And sometimes with a little help from FaceTime.
From re-tiling a swimming pool while sitting on Fun Noodles to molding a fiberglass bumper, many of my most vivid childhood memories feature my brother and I helping our dad fix something most ordinary people would hire someone to do.
But as my father once said legendarily to my mother during a near-disastrous grilling accident, “Just think if you had a regular husband.” He is anything but regular.
When I was in third grade, our family moved into an old stone house whose rooms were covered in briefly fashionable, heinous wallpaper with faded stripes and ornate floral borders. While anyone else might have left it to the house painter to take it down, my father strapped a tank filled with liquid wallpaper stripper to my small back. I sprayed it down while my brother, a first grader at the time, shaved it away with a paint scraper.
WATCH: The Trick to Patching Dry Wall
Once, my father and I even developed a system for filling a pothole at the end of our cul-de-sac involving some sort of homemade asphalt sealer, a plywood board, and the force of an F-250 truck.
So it’s no surprise that when something goes awry at my house, my first reaction is to figure it out myself. I have found YouTube videos that have helped me replace my own car cabin air filter with an easy trip to AutoZone and others that have helped me figure out how to fix my garbage disposal, which, of course, my father installed when I moved into my current house.
When my air conditioner crapped out during the steamy weeks of September last year, I read articles and forums devoted to heating and cooling professionals before caving and calling a repairman. After my new washer and dryer mysteriously stopped working, my father diagnosed sight unseen from my state lines away. The electrician I (also begrudgingly) called took three trips before he finally came to the same conclusion.
Two Fourth of Julys ago, my father was able to find the parts necessary to repair my very leaky shower faucet, but they wouldn’t arrive until the next week. With the help of FaceTime on my iPhone and a hodgepodge of wrenches, screwdrivers, and duct tape, I was able to install it myself despite the high stakes of creating a much bigger problem in a very tiny dark space.
The sense of accomplishment I felt fixing it (sort of) on my own is an empowerment I wish so many other people, especially, young women felt more often. But not everyone is so lucky to have my not-so-regular dad on speed dial. It sure beats YouTube videos.