The Fixer-Upper


Fortunately for Phil's marriage, his wife knows what to throw out and what to hang onto. 


One major key to our 30 plus-year marriage is that Ramona has been blessed with startlingly low expectations. Today she was ECSTATIC when I unclogged a sink. I merely ran some water then yelled down the hole and it unclogged. Not sure why, but it works fine now. She was so happy with me. Hardly knew what to do with herself. Once I oiled a squeaky door for her. She was so pleased she almost wept. Low expectations are such a blessing!

But things aren’t always happy in PhilandRamonaville. Sometimes it bugs me that my wife chucks stuff; just heaves it out. Today I caught her sneaking two bags of my personal belongings into the trunk destined for the Sally Ann. Perfectly good stuff. Cassette tapes. A beautiful watch. It doesn’t tick, but it has golf club hands. Very nice. Trousers that fit me nicely…back when I was in high school. I guess we’ll never be on that hoarders show.


I was raised below the poverty line, so we didn’t pitch anything except a baseball that had no cover. We kept stuff. If it was broke we fixed it. Then I met my wife. Did I mention she chucks stuff? But you know, I’m thankful she’s never thrown away the wrong things.


A reporter asked a couple how they had managed to stay married 65 years. The woman replied, “We were born in a time when if something was broken, we would fix it, not throw it away.” It’s one of the keys to the joy-filled life. Following through on what we know to be right, having the humility to work on things when all the world says, “Chuck it and run.”


I grew up in the ‘60s which was the golden age of fixing stuff.


Mom re-used aluminum foil and tea bags sometimes. Once she helped me nail together a broken hockey; it was one of the few things that didn’t take. She waxed floors so they would last longer. She hemmed pants and made her own cards. Dad never dreamed of anyone else changing the oil in our car, or of buying shoes when he could hobble over to the Shoe Repair shop. He showed me how to repair bicycle inner tubes, what a carburetor did, and where to buy string and glue.


It’s funny looking back. I thought everyone was as poor as we were, which would have made everyone astoundingly rich. You see, we had a garden. Hand me down bicycles. A pond for catching frogs. We grew our own food, crafted our own Christmas ornaments, made our own candles and sold them door to door. We even made our own tie-died shirts one summer. We were so cool that summer we didn’t even need air conditioning.


Throwing things out meant there was more where that came from and there wasn’t. We lived that close to the edge. I suppose growing up in an age of fixing up showed me that you can refurbish more than radios and lawnmowers and fridges and children’s toys. You can fix friendships. You can mend a marriage.

All this talk of the last century has made me a little nostalgic and there’s something I need to say about that. If you ever find yourself longing for days before electricity and outhouses, remember that the good old days weren’t all good. In fact, the writer of Ecclesiastes warned us not to ask “why were the old days better than these, for it is not wise to ask such questions.” That’s Ecclesiastes 7:10. How true. But here is a very wise question to ask. One that can help bring joy to life. What does God require of me today? Micah 6:8 gives the answer, that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. We can’t do anything about 1963 or last Wednesday, but we can something about today.


Certainly this includes binding up the broken, fixing friendships and mending marriages. I guess I’ll start by thanking Ramona for knowing what to throw out and what to hang onto. I’m glad she hung onto me, even if she’s about to throw out a tie-died shirt that was best before 1973.

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