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Jessie Veeder, Published July 20 2012

Veeder: Handyman’s wife learning many lessons

I married a man who knows where he can get a surplus of washing machine motors in case of an emergency. I fell in love with a guy who has hauled a broken down three-wheeler to all five of the places we’ve moved in the last six years with the intention of making the thing run when he has a spare moment.

I’m living with a person who has 75 Tupperware containers and dozens of old coffee cans full of drill bits, wire pieces, nails and screws of various sizes, scraps of leather, broken saw blades, old speaker cords, empty shotgun shells, half-used rolls of tape, weird shaped things made of metal, loose change from years of emptying pockets and a partridge in a pear tree because he might need it someday.

He’s a handyman, a carpenter, a Jack-of-all-trades.

He’s a guy with a tool for everything and a why-pay-someone-else-when-you-can-do-it-yourself attitude.

I am none of those things.

In fact, one could argue that I’m the exact opposite. Where my husband has the impressive ability to breathe life into objects that belong on the bottom of a junk pile, I’m the culprit who sent that thing to its grave in the first place.

I’m a handyman’s wife.

And I break things.

These days we’re neck-deep in completing the finishing work on our new home at the ranch.

It’s an exciting time for a man who has been planning this home in the blueprints of his mind for years.

It’s a frightening time for a woman who once saw her life flash before her eyes when she got her head stuck in a ladder in a freak house house-painting accident.

Oh, I thought I knew what I was getting into when I married this handsome man in a tool belt I thought it would mean quaint fix-it projects in the garage on Sunday nights. I thought it would mean flower boxes, picture frames and handmade cedar chests, maybe a really fantastic, one-of-a-kind kitchen table someday. Or a china cabinet maybe?

I was delusional.

The truth is the life of an accident-prone handyman’s wife looks less like the pages of Better Homes and Gardens and more like the previews to a bad reality show I can’t seem to turn off.

It has meant planning a home with 20-foot ceilings without fully realizing that my fear of heights isn’t an acceptable excuse to refuse assistance to my man dangling from the edge of some suspicious homemade scaffolding.

It has meant screaming, “Forget the house, save yourself!” while flinging the nail gun I was supposed to deliver to him across the room, and running to the corner of the house far away from the ledge and any chance of a bone-mangling death.

My life as my husband’s project assistant has resulted in an emotional breakdown in the plumbing section of the hardware store. I’ve learned to sleep standing up while he shops for the right tool for the job. And I’ve helped find a way to fit 750 square feet of flooring, 300 tiles, 20 pieces of sheet rock, six doors, 50 electrical boxes, a roll of wire, 30,000 plumbing parts and a bag of licorice onto the trailer, under a tarp and home safely after a three-hour hour drive through a thunderstorm.

It has meant smashing my thumb so hard with a hammer that my fingerprint will never be the same, a scary amount of brain cells damaged from countless staining and varnishing projects, going days without bathing because the shower is being tiled and even longer without a kitchen because the man has a plan.

And these days the plan is to finish a home that we’ve been dreaming of since we were too young to understand what it really takes to build a life together.

As a handyman’s wife, I’m still learning, but I’ll tell you what I know so far: It takes more sweat than tears, more patience than muscle, a sense of humor, small bursts of bravery and a little room to collect the pieces and parts he picks up along the way.

You know, in case you break something.

Jessie Veeder is a 28-year-old musician and writer. She lives near Watford City, N.D., with her husband, on the ranch where she grew up.