by Brian Mishler
As a kid of the 1970’s, my clients often hear stories that involve my dad.
My three brothers and I lived in a turn-of-the-century (20th century to you millennials) 3-story, 3-bedroom, 1 bath house with our parents. You read that right; six of us, one bathroom, one female; life was good; never a conflict.
Like many Western PA dads, my dad was a do-it-yourselfer. At first, because he was young and broke. Later because he was, like many depression-era babies, afraid of becoming broke again.
I can’t recall a time ever meeting a repairman at our home. Hence, frequently uttered was: “come with me, we gotta fix…” oh no! It’s Saturday! I don’t wanna… argue as I might, I was now the flashlight holder, wrench fetcher, thingy holder-upper, pipe fitter, or whatever dad needed for that project.
At first one wants to be the “big boy” and help dad with the “manly” tasks of the house, then comes the realization that you’re free labor, and hey there’s better stuff to be doing with your friends … aww dad!
Years later when I moved out into my own apartment, living paycheck to paycheck, my hand-me-down “stuff” in need of constant maintenance or repair, my education in all things broken, took new meaning and importance. I learned that dad has some strengths, but several important gaps in his knowledge. So, if a repairman was necessary, I’d watch him as I did dad, to learn the tricks of their trade. Appliance repair, electrical work, and plumbing, to name a few. Building further on my “home schooling” I began and bounced around work as a construction laborer in a variety of fields, never mastering any one. Potential poster child for Jack of All Trades, Master of None!
The one thing with me to this day, and probably to the very end, is a passion for learning how things work. Regardless of what the issue was, Dad figured out what went wrong, why, and how to fix it … with this petulant boy standing there watching.
Forty years later some of my best memories are the hours I “wasted” holding a flashlight. I wonder – espec-ially considering how many times I heard “you’re blocking my light”–how much help I was, and how much education was actually intentional. Hmmmm.
Over the course of a 20-year home inspection career, the lack of “home-schooling” among today’s younger home buyers has become increasingly noticeable. During the course of a home inspection basic home ownership skills are taught to an ever-increasing need: where the main water shut-off valve is, where and how circuit breakers work, even the little doo-hickey on the storm door closer, and the list goes on.
Take an hour, and reverse this trend with your children. Plan a fire drill; teach how to test the smoke alarms, and how to get out of the house from their bedrooms in a crawl. When you’re doing something around the house, have one “hold the flash-light.” Don’t know how to do a repair?Both of you can learn from watching the repairperson, and talk about it later. Granted, yours is a more daunt-ing challenge than my dad’s; he did not have to compete with the video games and social networks of today, although to his credit, he did manage to pull me away from Atari, and Charlie’s Angels with Farrah Fawcett!
Good, bad or otherwise, I owe a more than 20 year career to “come on, you’re helping me with …” an hour or two at a time.