Monday, October 31, 2011

Toilets and other tasks

Have you ever had to repair a toilet?  It's really pretty simple to take out all the parts in the tank and replace them with new parts.  It's also not too hard to replace the wax ring underneath the toilet.  This does take a little strength to maneuver the toilet but other than that it's an easy task.  That is if you aren't afraid to do a little repair work and if you have the parts on hand.

It's always an adventure going to mom's house.  She's a widow and almost 80 years old.  Some of the things she puts up with rather than having fixed amazes me.  When she was at our house two weeks ago I told her to make a list of minor fixes that I could do when I was over last week.  She made a list of five things.

First was to fix the ironing board.  She was mad at me because "I" broke it.  Sorry mom, I haven't used your ironing board in years. Remember I moved out about 35 years ago and probably haven't ironed much since? Perhaps it was one of your other kids who visited you? She handed me the ironing board, all the while insisting that I broke it.  She couldn't open it so it must have gotten jammed when I closed it up.  I took a look at the board, pushed on the handle and it opened up right away.  No problem here.  She was trying to pull on the lever when she should have lifted.  So "I" didn't break it after all.

Second was the window in the master bathroom.  She hasn't taken a shower in this bathroom for months because she couldn't open the window to let out the steam.  Instead, she has taken a shower in the small guest bathroom.  That shower is so small that it's almost impossible to raise your arms to wash your hair without smacking your arms on the walls of the shower.  But she couldn't open the window.  I looked at the latch to open the window.  I tried to open the window.  The latch was catching on the security lock.  I raised the latch back to the middle of the window and it opened perfectly.  Two chores down, three to go.

Third was "her birds".  This meant that two of the smoke detector batteries were chirping.  How long have they been chirping, mom?  About a month.  About two months ago a neighbor came over and changed a couple of smoke detector batteries but not all.  Obviously these two weren't done.  Mom said that she enjoyed the chirping.  Perhaps it's because you aren't wearing your hearing aid at night so it doesn't bother your sleep.  The batteries got changed.

Fourth was the toilet.  It kept running so she shut off the water to the tank and used a different bathroom.  That was a good move because her water bill went up over $20 the first month of it running. She wouldn't tell me how long ago that was.  We went to the hardware store and bought a complete replacement kit for the tank.  She had very few tools available for me to use...they are somewhere but she can't get to them with all her important things in the way.  Since I didn't have my tools because I flew I went to the neighbor's house to borrow what I needed.  Got that fixed and the water back on. 

Fifth wasn't a repair.  I had to teach her how to take an attachment document from an email, add verbiage to the document, save it in "My Documents", and then attach it to another email.  This was the most difficult task of all!

All these minor chores got me to thinking.  Mom needs someone to come in more often to do chores.  Some of my brothers and sisters do stop by each month but if mom doesn't have a list of chores then they don't do any.  She has a high tolerance for things not working properly.  Mom would probably have gone the rest of her life without using the master bathroom toilet or shower.  She has the money to have someone come repair it but doesn't want anyone to see her clutter.  She doesn't have any supplies in case something breaks.  She can't get to the tools and there aren't any spare parts to anything even if she could get to the tools.  Since she refuses to hire help we "kids" need to do a better job of looking over the house and yard and figuring out what needs to be done, even if it's not on her list.  Her next door neighbor will come over and fix things when asked, but is very rarely asked.  Are there any older folks near you that may be in the same situation?


  1. Great idea to serve others, both family and neighbors. But some have to be reminded they need help because we do get used to how things are and make do.

  2. Many toilet repairs can be surprisingly quick and easy for do it yourself and doing your own repairs often makes sense, for reasons.