Plumbing, A Widow’s Nemesis

A Plumbing Challenge

Bathroom

Plumbing is my nemesis.  And it has reared its ugly head again.  This time it was the water heater which has been steadily leaking for months, and getting worse and worse. It’s been a rough year in regard to $$$$,  because some years are like that, so I have been putting off the water heater issue to deal with more pressing needs. Then I saw this web site where you can design a t-shirt and sell them, for a cause, and I thought maybe this would work to raise the necessary funds.  And so I created this.  (And for my friends and readers who do not know what the SCA is, and why the shirt is funny, let me explain — the SCA is a medieval re-enactment group, and when we are not in a medieval costume, others in the group may call us naked; hence, if I am wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I am an SCA Nudist. I wear my shirt for setting up camp, and the day I am leaving an event. If you want to know more about the SCA, this page is a good place to start.)  

But back to my plumbing story. I posted the T-shirt link to my Facebook page, with a little blurb about raising $$$$ to pay for a new water heater; and a little later there was a post from a neighbor friend, followed by a text from her husband, a plumber, offering to come take a look.  That was last night.  He came today, and within about an hour, he had my plumbing issue all taken care of  — the leaking gone, and my peace of mind restored.  He also helped me regains some of my trust in humanity, which has taken quite a beating lately.  Thank you Frank, for your kindness, I will endeavor to “pay it forward” as the saying goes, and do what I can for someone else.  So “Like” Imperial Plumbing Utah and tell your friends about this honest, caring businessman.  

My issue with plumbing today reminded me of an essay I wrote awhile ago ago, about, you guessed it,  plumbing. I am sharing it here, because well, because I can.   

Written about 2011

Part I

Plumbing is My Nemisis

I used to get mad that Kelly wasn’t here to deal with these kinds of things (plumbing and car issues) – then one day when I was sitting in the car (so the kids wouldn’t hear me) having a melt-down, and screaming and crying because I couldn’t figure out what to do to fix it, I realized that Kelly wouldn’t have been able to fix it either, and I would have been the one who would have had to figure out who to call to fix it.  That realization has made projects like today’s a little easier on me.  I wish I could just call someone and pay them to do it – but  currently, I have a more end of month at the end of my money situation going on, that sometimes happens when you are a widow, at least in my experience, so I get to learn  how to do new things.

Today’s project: Clear the drain in the upstairs sink because it is draining so slowly, and apparently leaking, because the cabinet under the sink was filled with wet, bloated rolls of toilet paper and goopy cleaning supplies when I went to clean it out in preparation for moving; nothing like discovering soggy, musty particle board to brighten your day.

I looked up the “how to” on a You Tube video.

Repairing Drains

So, it is simple in theory, and probably easy if you have new, (read non-affected by hard water and corrosion) parts to work with — but in practice, at my house, I have only assisted with this particular project in the past. In the process of this project, so far I have broken the pipe where it connects to the on/off drain thingy* I have found that the water supply valve is leaking as well, and of course everything is old and totally corroded — which means turning off the water to the whole house to replace them, (and hoping I can get them out without ruining the pipe they are connected to). So, my solution, is to pour Limeaway cleaner over everything in hopes that it will loosen everything up enough that I can disconnect (not break anymore of) the pieces that need to be disconnected, so everything can be replaced with new parts.

And, taking a break, I get on FB and start posting progress reports about my project while I am waiting for the Limeaway to do its job. In good news, all of the chandelier parts are sparkly clean after being run through the dishwasher. And in one more bit of good news, I am neither crying, nor swearing, yet, during the course of this project, but it’s early going.

Partial success!  I got the pea trap off.  The drain was slow because it was blocked by money. Yep that’s right, quarters, nickels, and pennies. I am pretty sure it is my grandson’s, money, which he was “laundering?” Maybe I’ll give it the Limeaway treatment too.  In any case, at least I got two-bits for my efforts today!

Bringing in a lamp to illuminate the area, I look more carefully under the sink, and realize that not only do I need to replace the part that I broke, but that while I’m at it, I need to replace the turn-off valves and water lines, and I decided that I may as well update the faucet, to add points for an updated look for potential buyers.

Leaving the other connections soaking in Limeaway, I head to the store to the store to get the necessary parts to complete the repair. I was counting on there being a helpful “plumbing guy” so I would end up with the right parts.

‎*thingy is an official plumbing term, along with doohickey

** Swearing being using the terms, damn-it-all-to-hell (and this is the proper way to express this term, it must be all run together or it loses its effectiveness) or hell’s bells —terms I learned growing up as my parents were remodeling our house which was nearly 100 years old when we moved in.  And, come to think of it, I do recall hearing my grandparents use these terms as well, along with my Grandpa saying, “damned, cock-eyed politicians,” such a funny phrase.

 Part II

Answers to Prayer

Before I began this project, I said a prayer that I would be able to successfully complete it, and I had faith in my prayer, but as you will read, that faith was tested. Returning home, and still feeling confident, if somewhat slimy and grimy from my foray under the sink, I headed to the location of the main turn off for the water-supply to the house. Grasping the knob to the water supply, I twisted, that is to say, my hand slid around the knob, but it didn’t move; I put on a pair of rubber gloves, hoping to get a better grip on the knob, and tried again.  It didn’t budge. At this point, with frustration beginning to build up, in a flash of brilliance, I remembered the Limeaway. It ate away the corrosion, and I was able to turn the water off.  And I returned to the sink.

After much intensive labor by a novice, several phone calls to my brothers (who live in another state) to ask them which way I was  supposed to turn the nuts and bolts (one pipe wrench on the pipe, pulling it clockwise, and another on the nut pulling it counterclockwise), and which valve I needed to get (there are only about 30 different kinds on the plumbing aisle at Home Depot), an infusion of limeaway on anything that didn’t want to move, that should; a lot of sweat and tears, a banged head,  a smashed finger, and straining my bad shoulder again with the effort of getting the nuts to loosen up, I finally succeeded in getting the old parts taken out. Step one, accomplished.

Armed with an array of shiny new parts (turn-off valves, pea trap kit, water supply lines, and faucet), advice from afar, and several sets of instructions, I read the directions through a couple of times. Then carefully following the instructions, step by step, I installed the valves, the new water-supply lines, and the new faucet. And I must say there is nothing quite like mineral deposits falling on your face to wake you up – maybe the safety glasses would have been a good idea.  I got the valves in, tried them — and a leak. No problem, reinstall with more plumbers tape, use the pipe wrench to tighten, and no more leaking. I connected the water supply lines to the faucet, installed the plug, and then came the moment of truth! I turned the valves to the on position, turned the faucet on, and a spurt of rust-colored water came out – then it all stopped, and there was nothing but a trickle.  GRRRRRRRRRRR.

By this time, it’s nearly 2:00 a.m.  and I am hot, tired, and slimy from all of the water, the corrosion, and my skin is burning from the residue of the Limeaway, and the water to the house is still turned off.  I call my son, who advises me to call it a day.  I refuse to give up. I reread the directions, take off the supply line, and turn on the valve—a strong spray of water ensues, so the valve wasn’t the problem.  I disconnect the water line, check to make sure the washer is in the correct place on one end and the brass compression nut on the other, check.  Reattach everything, and try again.  Still nothing.  So I reattach the valves one more time — at least I can turn them off and turn the water to the house back on.

To distract myself, and in the hopes that by taking a break I will have a brainstorm about why the water is not flowing, I take a look at the drain.  I figure I may as well put the drain pieces together, in case there’s a miracle, and the water starts running.  And I run into more corrosion — this time, even with a liberal application of Limeaway, I can’t get the collar to move – so I can’t attach the new elbow to the straight piece coming out of the wall. Coming at it from another angle, I take off the other piece, and expose the wall stub. Sweet success! So, now all I have to do is put all the new pieces together, and attach them to the wall stub.  Ta da —success is in sight, and that’s when I discover that the new chrome pipe that goes into the wall is smaller than the stub – which I can also see is PVC.   It is at this point, that I finally give up for the night, defeated.  

A warm shower, chocolate, and a cold Dr. Pepper restores some of my equilibrium, and a mindless sitcom soothes my frayed nerves. After posting a frustrated comment about my evening’s saga on FaceBook, I go to bed. But, try as I might, I  can’t sleep. My brain loops through the whole sink debacle repeatedly. Finally, about 6:00 a.m. I fall into a troubled sleep. I woke in the morning (11:30 is still morning) sluggish, and still upset. I don’t feel like going to church, but I know I need to be there. So I get up, get ready, and on the off chance that something had changed while I was asleep, I tried the water in the sink – still just a trickle.

Feeling defeated, the whole sink incident taking on a parallel to my life, I say a brief prayer — asking for help to make it through the day, and to be able to see my blessings, and I go to church.  Once sitting there, listening to the prelude music, I muse about how I have tried my best to do what I need to, to fix things, to keep the faith, and to keep moving forward despite the obstacles that keep appearing in my path.

I have tried so hard, since Kelly died, to be faithful, to have a positive attitude, to be a kind loving mother, to help my kids (emotionally, financially, practically), to finish school, to find a job so I could keep my house and provide for myself, to work hard, to serve others, to build my testimony, to have some sort of social life — and just like the plumbing project —  it feels like I keep getting knocked back down.   

Sitting on the pew, listening to the hymns, watching the natural intimacy all of the married couples, and missing Kelly intensely, I couldn’t keep the tears at bay, and they slipped down my face, and I dashed them away with the back of my hand, hoping no one noticed.  My brave front was cracking at the seams, and I felt defeated, lonely, and alone.  The closing hymn was Err You Left Your Room this Morning – and I couldn’t help but think that Kelly’s particular take on that title was apropos for me today, he used to sing, “Error, You Left Your Room this Morning” — and I smiled to myself at the memory.  But then, even though I couldn’t sing because of the lump in my throat and the tears blurring my vision, the words of the hymn struck me, and it was like I was hearing their message for the first time.   

I left immediately after the meeting ended, knowing I couldn’t hold it together any longer.  I came home, and poured out my soul to Heavenly Father about everything, including my beleaguered plumbing project. I prayed about everything that has been troubling me:  I prayed about my children, my lack of a social life due to working so much, my loneliness and missing Kelly so intensely, my desire to find love again, and I prayed about some baggage I’ve been carrying for nearly seven years, which involved asking for help. I thought I had forgiven and forgotten, but two incidents kept coming up in my consciousness, cankering my soul, and interfering with my ability to ask for help, from anyone — and the times I forced myself to ask for help have been agonizing for me. I realized I need to resolve these things, so I can truly let go, and I felt strongly prompted to write some letters to those involved. I also saw that my son was correct, and that I have let pride get in the way of asking for help.

Arising from my prayer, I wrote the first letter – and felt a tremendous burden lift from my shoulders, and in its place a wave of peace descended over my heart. I outlined the second letter and then paused to eat something, and while I was eating, I checked Facebook — and there, under my post about being frustrated because the water wasn’t working was a possible solution.  A friend of mine wrote:

“Often putting a new part on an existing pipe will knock mineral deposits loose which then get caught in the screen or nozzle, plugging it. I’ve had this happen to kitchen sinks, shower heads and bathroom sinks. You can fix this by unscrewing the nozzle right where the water comes out,  there should be a screen there. Run the water with this part off and rinse out the screen.”

I ran to the bathroom, removed the nozzle, turned on the water, and whoosh!  A steady stream burst forth.  And I realized, as the scripture says, that it is often by small and simple means, that big problems can be solved. My plumbing project is kind of like my life, there are things that need to be fixed, and I get to learn through experience, how to make the repairs, or course corrections.

And, I realized that Heavenly Father has the answers to my prayers, and he will give them to me, when I am willing to ask him, to listen to him, and to accept his answers, in his time frame, not mine.  And, like my sink project, not all of the problems I am having will be simply solved, I still need to figure out what to do about the drain, after all, but maybe now, I will be more willing to ask for help, and to trust that the Lord knows me far better than I know myself.  I need to clean my screen, and get rid of the corrosion and debris that is blocking me from feeling the spirit, and hearing the answers to my prayers. I am grateful for this timely reminder I’ve received to truly trust in the Lord, and lean not to my own understanding.

PS: My neighbor, a plumber, hearing of my plumbing (mis)adventures came over and and in just a few minutes finished fixing my sink. I am grateful. Thank you Frank for helping me out.

 

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