Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Like Father, Like Daughter

I can recall numerous occasions from my childhood of watching my father repair virtually anything and everything that broke. More often than not, it was a piece of farm machinery. Or in the house, it seemed he was continually monkeying around with the washer or dryer. (There were 8 of us kids...Mom needed a functioning washer and dryer!!)

Regardless if it was an intricate part of a combine or a wimpy toilet chain, Dad seemed to know how to work his magic.

I know he wasn't one to give up easily on a project if he ran into a snag or two. He has quite the ingenious mind and doesn't let a project go undone just because he may not have the exact part, for instance.

Well, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Case in point: my Monday mid-day massacre.

A project that I thought would take - oh, maybe 10 minutes - turned into a 3 hour ordeal. And I think I can blame my father. Or at least his genes.

You see, a couple of years ago Rachel was given a bicycle. It was a little rough around the edges - rusty handlebars and seat, the once-likely adorable decorative plastic flowers that spun through the spokes were broken and cracked, and the right foot pedal had completely broken off over time, leaving her just a stump to push with her foot.

But it worked well enough not to pitch it just yet, and I had my eye out all summer as I garage sale shopped for another bike that would constitute an improvement. But to no avail.

Until Monday.

I was scoping thrift stores for some other items, and practically tripped over a pink and purple bike as I made my way down an aisle.

Hmmm. I stopped and picked it up off the floor, examining it for fatal flaws. Other than a flat tire, it seemed pretty good. And I liked the $6 price tag. Since I liked Rachel's current bike's tubeless tires, I thought, Hey, I'll just take this home and switch the bike tires and she'll have a great bike!

I didn't realize how foolish my thinking was until I got home and began attempting to disassemble the two bikes. Since neither bike was even remotely new, the nuts and bolts did not just glide off with ease. Rather, I fought sweat and tears (literally!) to disengage those wretched nuts. But one in particular was not going to budge. As I examined the piece further, I determined the part seemed rather unnecessary, so I ran for my wire cutter. Okay, so this tool was not designed to slice through metal of this nature, but I needed it cut. It was all I had. I wasn't about to let this little snag keep me from achieving my goal of a "new" bike for my daughter.

After all, my Dad never would have let it stop him.

After mangling the piece of metal that was keeping me from success, I pryed the wheel loose, easily detached the other bike's back wheel, and truly thought victory was mine.

I'm foolish that way.

Since now I had to get the wheel on the new bike...which involved the dreaded bike chain. Memories of my childhood immediately flooded my mind: I'm walking my bike down the prairie road to my house, sobbing a river of tears because that horrific bike chain, yet again, came loose!

The distinct action of rolling the foot pedals as you feed the chain along was much too difficult for a child to attempt...and as I was discovering this very afternoon 30 years later, a tad challenging for an adult, too! But convincing myself I was ever-so-close to a completed bike, I pressed on until at last that chain was intact.

Whew! I thought the hard part was over.

Again, foolishness.

The front wheel should have been a piece of cake, right? HA! My prior 2 hours of experience had proven none of this was remotely close to a piece of cake. Now I was just plain getting irritated.

Okay, maybe I zipped past irritated somewhere around the time I couldn't find the right size wrench-thingy to fit the nuts.

I had moved on to anger.

I kept looking at my watch. The time was ticking away and I was starting to doubt myself.

No. I will not give up. I can do this. It's a silly bike, for heaven's sake. This. Is. Do-able.

(I'm confident these are the same words that passed through my father's brain countless times on the farm.)

So I continue my quest for a completed bike. But soon I come to grips with the fact that it was not meant to be.

For I had an axle that was significantly wider than the axle I just removed.

Oh, this is not good.

But upon further inspection, I delude myself into believing...maybe, just maybe...if I can find a part that is both skinny and long (for I had skinny & short and fat & long...NOT useable.) I can still salvage this thing and my time won't be in vain.

So it's off to the hardware store! Though the sign may say "Ace," it wasn't first-rate for me. They didn't have the part.

But again, my father would not have stopped at yet another snag. The search would continue.

And so I drive to the bike shop recommended by stumped Ace employee.

Only the sign on the door screams "CLOSED." They won't be open until noon the following day. Unacceptable! My anger deepens. I'm closing in on rage.

I return home to finger through the Yellow Pages. Ah ha! I find another bike shop nearby. (I call ahead this time to ensure an "OPEN" sign lights the door today. Just like my father, I learn from previous mistakes.)

Unfortunately, my efforts to have a bike fully assembled by day's end would not come to fruition, for the part I needed was not in stock and had to be ordered. (But honestly, I was relieved that such a part even existed!)

As I came home and gathered all the nuts and bolts and other strange pieces to put away until a later date, I looked at the two bikes lying in shambles reminding me of my failure to attain my goal.

When I stepped into my house, I thought of all the plans I had for the was meant to be productive.

Instead, my "10-minute" project turned into three hours of frustration, pulling me away from tasks I really should have accomplished that day. And my rage curled up into despair.

But I am hopeful when the part arrives, it will be a much better day, and I will be able to whip that bike into submission.

If not, my parents will be here to visit in a couple weeks. I will show my Dad what I did.

And he'll kneel down.

He'll take a good look.

And then he'll chuckle.

Because he'll recognize a stubborn soul like mine.

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