town or an hour and a half to the city. The second trip to town was because the first part was the wrong one. The fixer would eventually break something else…so the third trip to town was usually my assignment. I was secretly grateful for this job as the site of repairs would by now be flooding. An hour later I would find myself loudly addressing the parts man with a vague description of what was needed. He, of course, would have an array of 6 varieties of this part of which I could not discern differences. Neither of us wanted to make the call home for further information. I think my volume was part tension about the importance of my mission. I had been unable to bring the offending part for “show and tell” because farmers are often determined to make things work and he was still fiddling with it. They alone will hand carry parts to compare. I expect the other reason for the volume was my loss of hearing from the directions from the farmer. At this juncture in repairs he would be shouting, not at me, but I assume out of frustration. It was my job to separate out the expletives. When I returned home with my best guess (the parts man would later disavow my choice) often there would be no one in sight and my kitchen, bathroom or whatever was in disrepair would be strewn with more parts. There would of course be no water.

Depending on what farming need or diversion had arisen it might be days before we began the repair efforts again. This is when deep despair would set in for me. I was a mom of two toddlers…one in diapers…living on a farm without nearby neighbors from whom I might easily borrow water.

At this point my natural response would be to call a plumber. Despite scheduling delays (we lived in the country) this often would represent a quicker solution than the “farmer way.” The first time I did this the farmer showed up before the plumber, canceled my savior and resumed efforts of his own… furious that I had made the call. I never fully understood whether it was an issue of masculine pride, frugality, or just so totally disconnected from his reality to call a specialist. Perhaps he felt I doubted his ability. I am suspicious though because I did observe that eventually a combine expert might be called for a repair after “do it yourself” efforts were fully explored and, of course, after multiple trips to town.

So today St. Steven of Rau Plumbing showed up at my house, one day after my call. He was on time and had all the parts he would need for the repair of both problems in less then a half an hour. He maintained a nice conversation from within the 3 square foot kind of space that could so confound the farmer. It was a bit of a one-sided conversation as I was working hard not to hyperventilate and could not follow the train of thought about the weather. Eventually I broke out in hysterical laughter (tension relief) which I could tell alarmed the plumber a bit until I started to tell him about the farmer. He chuckled, described his uber-talented, handyman dad who would fix anything but plumbing saying “it was an invitation for a drip to become a stream.” How wise…..and interesting that the son became a plumber. I guess we each find our way.

I hope this experience today has helped me heal from plumbing trauma. Dwelling in the past doesn’t work well for me. Today God looked down on me.

Merci. (I now know plumbing should be French…artful!) Also close to mercy.

Sanctification is definitely in order.