Select Page

I was in the store shopping with my daughter last night when my son called my cell. The first words out of his mouth were, “Mom, what do you know about plumbing?” I immediately got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know that feeling, the one that precedes the hard kick to your wallet.

I paced the aisles of the store while Matt tried to explain the problem. Or shall I say problems. I’m a visual learner so I was getting frustrated by not quite understanding how I could explain to him what he had to do so I told him I’d be right over.

Years ago, when I started meeting taxi drivers with degrees in history and biology, I left university to pursue a career in the trades. Remember, I had a family to support and if I couldn’t get into medical school or teacher’s college we’d be screwed. At the time the government had a big push to introduce women in the trades and with the offer of free education, I signed up.

As I was driving to meet my son I was wishing that I had paid more attention to the plumbing apprentices in the school cafeteria. I was in the welder-fitter program and we usually sat with the electrician’s apprentices who would tease the plumbing students by saying things like, “All a plumber has to know is that shit runs downhill and payday’s on Friday!”

Well since I was a welder-fitter back in the day and had done some toilet and faucet repairs, I suppose that and the fact that I watch a lot of reno shows on HGTV qualifies me to be my son’s plumbing expert.

Matt has two plumbing problems. The first is a seized water supply valve to the toilet which is leaking. It has to be replaced. His second problem is a leak under the kitchen sink. It’s a double sink and is leaking at the elbow below both sides of the sink and at the reducer which joins the vertical part of the T-joint above to the p-trap. I told him I would get the parts for him and drop them off the next day.

Matt is a very talented artist so I made him draw a sketch of all the pipes and fittings. On that drawing I indicated where the leaks were with little arrows that said, “buy this” and headed off to Home Depot which was on my way home out of the city. The sketch was so that when I asked for help I could point to the drawing and say, “It’s leaking here. I need a doo-dad like that and a what-cha-ma-call-it like that”. The nice man at Home Depot explained how everything fit together and I bought every part he mentioned – even the ones he said I might not need. Why? Well we all know about Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will. What you might not know is Barbara’s corollary – it will happen to me. It has been my experience that it never fails that I will desperately need the part I thought I didn’t need.

I was supposed to drop off the parts the next day but I knew I wouldn’t see my son as he would be working the next morning, so I drove across town back to his house with the bag of parts. I’m glad I did because by the time I drove back I had nearly forgotten the Home Depot man’s assembly instructions. Matt and I dumped all the pieces out on the living room floor and did a “dummy” (gee, you could take that two ways) assembly of all the parts.

Once satisfied that he understood the theory of how to replace everything, I patted him on the back, said, “son, welcome to home ownership” and grabbed my coat. It was late, I had a trunk full of groceries in the car, a 45 minute drive home and I hadn’t had supper yet.

Although I was tired and hungry I felt I should have stayed to help him but he assured me that he had it all under control. As I walked out of his house I felt another bit of that old apron string being severed. He’s got a tool kit and a book I bought him on home repair. I suppose now he knows as much as I do about plumbing. I have a feeling that after this weekend, he’ll be able to teach me a few things