We have all been taking turns caring for Dad in his own home for a few years now and part of the job is to take care of the home as well. We have had so many household issues to deal with…too many to count. Most of the time, with the exception of laundry and dishes, the larger issues don’t get any attention until they become minor catastrophes. So far we have had to deal with crashing computers, a broken water pipe in Dad’s workshop, two faulty toilets, broken hot water heater, broken air conditioner (this is a very big deal in Texas), a broken water pipe in the back yard that caused a flood and leaky faucets. Hillary and Paula can always be counted on to make time for maintenance appointments and other emergencies that crop up. Occasionally someone will step in before something breaks to fix a problem before it becomes a major issue. For me, that someone is Mike.
Mike is very proactive when it comes to keeping Dad’s house in reasonably good condition. He regularly checks for issues and when something is getting out of hand he will step in and take care of the problem. For example, two years ago we had one of the driest Texas summers in years. Many trees did not survive the harsh conditions. The next year when Spring came around Mike and I would often count the dead trees on route to wherever we were traveling. It was a little spooky seeing how many dead trees lined the roads. Dad’s property was no exception. Many of the trees and bushes didn’t make it and just stood there rotting on the inside. Mike took it upon himself to trim away much of the dead branches and shrubbery threatening the integrity of the house. One such tree (I have referred to it as “Treezilla” because of its sheer size and it’s threat to the electrical line running to the house just under its branches) proved to be an all day task. Mike spent the better part of the day just removing its branches. After that he gradually cut it down until it was just a hollow stump. It had rotted straight through the middle. We have never ground down the stump. Mike is so proud of it that he wants to remove some of the bark and carve “The Lorax” into it.
Most recently when we were visiting Dad, Mike noticed how crammed with food the freezer in the kitchen was becoming and decided to relocate some of it’s contents to the second freezer in the pantry. To his dismay he found that that was not possible. The pantry freezer was so iced over there was no room for additional items. I stood beside him as we observed, awe struck, the growing iceberg that had engulfed it’s contents.
“My favorite part”, I said, breaking the silence, “Is the bag of ice frozen into the ice…..’cause you never know when you might need some, ya know, ice to go with your…um…ice”.
“Yeah…”, he responded, still staring. I could hear the gears in his head turning and knew he was coming up with a plan of action. Clearly a simple defrost was out of the question as that would cause a flood and create a problem with the wood floor that would be considerably harder to fix.
The next time we came over he brought his cordless drill and a few tools to start chipping away at the freezer. He knew this would be more than a single night task. He began by drilling holes in the ice to loosen large areas. I stood by with mixing bowls, filling them with the chips and chunks, occasionally taking them into the kitchen and dumping them in the sink. By the time we needed to call it quits Mike’s drill had died and he had begun using a screw driver and a hammer to carve sections of the ice. This approach turned out to be more effective then the power drill. Mike’s hands were red and sore and both sides of the sink were full of ice. As hard as he had worked and as much progress as he had made, he wasn’t even halfway through.
The next time Mike came with me to tackle the task again, Hillary was still there, once again addressing the daunting issue with Dad’s favorite bathroom. I tried to keep Dad distracted while Mike and Hillary worked, checking occasionally to see if Mike needed me to empty any buckets of ice. Hillary could hear him chipping away at the ice in the feezer and said, “It sounds like you are sculpting a statue in there”.
“It really does!” I agreed.
“I am”, Mike called out. “I’m sculpting a freezer…might take me a while…”
It took three visits for him to finish. During that time we unloaded several expired food items. The oldest thing we encountered was a pack of ham from 2008. It was so far gone that it was unrecognizable as ham. Before we read the label we thought it was a package of tortillas. It’s safe to say this was a job long overdue. Knowing the time and effort Mike had put into his freezer sculpture, I sent before and after pictures to my siblings. They were all very impressed and grateful.
“Wow! Great job Mike!” Tom said.
“I noticed all the room last time I was there”, Paula responded, “I didn’t know who had done it. Thanks, Mike!”
“Yea!! What a monstrous task! What should we fill it with? How about ice cream and popsicles?” Hillary asked brightly. She had already thanked Mike several times while he was working.
“Frozen pies!” I suggested.
Later Paula and Hillary texted Mike directly, “We really appreciate what you did with the freezer. Thank you so much!”
“You all do so much, I felt I should contribute”, he responded, not wanting to toot his own horn.
“You do a lot, too!” Paula pointed out, “You cut down that tree and stacked all that wood!”
“It was my pleasure”, he replied.
“Thank you so much for going the extra mile”, Hillary said.
Mike appreciated their acknowledgment. “Family”, he answered.
“<3″, each of my sisters responded.
To be continued…