Rising up to to meet the challenge


Every so often, man finds that challenge he must face head-on — his white whale, his Mt. Everest, his gorgeous older neighbor who stands outside in a robe when he delivers the newspaper to her and ...

But I digress.

Throughout history, man has measured himself against the challenges and tribulations he tackles and endures. Caesar had Gaul, Lindbergh had the forces of gravity and endurance and I have, well, I now have a screwdriver.

See, as of today, I am a homeowner.

I’ve always been a comfortable renter. There was a sense of security in knowing that I was not really tied into something for any longer than I could handle, and I’ve always enjoyed getting in and out of a place with not much more than a security deposit and a smile. Oh, and there is that pesky little problem I have with home repair.

The McCann family is not exactly handy. In fact, if you look up the opposite of “handy,” then double the feeling you get from reading that definition, you have an idea where the McCanns fit in the world of fixing up ... well, anything.

I remember as a child watching my beloved grandfather, Donald McCann, trying to fix his riding mower. It was all very impressive at the start — he ambled out to his garage, prepped all his tools and shiny things and even muttered a pretty good expletive before he sat down to get to business. I stared in awe as I knew I was about to witness something truly great. He then got a bit more persistent with the profanity as he realized he didn’t know how to lift the hood off the engine.

Yeah, he went inside and called a repairman.

And I knew immediately what I was in for in life.

See, I had already seen plenty of my own father trying to enter the world of home repair. He’s an odd guy, my dad. Smart as a whip, and as persistent as a bull, he could just never get his head wrapped around the theories and concepts of fixing things. Oh, he tried. Our first house had plenty of books on plumbing, carpentry, tips on electrical work, etc.

A few leaky pipes, dangerous nail incidents and sparking outlets later, we all came to the realization that the best book on home repair anyone in our family could have is the Yellow Pages.

“Well, we have to do our part to support the local economy,” my father would explain to his saddened son, while he waited for the repairman to answer the phone. “This isn’t about me not being able to do things — because I could if I set my mind to it. This is about keeping contractors working. Some of these people are our neighbors.”

Yeah. He actually tried to sell me that one.

But I knew where I stood. I took a shop class in middle school, hoping to reverse the trend of fix-it ineptitude that had coursed through the veins of generations of McCanns. I learned to sand, to saw, to nail, to call 9-1-1. I actually remember making a ceramic ashtray ... in woodworking class.

And I was going for a birdfeeder.

Resigned to a life of renting and calling landlords for help, I eventually accepted my possession of the McCann curse. It’s fine, I thought. My father always told me that a wise man knows his limitations (of course, he usually said that with a bandage on his finger and his other hand aiming the fire extinguisher), so I concentrated instead on my strengths.

Needless to say, that left me with a lot of free time.

I started regretting my helplessness with tools and all things handy. I began asking handy friends questions and watching people do things. I just knew that I could handle fixing things if I gave it another chance.

Then, I put in a contract on the house. As I walked through the hallways, I began to fantasize over little things I could do to make the house more to my preferences. Shoot, I went to the hardware store to buy myself some tools.

There sure were a lot of tools in that place.

Up to that point, my personal tool collection had consisted of a bottle opener, a credit card, an eyeglass repair kit and a drill. Don’t ask about the drill. Let’s just say that didn’t work out so well.

But there before me at the hardware store were more tools than I could ever imagine. I was flooded with wonder as I walked up and down the aisles, steadfastly searching for the item I needed to make my first home repair a reality.

I rushed past saws and hammers, wrenches and pliers, caulks and special glues. No, none of them would be needed for my first job. Then I saw them: lightbulbs.

What the heck’s a “watt?”