Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ice Maker Assembly

I noticed the other day that the ice maker in my freezer was no longer making ice.  I missed the ice.  It's summer, and I like to drink cold water, and tonight I scraped every last ice cube out of the ice drawer that was left.  I could not make it work again no matter how many times I turned the power switch on and off.

These household breakdowns happen regularly -- sometimes in large batches -- and always threaten to tip me over the edge.  If Mat were alive and well, he would have fixed the ice maker while I put the boys to bed, and we would have celebrated with ice-cold drinks.  He would have liked fixing it.  I do not like fixing things, and these repairs are yet another reminder that Mat is gone and that I am On My Own.  Without a safety net.  Flying solo.  I hate this.

My list of household repair chores is long.  I'm not handy, I'm not particularly skilled or knowledgeable about home repair, and I don't have the time to try to figure out how to do all of these things.  I could cut back on sleep I suppose, or time at work, or what little exercise time I get, or time spent with the kids, but none of those seem like good trades.

My wise friend Janell, also a single parent, gave me this advice:  hire someone.  A repair person has the tools and the expertise to fix things, and will do it right.

It's excellent advice.

And yet ... could I get the ice maker working again?  It felt like too small a job to hire someone for.  Besides, I replaced the water inlet valve to the ice maker last summer, when it started leaking and made a mess of the drywall in the basement below.  (Fixing the drywall remains on my list of household chores, a full year later.)

So I told the kids to put themselves to bed, got a wrench, and pulled the refrigerator away from the wall.  I checked the water to the ice maker -- no problem there.  My new water inlet valve is still humming along nicely.

I had no choice but to look at the ice maker itself.  I know as much about ice makers as I know about underwater welding.  Nothing.  But still I looked.  I pulled out the shelf in front of the ice maker, and then the drawer underneath.  Inside the drawer was a flat plastic piece that looked quite a bit like a wide-tooth comb.  I felt like a toddler watching "Blue's Clues":  "A clue!  A clue!"

I looked for a long time and couldn't see where the plastic piece might fit.  (Maybe I looked longer than I needed to -- it's summer and the house is hot and I was standing in front of an open freezer door.) Inspiration finally struck.  My favorite website of all time could solve my problem:  repairclinic.com.  I typed in my refrigerator model number and got a list of parts.  There, at number 7, was an ice maker assembly. (For $163!)  And right in front of me was a picture of my wide-tooth comb. Now that I knew where it went, I found the grooves that hold it in place, and I snapped it in.

And was rewarded with a piece of ice.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Someone asked me the other day if I was happy.  This is a person who is well aware that my Mat died 18 months ago, so I thought that was pretty optimistic of him.  
Am I happy?  I answered him with a flat “No.”  Mat isn’t here, and he shows no signs of coming back.  I miss him every day.  Mat was my home – my place of rest – and without him I am homeless.  When I let myself think about it, I worry that I may never have a home again.  I am a single parent of two grade-school boys, with all of the responsibility, logistical challenge, and sheer exhaustion that involves.  My children don’t have a dad, and they will not even fully understand what this means for them for decades
I realized a long time ago that it is not a good idea to look too far into the future or ask large existential questions about happiness.  This can be fuel for a dive headfirst into a pit of depression.  But I do have moments of joy.
My friend Beth describes life as a salad.  If her life is a bowl of iceberg lettuce, she’s happy to find some tomatoes here and there.  These are her walks with friends, and uninterrupted stretches of writing time, and happy moments with her kids.
My salad is also made of iceberg lettuce.  It hasn’t been washed that well, so there are some gritty pieces, and it’s a little old, so there are also some slimy pieces.  But there are also some sugared walnuts, sweetened dried cranberries, and even a chunk of blue cheese here and there.  These are the times I spend reading a satisfying book with my boys, or being caught off guard by a hug from one of them, or getting them through a conflict-free bedtime routine on time
This week it was playing in the water with the boys, having a few free hours and using it to discover a book I really like, and helping Colin catch his first big fish.  We were in the Nantucket Sound on a boat with 30 or so other people, and Colin – the youngest by several years – was worried that he would be the only one not to catch a fish.  Instead, he was among the first, landing a big sea bass. 
Mat would have loved it.