Letter from a Do-it-Yourselfer Illiterate: The long road ahead
Hey! I wasn't always this way! My dad, his brother and their father, had a painting and decorating business. Along with electrician, plumber and builder friends, all managed businesses and families.
Lean times dictated how they led their children — usually to government or corporate jobs that provided health care and financial security. My mom had her sights on those jobs despite my growing interest in hanging wallpaper.
A recalcitrant father forced my mother to leave home at the age of 13 and find a way of her own. Undoubtedly, considerable management skills got her work for the telephone company. A few years later, she met dad and established the happy home she wanted, partnering with him in his work. She took my side for braces and college when I was at loose ends. She gave me her courage when circumstances demanded it. She never spoke to her father and I never met that set of grandparents.
Dad had no piano lessons but played for a local band — playing by ear for years. Grandpa sewed up dad's lip after a dog bite, when dad was little. No doctors for that family! Humphrey's pills and castor oil solved any medical problem. He also built his own fishing boat, fed his family from a garden, had chickens and horses (no car yet), made elderberry wine and occasionally painted pictures. Grandma canned, baked, cooked on a coal stove, made clothes on the treadle sewing machine and baked German Christmas stollen, a bread to die for! They grace our house every Christmas and Easter. It was an Age of Doers.
I loved my mother and she successfully steered me into a marriage with a government employee. The selling point was not the pay, but the health care and financial security. With a son, soon, delivered on an Army base, the three of us moved into government housing.
Maintenance was free, so I put my painting skills to work on murals: a mermaid in the bathroom, a rooster in the kitchen, and Disney characters on the baby's wall. We finally bought a lovely home. Little had prepared us for taking care of it. Poor siding ripped off during wind storms and the huge gardens had me constantly perplexed between weeds and flowers. Maintaining a big house was too much. We were older; husband became very ill, sickness and death followed. We had lost touch with everything.
Fortunately, resilience drawn from my early days enabled me to pull ends together. My son was older and independent. I married a second time. The two of us were retired and financially secure. We sold the house and bought an RV. Ten-plus years living on the road gave us a break from some of the responsibility. We took on visits with lost relatives, preparation for living simpler and saving money. We bought a small house, took care of it, and lived the two lives, traveling and staying home. Eventually, sickness came again and my second husband passed away.
Alone in the house, I certainly appreciate the healthcare and financial security. I also appreciate the grit of my parents and grandparents, who often defied hard times, with inventions of their own.
We hitch our wagon to their star and recognize our own resilience and inventiveness, thanks to them. It still beguiles me to try baking Grandma's stollen but, who knows, I may try it yet!