Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Conversation, Part Two

Tradesmen, and women.

This seems to be my life these days, and it's a good life.

My nephew switched out a weight of old galvanized plumbing for plastic, lucky that it's all still exposed in the nether-regions of the house, the down-under.

I went to the basement tonight to change the wash and I swear -- there was the scent of centuries and centuries of stone, that damp heaviness that comes with October rain. The words ancient and medieval came to mind. Silly! A hundred+ years -- my house was built in 1908 -- isn't a long time by some standards, but I love the notion of this century-old dwelling upon which I've set my life. It's my old workhorse of a house, practical, never fancy. It just is.

I'm just lucky, I think.

My nephew, who I see maybe twice a year, sat down, after his piping-about, to have a beer. He's 35, loquacious, energetic, outgoing -- and couldn't be more different from me. He leans towards the right, whereas my lean is decidedly left. He's an avowed Christian, and I'm anything but. He carries a gun, I'm a pacifist. For the first time, we acknowledged this philosophical chasm between us -- territory that, up to this point, we've dared not approach. We tip-toed out to the edge of the cliff, testing the wide-open air of lives lived in vastly different worlds. We debated and knocked heads together but under it all was the ease that, if one is lucky, comes with being family. Maybe one of us just needed to grow up -- me, perhaps? Perhaps.

Old plumbing, old house: this is how I've come to know my nephew. Being from a large family, he's one of many nephews, but the only one I ever seem to see. He knows his stuff when it comes to pipes, and he's a sweetheart to do work for me. The boy -- and I'll never think of him as anything but a boy, despite his age -- has a generous soul borne out of equally generous parents. He tries to insist, often, on just charging me for parts, and I insist on paying him for labor. He give me a deal. I get to know him, he gets to know me.

After an hour+ of spirited kitchen-table talk, I herded him towards the door. Wasn't he as tired as I was, after a full day of work? Probably not. We'd covered politics, religion, The Constitution, the American banking system, gun-control, the value of family, revolution and, of course, plumbing: toilet models, pedestal vs. vanity sinks, clawfoot tubs and then-some. I'd illustrated my POV with a black sharpie on the back of an envelope: arrows and charts and numbers, including some odd squiggles and underlinings (although, the next morning, I couldn't for the life of me tell you what any of those black marks meant). 

Upon leaving, he was loaded down with tools, and I got the door for him. Now, I am 99.999% certain that he doesn't read my blog, and so would have no idea that this week I'd already written of the delight I take in chatting with the various repair/handy-people that seem to be making my house a destination. And yet, as he was going down my front steps, he turned and looked back up and me, smiled, and said, "I liked the conversation."

No need to say that I did too.


  1. Oh, if only all discourse could be so civil.

  2. you two ventured into some pretty dicey territory! It works well when people can discuss ideas as just THAT, need for nasty personal remarks. Sounds like you two were able to do that.

    We are getting our first rains, as well. Though not a medieval smell, the sidewalks do haven the scent of damp. My parents house in San Diego was built in 1906 and their basement smelled just like you described yours. Also the location for their washer and dryer. Soon, we start all over with a 2011 house! Who knows if it will be standing in 100 years?

  3. I wish my plumber would charge for parts only. He won't turn-up for less than the price of a small house!

  4. You are lucky to have a tradesperson in the family T. I think the economic future is going to involve a lot of trading and pooling of talents.

  5. Always nice to have tradesmen in the family. Also nice to meet someone of the younger generation who A. isn't permanently attached to their cell phone or ipod and B. doesn't know everything and isn't interested in anything you might have to say.