Alzheimer’s Care & Snowbird Memories Diary Day 2: New Roles Meant Waiting Patiently & Being a Handyman

Alzheimer’s Care and Snowbird Memories Diary Day 2: New Roles Meant Waiting Patiently & Being a Handyman

As I said retirement has been a distinct change in life, a redirection. Having worked for 27 years hard and fast, means being laid back & having nothing but time is quite a drastic change for me. Mom used to say, “Sue Ellen is burning the candle at both ends, broken it in half and is now burning it in four directions!” I must testify I miss working, and being busy!

Now, helping my family has become my charge in life and I am happy to oblige. Currently my mom who has always done lots and lots for me and my family needs me, I have been glad I could be there for her. On our second day in Florida, we thought the cable TV man was coming so we got up at 7:30 to get my fold-away bed out of the center of the living room so he would have room to work. After three hours of waiting and no cable guy, we called. The appointment, it turns out according to them, would be the next day. Oh well, all we had was time! No rush – just no TV or Internet yet for any of us!

Thank goodness I had my handy, dandy iPhone – it helped me keep busy with the long drive south and the intermittent waiting. Ask anyone who really knows me – I don’t sit around doing nothing at all very well! I am busy doing something in every waking hour even when a favorite TV show or movie on. I take after my grandmother, MamaGrandma, and my mom who were both always like that too. Multi-tasking is our middle name!

During our wait on the cable guy mom, discovered the camper’s black water handle was broken off and she could not open the plug to release the toilet water. Anybody ever see the Robin Williams movie “RV “? All campers worst fears come because of black water. Robin, in his acting role, met campers’ worst fears and gave me a vision of the horrid possibilities that I might meet if my handy man capabilities did not prove to be sufficient for this job.

Do you want to hear the rest of this story? Well, first, finding tools was near impossible. Mom, having had Pennsylvania friend Denny near them for years, stopped carrying tools herself. Denny always took care of every little thing. On this day of black water nightmarish reality, I most especially, missed him a lot!! I asked mom to call him to come! We surely wanted him to know how much we appreciated all he had done in the past!

So now, here we were and all mom can do is to call ME to help. Mom had never seen Robin Williams in RV but I had! My terrible memories of his rough patch with the black waste water filled my mind as I came to Mom’s rescue & took over the job. Horrors of his ordeal worried me just a tad!

Mom’s ONLY tool besides a screwdriver with multiple heads inside the handle was a pair of channel locks. I had on my newest white jeans but down on the ground I went, under the RV slide-out to tackle this rather minor, yet potentially VERY hazardous job! Beginning my process of analyzing the problem prompted me to find another aid, a flashlight! That helped me see what we were up against.

The science, physics & engineering teacher came out in me and I immediately wanted to redesign that whole area of the RV. The handle had come unscrewed from the main value plug. The main valve plug was behind a 4×6 inch rubber facing. Mom had been trying to put the handle back on through the rubber flaps without being able to see nor reach the piece. Her extended attempts made me want to do something different. I started by removing one of the screws holding the rubber cover in place and rotated the rubber around out of my work area. Now I had an advantage that Mom did not have. I could see the main valve stem, inside a 2×3 cut into the metal wall of the RV. I discovered it was in the upper left corner of the opening located such that it was going to be very difficult to use tools. I attempted to grab the metal valve stem with Mom’s channel locks but that method just did not work!

As I worked, I thought about Storey Musgrave, the retired NASA Astronaut Kentucky, my home state. Storey once shared that his most helpful lessons in preparation for his space walk repair missions were under machinery on the farm in Kentucky. On that day I felt like Storey, tried to think like Storey, and was thankful I was NOT out in space trying to do this repair like Storey had to do!

The channel locks and my hands did not work so we had to go buy some pliers that would allow me to pull straight outward. Thank goodness we bought a set of three! When I got back under there to work, I quickly learned that the regular pliers were too thick to use in that corner and have any leverage to pull forward. Using the needle-nosed pliers I finally got ahold of the valve and was able to pull the valve open letting the black water loose. Thank goodness everything held in place and my white jeans are still white!

Since I successfully got the valve stem out I thought I would try to put the handle back in place. Several attempts left me convinced that so many of the screw rings were stripped that we would have to have a new handle. We called the RV repairman to order a new handle. In the meantime, those valves were staying open to let all of our waste water move directly into the sewer. I was happy not to be like Robin Williams in RV. That day proved to me that somehow I could make it through most any ‘Handyman’ challenge!

Where was Pawpaw, he was inside watching one of his Western movies for the third time, with a smile on his face and oblivious his step-daughter’s perils and her new white jeans in the sandpit that missed their chance at being stained black forever. This day ended with ew Alzheimer’s challenges and I, for one, was happy for that nice twist of fate.

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