Groucho Marx once wrote a very amusing essay called, if my memory serves, "The Worst Times Make the Best Memories." Groucho tells of how he and one of his brothers got into all sorts of trouble during a Vaudeville tour of the Midwest in the nineteen-twenties. I can't remember the details but I recall that they ran out of money and various other mishaps occurred to the pair. Groucho reminiscences about how terrible the times seemed when they happened but how great they were in retrospect. Something about sharing the troubles with a loved one and making it through made the experiences something very enjoyable to reminisce about.
I had a particularly fine illustration of this principle today. Yesterday I found that my kitchen faucet had finally 'given up the ghost,' as the saying goes. Due to rust and mineral build up from our rather poor quality well-water, the faucet was leaking badly from underneath whenever you turned it on. I went out this morning and purchased a new one and brought it home dreading the rather grim job of replacing the faucet; a job I never look forward to. As always, it was a lot more work getting the old one off than getting the new one on. But after over an hour which consisted of a rather wet and comical mistake of turning off the wrong spigot and a long time using a hacksaw, the old one finally came off. The new faucet went on without a hitch and it is working well and looks much better than the former, rusted one.
The point of this story is that half-way through the job I realized how much I miss my dad who, as followers of this blog will know, died earlier this year. For twenty years or so, every time I found myself fixing or replacing a faucet (and I have done it a surprising number of times over the years for myself and as a favor to others), my dad was always there as my rather hapless help-mate. My dad had actually been a 'plumber's mate' for a few weeks in the late 1940s and often talked about how ill-suited he was to the work and how disappointed he was when he realized that the plumber he was working for was actually fairly dishonest and took particular pride in ripping-off the Finsbury Council for whom he did a lot of work. Anyway, when my dad used to help me out in my various plumbing escapades it was always kind of nice because I really hated doing the dirty work and he was always an excellent companion, joking and telling me stories as I struggled with my frustrations under the sink. We would often joke that I could do the job in two hours unless my dad helped me, in which case it would take three hours.
Today, replacing my faucet I became indescribably sad as I realized the terrible vacuum left by my dad's absence. He would have laughed heartily when the water began to spray from the pipe like a garden hose as I struggled to turn it off. He would have consoled my frustrations as I hacked away at the old faucet in my rather pathetic efforts to remove it. And though I still wouldn't have enjoyed the job, the three hours spent would have made a great memory of my dad and I sharing time together and consoling each other through the rather silly and time-consuming tasks of everyday life.