Monday, June 28, 2010

Married to MacGyver

We spent Saturday and most of the day Sunday cleaning.  Not the house, which needs it badly, but the garage and the barn.  Whenever we get involved with garden work as intensely as we were since the start of spring, things tend to get out of hand in the storage facilities; namely, when we are done working for the night, the tools get pitched into whichever building is closest in a far from orderly fashion.

Echinacea 'White Swan'
Now that the pressure is off a bit with no deadlines to meet, we decided it would be a good time to get the interior of the buildings in order.  There are a few groups who may tour yet this season who would like to have meetings here, and in case of rain, it would be a good idea to have an area where they could set up their food or chairs out of the elements.  The garage is about the only area we have big enough to accommodate a group of people, but it needs a good cleaning.  
Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer' seedling

We've been married for almost 32 years and if there's one thing we know about each other it is this:  We can get along famously while we are working on the gardens, doing stonework, doing any project at all (especially outdoors) but when it comes to cleaning------Look Out.  We are not at all on the same page then.  Carl is a man of many talents, and can fix virtually everything and anything, he sees a use for everything.  Though he is Superman of the Repair World, he has never gotten it through his head that he will not be on this earth long enough to fix and build everything he wants to.  He is never bored, but he is obsessed with junk.

I have had people tell me how lucky I am to have a 'handyman' for a husband, and I do appreciate him very much, but I am married to a man who idolized the TV show MacGyver.  If you are not familiar with the 1980's show, the hero, MacGyver, was a good guy in a bad job, having to thwart evildoers continuously as a matter of National Security.  He was constantly finding himself in precarious predicaments such as being tied to the railroad tracks with a ticking bomb strapped to him with his only means of defense being a Swiss Army knife, a six-inch piece of dental floss and a thumbtack, but never fear, Mac will survive and save us all.
Good ol' Mac was THE handy in handyman.

Carl doesn't have a bunch of thugs to stave off on a daily basis, but he does have the Macgyver-like ability to fashion something useful out of almost any piece of junk, I will give him that.

I admit, I have envied many women I know who have husbands who can't fix anything.  There are men out there who, upon finding something worn out or broken, proceed to the trash can with the junk, lift the lid, drop it in and that's that.  They do not feel the need to spend countless hours taking something outdated apart, seeing how it ticks, trying to determine if the gizmo from a 1973 do-dad will work as a replacement spring-thingy part in a 2010 whatchacallit. I know many things in this disposable world are thrown out needlessly and it is a shame, but there comes a time when an item is really beyond hope to most of us.  But not to Carl.

I do have to give him credit, I could never fix any of the things he has over the years and he's saved us a lot of money.   His mind is truly amazing; though he has extreme difficulty with reading or writing, his math ability is stunning and his technical problem-solving skills are astounding.  He built our tree spade from scratch--no plans, no kit.  The plans were in his head and he rarely, if ever, draws anything on paper.  As he's often said, if I think his shop is a mess (or any other area he frequents) it's a good thing I cannot see into his head!  I know the term idiot-savant (think Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man) is demeaning, but truly, where does this sort of knowledge come from? 

Since everything can be fixed or used to build something else, he has a stash of fixables that fill his shop to the veritable rafters, and I am not exaggerating.  When he gets an idea to build something, he often becomes obsessed with it and will drop everything else. Several years ago our garden was selected to be on a major Green Bay garden walk.  This was an honor and a curse, the amount of work we had to do to get this yard presentable was overwhelming.  I was frantic and running around like a madwoman, GADS in overdrive.  Carl, on the other hand, thought it would be a good time to build the ball fountain.  I was looking for him one night, and there he was, running his lathe in the basement, turning some stainless steel pipes.  He patiently explained to hysterical me what he was building and I was far from happy......we do not have time NOW to work on this.  But he did. I wanted to scream, and I did, loud enough to bug our distant neighbors.  But to no avail.  We have a ball fountain. 

I have to admit again, this is a favorite feature of many garden guests, so he was in his rights to create it, but his timing is not impeccable, unfortunately.

And wherever Carl goes, a mess follows.  Any flat surface (my dining room table not excluded) becomes a workbench for carburetors, computer hard drives, gears, anything and EVERYTHING.  Truly like the absent-minded professor, he leaves a wake of tools and parts in his path, his car, our basement, my sewing room, our bedroom, the living room,  the garage, the shop, my mother's sheds, everywhere.  Nothing can be discarded, down to the smallest screw, for there is a use for it somewhere.  Of course, his greatest gift is his greatest downfall; his creative talent has trapped him in a state of paralysis, with no place to create and a wife and sons who criticize him because we have grown disillusioned with the dreams.

As one comic joked years ago, "You can't have everything.  Where would you put it?"

Carl does build things of great beauty...the belvedere, or dome or whatever its called, is another mathematical triumph, trying to figure out how to cut the copper to what size and then constructing the die to bend the copper in his press and then figure out how to solder the entire thing together was a true engineering feat.  

The 'Benjamin Franklin' clock (which I still have a hard time understanding, ha!)

 Not a great picture, but his rotating yard art sculpture, which really does have a neat movement to it

One of my favorites, a copper piece made from the guts of an old welder.
Driveway planters made from old aluminum lightshades and bases from a discarded pipe rolling machine (very heavy bases, unbelievably so!)
'Crown Trellis' made from discarded railing parts with a bowling ball top
'Diamond trellis' sporting a trumpet vine and made from another set of discarded railings

The 'Pan Fountain' made from discarded aluminum light shades
More spare parts, this time fashioned into a plant stand
The 'Manley Wrecking Crane' found in a woods, rusting,  rebuilt with a new trailer and still in use around here every year

Same with the Aermotor windmill, stored dejected and part of it in a woods;  restored and running again, courtesy of Carl and Joel
Sitting under a spruce tree out back, lonely and waiting to be discovered by another little boy, this stainless steel digger has tracks that actually move when the pedals are pushed and the handles operate the bucket to dig holes and the seat swivels just like the real thing.  Carl built this as a Christmas present for Joel who had played with something similar in a park when he was around three years old.  Joel loved the toy, so Carl decided to make one for him as a surprise.  There are countless hours in this little thing, and though it wouldn't pass safety regulations for small children, Joel loved it when he was little and so did Dave.

The base of this plant stand was actually a humongous iron 'nail' that Carl built in art class in high school.  It sat around for years before he said I could use it as a plant stand.  Paint courtesy of my mom.

 A bridge you could drive a truck over, this is one sturdy little ornament!

The inventiveness wears off on our sons, too, this planter was purchased, but it was too short.  Joel brought home a discarded tool stand and the two fit perfectly.  A few added cast iron railing parts and we're good to go.  (I've been told the tool stand may be needed in the future, so I'm not supposed to get too attached to it, ha)

So, where am I going with this?  Well, I'm not sure, I guess it leads back to Sunday afternoon and garage cleaning.  Yes, there are innumerable things in the garage, and yes, I know to anyone else, it would appear to be junk, but to Carl they are treasures.  Do I throw a hissy fit every time I want to clean a building?  Yup, I do.  Is it worth it?  Nope.  To get Carl in a mood to clean is a monumental feat, and he was open to it this weekend, so strike while the iron is hot.

We have hit on some ground rules, and for the most part, he's trying to cut back, but I know that when I said, "I Do" I took the whole man, not only the parts of him I loved.  He certainly never thought he'd have to defend his whole being from attack by me, either, and it's not fair of me to lose my cool.  He is who he is.  I guess that's the one bit of married wisdom everyone should know before they tie the knot, You Cannot Change Another Person.  

Oh, there will be those people who say it's not true,  you sure can change another person, and hey, more power to them, but are they really changing the other person or nagging them into submission?  And how happy are they, really?  We have to come to some sort of common ground, it cannot always be 'my way or the highway' when it comes to junk, because it is not fair of me.  It is equally not fair of him to impose the mess on the rest of us either, hence the need for a truce.  His 'stuff' goes into his shed, and I keep my mouth shut. (Sometimes, well, hey, I'm working on it)

But I digress again......yesterday afternoon we were working in the garage.  Joel had gone canoeing with friends earlier in the morning and Dave was out and about.   The  humidity levels were steadily increasing along with my anger levels as we tried to come to agreement on what is junk to me and treasure to him.  Ann had come over in the afternoon and finished mulching and then helped us clean.  We were all sweating and swatting mosquitoes and when it got to be around 3PM we were all getting sick of it.  Ann said she had her canoeing stuff with her and I glanced at Carl and said, "Let's go."

We called Joel who met up with us at the get-in site and had a relaxing little float trip downstream.  I rode with Carl in the canoe, dabbling my feet in the water and it was nice--it was the way we started canoeing when we were 20 years old and newly married.  We are now 52, and various and sundry parts are wearing out on us, especially with all of the heavy, physical work we've been doing.   Kayaking is something I enjoy, but I'm not physically up to it right now, too many joint aches that are keeping me up nights.  We often feel guilty when we take time off to do something fun, but the work (and junk, sigh) will always be there.

It's just 'Art' waiting to happen.  MacGyver would be proud.


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