I’m “retired” now, though I still find plenty of things to keep me busy. During my working career, I spent time as a teacher, a coach, and a pastor, but I never worked as a handyman. I’ve always been more comfortable writing or speaking than working with a tool in my hand.
So, how did I become someone’s handyman?
Supporting My Family
My son, Eric, and daughter-in-law, Sheryl, spent many years caring for Sheryl’s mom, Trish. We lost Trish to Alzheimer’s in 2019, and we honored her with a “Celebration of Life” service held at the memory care facility where she lived the last few years of her life.
Caring for someone living with dementia is hard, and we shouldn’t leave caregiving to one or two primary caregivers. Family and friends need to get involved. Sometimes that just means being around, seeing what needs to be done, and doing what you can to ease the burden … if even only for a moment.
Becoming a Handyman
One time, when my wife and I were visiting Trish at the memory care facility, I was surprised when she asked me to fix her “leaky” toilet. “Why me?” I wondered. “What do I know about plumbing?”
Dutifully, I entered Trish’s bathroom where I heard the sound of running water. Hmmm … what to do? But then I remembered “fixing” my own toilet a few times. Lifting the lid off the back of the commode, I reached in, and jiggled the float mechanism. Immediately, everything settled back into place and the sound disappeared.
From that moment on, I became Trish’s “handyman.”
Little Things Mean a Lot
Many times after that, my son would be visiting his mother-in-law, and she would point out something wasn’t working and would ask him to call me. Her go-to tasks for me were plumbing related: fixing her toilet, her sink, or her shower. Whatever it was, whether or not it was something that actually needed fixing, Trish would say, “I think you should call your dad. He’s my handyman.”
While it was really no big deal to me, for Trish, it gave her a point of reference when my name was mentioned. My son and daughter-in-law were able to deflect and manage a few of Trish’s imaginary concerns simply by telling her they would ask me to look into the problem. Simply mentioning her “handyman” brought a moment of comfort.
All I did was jiggle a float. It reminded me of that old saying: “Little things mean a lot.”
I hope my sweet little memory of Trish encourages you as you care for a loved one living with dementia, or as you support other family members along the journey. Do not underestimate a deed, no matter how small. Who knows? You may be someone’s handyman.
Dr. Handyman, what an awesome story. Thanks for sharing. Finding comfort in that point of reference is so real. My father normally dreads going to the doctor. Despite the fact that he can’t remember having gone just two minutes after we leave, he still dreads it when I mention that we’re going. The 20 questions game gets unleashed….where is the office, who are we seeing, why, what doctor, what time, how far, what for, who made the appointment…and so on. Thankfully, I finally realized that if I mentioned his primary, “Dr. K”, dad would calm down! “Don’t worry Pop, Dr. K just wants to confirm your (insert literally anything here) is still healthy.” Boom, he smiles ear to ear and settles in to enjoy the ride as he finds comfort in that point of reference. 🙂