I am not a manly man. It’s sad, but true. Manly men do manly things like shoot guns, grow beards, drive trucks, hike mountains, and fly airplanes. I get blisters chopping wood for five minutes.
While I’m at peace with my masculine ineptitudes, there is one talent that manly men possess of which I’m extremely jealous: they always know what to do when things break. For example, when a manly man’s truck stops working, he’ll pop the hood, look thoughtfully at the engine for a minute, and then say something like, “Just what I thought, the timing belt’s acting up again.” And he’d be right, because manly men are always right about things like that.
Of course, if I were in this guy’s truck when it broke down, I would feel compelled to stare at his engine with him. Not because my presence would be of any use, but because I like pretending I’m a manly man. After he announced his verdict, I would gravely nod my head in agreement with his assessment despite not knowing a) where the timing belt is located, b) what a timing belt looks like, c) what a timing belt does, and d) if a timing belt is even a real thing (I just googled it and . . . yeah! A “timing belt” is a real thing).
Unfortunately, such masquerades are often detrimental to my health. Case in point: last November the spray wand in our kitchen sink was leaking and I decided to replace it myself. An hour after I started, the wand was halfway installed (ok, I’m being generous, the wand was definitely out of the packaging but not even close to being installed) when I impaled my left index finger with a screwdriver. That’s right, I was doing quite possibly the world’s simplest home repair when I stabbed myself with a tool that wasn’t even needed to accomplish the job at hand.
The Leak in the Bathroom
Despite the predictably bad outcomes, I can’t get myself to stop. For example, when Sam recently discovered a leak in our upstairs bathroom, I immediately offered my services. Without hesitation, I climbed into our attic, thoroughly assessed the situation, descended the attic stairs, and confidently proclaimed, “Nothing’s wrong. It must have been like that when we moved in.”
Sam, bless her heart, was too kind to say, “I’m pretty sure we would have noticed chunks of wet ceiling falling into our bathroom sink. Oh, and the water bubbling up behind the paint is probably an issue too.” Instead, she smiled and said, “Ok, honey, if you say so” and we went about our day.
The next morning we discovered the damaged area had nearly doubled in size. Apparently, leaks that go unfixed tend to get worse (who knew?). My ego somewhat damaged, I again ascended the attic stairs. After carefully reexamining the inside of our roof, I detected the culprit: the sewer ventilation pipe.
Funny story about our ventilation pipe: our home inspector told us it needed to be repaired. Not only did he verbally communicate it to me, he highlighted it about 47 times in the home inspection report. Yet somehow my brain didn’t register that this would be a significant problem living in a state where it snows a lot.
I felt pretty silly telling Sam that the problem was the ventilation pipe and that the home inspector had warned me it was a problem. In an attempt to recover what little pride I had left, I assured her, “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it. It can’t be that hard.”
Proving My Manliness By Fixing the Leak
And so I found myself, late one frigid winter evening, at the base of an extension ladder preparing to climb to my roof.
At this point in the story, I should mention that I am deathly afraid of heights. My fear of heights isn’t the common, “I’m fifty stories up and I know I could fall so I’ll stay away from the edge” fear of heights. It’s a, “I’m four feet off the ground and I’m crippled with fear and I’ll fall and die and I have kids and they’re too young to lose their father and what was I doing climbing up on this step ladder” fear of heights.
Fortunately for me and my height-induced anxiety, I had some help that evening. Derek Baker, a 17 year old boy scout I attend church with, was there to assist me. Lucky for me, Derek is a manly man. He ties knots, shoots shotguns, is skilled at fixing things, and, most importantly for this job, has the climbing skills of a silverback gorilla.
Derek offered to go up the ladder first and was quickly at the top with our bucket full of tools. Then, it was my turn. I’m proud to announce that although I was scared out of my mind I made it to the top without screaming like a little girl.
Once on the roof, we (and by we, I mean Derek) determined that the problem was a sealant crack at the base of the pipe. In no time at all, we (and again, I mean mostly Derek) had patched the crack. After tossing the tools back in the bucket, we were ready to climb back down the ladder.
The Treacherous Climb Down
At this point, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had conquered my fears and climbed a ladder. I hadn’t whimpered uncontrollably while climbing said ladder. I had fixed a hole in my roof. Ok, not really, but I had watched Derek fix a hole in my roof. I had done manly things and that made me a manly man. My manhood meter was full.
But that was soon to change.
Brimming with testosterone-induced overconfidence, I boldly placed both feet on the ladder. As I went to take a step down, the ladder shook. With that one little shake, my height phobia seized control of my body. I tried lifting my foot, but my brain wouldn’t let me. I was paralyzed, completely unable to move.
After contemplating my options for what felt like hours, I had a moment of clarity. I wasn’t really a manly man. I never had been and I never will be. But Derek was. He could get me off that roof.
Abandoning any and all pride I’ve ever had, I humbly asked, “Derek, could you hold my hand as I climb down to the next rung?”
Bless his heart, he didn’t even laugh. He just said, “Sure,” and grabbed hold of my hand.
With his hand firmly in mine, I again tried lifting my foot. This time, my brain complied. Now that my brain and I were on the same page, I slowly stepped down the rungs, one by one, until my feet were firmly planted on the ground. I’ve never been so happy to be standing in my own backyard.
It’s only fitting that I end this post with a big thank you to Derek. Thank you, Derek Baker, for helping me that night. Because of you, my children have a father who is not living on his roof and my wife has a bathroom that is no longer leaking like a sieve.